There was a thunderstorm last night and it was pelting with rain when we set out at 7:00 this morning for one of the dullest days of the Caminino. The path was beside a canal for a couple of hours and a road for the rest of the day on a flat straight walk of about 35km to Carrion de Los Condes, a medium sized provincial town. The province of Palencia through which we are now walking has some money, and public facilities, including the camino, are maintained well. Their idea of upgrading the camino was to ask a traffic engineer to do it. The result is a long straight, level path which moves people as efficiently as possible but has no soul whatsoever. Not that I am disappointed. One of the points of the Camino is that it progresses through all sorts of places: beautiful and ugly, urban and rural, ancient and modern. Just like the rest of life. Clemency's legs are pretty much healed, by the way, a tribute to the knowledge and skill of pharmacists.
We leave the Camino on Monday evening, in just a couple of days. We won't make it to Leon but by then we will have walked 400km, which is half of The Way of St. James. We hope to return to walk the rest of it in the Northern Hemisphere autumn of 2011, but we'll see. This song of Brooke Frasers has been haunting me a bit lately. Listen to the words and you'll understand why:
If to distant lands I scatter
If I sail to farthest seas
Would you find and firm and gather 'til I only dwell in Thee?
If I flee from greenest pastures
Would you leave to look for me?
Forfeit glory to come after
'Til I only dwell in Thee
If my heart has one ambition
If my soul one goal to seek
This my solitary vision 'til I only dwell in Thee
That I only dwell in Thee
'Til I only dwell in Thee
Scattering oneself to distant lands isn't something new, and lands don't come any more distant than this one. Dig a hole in my back yard straight down and deep enough and this is where you'll end up. Spain. Tarshish, as it was once called. Jonah, an old friend and companion, fled to Tarshish to escape the Lord. Paul the apostle thought that if he made it to Tarshish his life would be complete. Tarshish is the end of the world: the bit you get to before you fall off the edge. And here I am walking across it. Trouble is, am I being Paul or Jonah? Finding a completion of something or escaping from the place where the Spirit's work really has to be found and worked out? Or both?
This holy track has a presence, in the same way that some holy buildings have a presence. Wonderful things happen on this trail every day of the week, and the energy of the track is bright and positive and life giving. It is such a buzz being on it that people return again and again, and while I can understand that, getting addicted to the Camino Santiago isn't the point. The point is what that 20 something kid Brooke Fraser keeps trying to point out to me: to walk not away but towards God and in the lessons of el camino, learn to live more wholly for him. To refine and sharpen myself with every step
'til I only dwell in thee.