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Field of Stars – 26 September

2011/09/30

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Lestodo to Boente

We are once again in an obscure place tonight: nobody seems to be aware that this little albergue exists in Boente, and so most people simply walk through the village. According to the guide, this accommodates 10 people, so it is a very small hostel. There are two other people in our room.

We set out today in the morning twilight. The sun does not rise until after 8:00 at the moment, partly because of daylight saving time, and partly because Spain is so far west in its time zone: it takes a while for the sun to arrive here (and to leave in the evening – we do have our 12 hours of daylight to which proximity to the equinox entitles us!). Oh – and I should mention that because Kate woke me in the middle of the night to open a window, we saw the “field of stars,” the “compostella.” It was so dark that the sky was brilliant with starlight!

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Once again, we walked mostly through woodland or heath covered with gorse and heather, yellow and purple, and fascinating Galician villages and hamlets that show considerable Celtic influence … It’s a wonderful environment in which to revel in the glories of creation and the beauty of this world, and in which to contemplate the inner journey, the impending culmination of our journey, and its ramifications for life beyond, and the whole concept of walking a journey that we know will come to an end soon. It is a little foretaste of mortality, I suppose.
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Earlier, I was contemplating while walking about the challenge of living for more than four weeks in an environment where I barely understand the language, and where the locals barely understand me. I was pondering how kind the Spanish people have been in trying to understand us, and to help us to understand them. I mentioned some of this to Kate – whose secondary school Spanish has been a considerable help, even if we have the occasional glitch! Just a short while later, as if arranged by some guiding angels, we came across three older Spanish people on the trail. The man (whose name turned out to be Mattolo) told us that we were walking on a “calzada Romana,” or Roman road. I was very grateful, because our guide did not mention this, yet upon further inspection it was easy to see the almost hidden elements of its ancient construction. Anyway, Kate struck up a conversation of sorts with these three people, and despite our mutual linguistic limitations, we managed to communicate several things, including the purpose of the odd little structures on stone or cement stilts that we have only seen in Galicia. They are a for storing grain – a mini silo, or granary for each family.

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As I have been typing this, an Italian couple has walked into the café attached to the albergue who have walked from Portomarin today – 45 km. Apparently they started from St. Jean Pied-de-Port on 11 September, so they have been walking for two weeks. They look a little tired. I don’t feel inclined to undertake such an aggressive schedule, competitive or not!

Across the road is a church with a clock and a bell that chimes on the half-hour and the hour. And like many Spanish church clocks, it strikes the hour twice: as if to say, “Just in case you didn’t notice, it’s six o’clock!” We have not heard church bells for what seems like a long time – certainly since entering Galicia, and so to have this poignant reminder of our earlier Camino experience is quite wonderful.

I was able to go to Mass in the local church across the road. Many of these parishes celebrate Mass every day of the week, and attendance is quite healthy – there were about thirty people in the church, and the population of this village is quite small.

Dinner was a Camino treat. There are six people (three couples) staying here, including us, and we were offered the “menu del dia.” Having mentioned the question of language earlier in the day, it was fascinating to be a part of three couple who spoke English, Italian and French, and between us manage to have a conversation not just about the good food that the hirsute chef had prepared for us, but also about reasons for undertaking the Camino, gothic cathedral architecture, and spirituality.

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We have somewhere between 45 and 47 kilometres left of our journey. I remember writing about the sobering thought of completing the remaining 97% or 94% of our journey after the first couple of days. Well, we now have less than 6% of our journey left, and that is a sobering thought of a different kind. Anyway, I am happy for these final stages of our journey through Galicia. The forest paths, often deep within tree-lined and covered tracks, and the paths with views across the rolling hills, are nurturing for the mind and the spirit.

There is one other Camino reflection that has occupied me for the past few days, and I thought that I had already mentioned this, but now cannot find where I did, although part of it is covered in relation to the Horrible Night In Ponferrada. Earlier in our journey, I tried listening to Gregorian chant on my headphones as an antidote to night noises. The noise-cancelling headphones seem to have disappeared somewhere around St Jean de Ortega, and I turned to Adele, who is more effective at covering the sound of snoring. One repercussion of this is that I am stuck with Adele’s songs ringing through my hews as I walk. Anyway, it occurred to me that I would like a new song to play in my head, which immediately triggered three things. First, “O sing to the Lord a new song …” is the beginning of both Psalm 96 and Psalm 98. Secondly, what is the new song that I will sing after this Camino? Thirdly, and later, Psalm 137 (By the rivers of Babylon …), which some people will know as the basis for a popular song, includes the words: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” and this also relates back to the question of language, of being understood, and of taking the time to try to understand and be understood. More food for thought on the last stages of this journey …

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