We have had many companions as we walked the way to Santiago. Some we walk with for a moment or two, some for a few hours, some we connect with for a few days. Just the two days ago we ran into a woman from South Africa whom we shared a room with on our first night in our first town on this journey—St. Jean Pied de Port. Yesterday we had breakfast with a woman from Atlanta, a freelance event planner, whom we met and shared a meal with on the second night of our trip—in Orisson. Today we had a few different companions…
The first was a canine partner, who met us just as we were leaving O Cebreiro in the dark. Initially, he startled me, but he soon became a comforting presence as night turned to day. At first, I thought he would just walk a few hundred feet with us, as I thought he might be the mascot at the Municipal Albergue in O Cebreiro. But he stayed with us. He didn’t really follow us, but he led us, even in the darkness. He kept turning around and looking back, and I could see the reflection of the light from my headlamp in his eyes. He was constantly waiting for us to come forward. I finally just chose to think of him as a kind of leading, comforting, “God presence.” It sure helped in those first three miles. This big dog, who looked like a St. Bernard/Lab mix, kept showing us the way and then finally he offered his service to other people. Eventually, we thought he had tired of us and returned home, but by the time we were nearing our final destination for the day he was still making contact. When we finally made it to Triacastela, a 15 mile day, he walked with us to the door of our albergue. Interesting and encouraging. Lena is a little worried about him making it back to his home. I, for one, think he knows exactly what he is doing and where’s he is traveling to.
Another of our companions today was a mother/daughter duo. The mother (newly retired and about our age) is a physical therapist from Portland, Oregon. The daughter is an ceramic artist and teacher who lives in West Sacramento. We walked with them for about an hour, but had a wonderful connection. It made the time go by so quickly to be in the presence of women with such life. They had only recently decided to do the Camino (September), had only recently chosen to do it together. They had just begun their walk in a village we just moved through today. I know Lena had a wonderful conversation with the mother while I enjoyed talking with the artist/daughter about her art, her teaching, Gaudi, Sacramento, and training for this walk. I suspect we were shopping at REI more than once at the same time.
Our final companion (Lena walked with her more than I) was a young woman from Western Canada. She was probably 20 years old and is traveling the Camino on her own. She had great stories about the effort she made to vote in Victoria’s recent municipal election, her experimentation with helping on farms with a variety of animals, and what it is like working at an independent bookstore in this day of digital books. She was an energetic and fascinating young woman.
But what was most interesting to me is that she walked the Camino with her parents about ten years ago at the age of ten. Can you imagine? She shared how she was remembering places as she walked this time and was often surprised by what came to her. Trust me, there are few children out here on this journey. I do not think I have seen any ten year olds with their parents. But I so admire what she and her parents did. What a gift to offer your child, to do something like this WITH them. Frankly, if they would be open, I would love to do something like this with any of our children (or grandchildren). It might be challenging, but it would be something to celebrate.