“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson
Journal Entry: Day 15 – Hontanas to Boadilla. July 4, 2014
A gift of the Camino…
An hour into today’s walk, I come across the stunning ruins of the monastery of San Antón, founded by the Order of Saint Anthony in the fourteenth century. I stop to take pictures, and to take in the serenity of the beautiful buildings in the morning light. Unexpectedly, a woman appears from behind one of the old stone walls and we greet one another with a “buen Camino”, then I ask her if there is a way to enter the ruins. “They’re closed at this hour,” she tells me, but then pauses, and invites me to follow her.
We round the back and enter the hallowed space and I see that inside there is a tiny refugio with pilgrims finishing their breakfast! The woman tells me there is no electricity, no hot water but offers me tea made on a gas stove. I ask her name and she tells me “Paqi”. When in return I give her my name, her face erupts in a smile and she embraces me. When I ask her why, she tells me that a very special person in her life is called Elisa.
I sit in the shadow of the crumbling walls sipping my tea and talking to her partner, a man named Dave who is from Ireland. They live now in Spain but met on vacation at a cafe in another country. They are volunteering as hospitaleros in this albergue for 15 days. This is the case with many of the people working in the albergues; they are volunteers who at one time or another were pilgrims and who are now donating their time to The Way.
I finish my tea, bid farewell, and resume my walk.
As I walk away toward Castrojeriz, I think to look back and am witness to a beautiful perspective of the convent. It occurs to me that although we are always moving forward, some of the most precious views can be seen only when we look behind.
I don’t know whether you can look at your past and find, woven like the hidden symbols on a treasure map, the path that will point to your final destination. ― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care