Friday, 9 December 2016

...The Town of the Three Lies

I woke in the early morning thinking of Santillana del Mar. It is a village in Cantabria, called el pueblo mas bonito del Espana - the prettiest village in Spain. Which it is not. It is a very well preserved medieval town full of narrow streets and half timbered houses and quirky palacios, but it is too full of tourists to be beautiful.  It is also called la villa de las tres mentiras - the town of the three lies - because it isn't holy (santa ), flat (llana) or by the sea (del mar) as the name suggests.

We walked along a winding hill road with Clemency's ankles showing the first signs of the tendinitis which would eventually force her to spend 8 days in a hotel in Lugo. Earlier, we had picnicked under a tree, during a warm, light, summer shower, but that was hours ago, and now it was time for rest and food. While every second farm seemed to have a big old villa with an abundance of bedrooms, a sparsity of renovation and a sign at the gate advertising habitaciones, and although the next village was, as yet, only a name on a map, we turned down the opportunities for immediate rest and walked on in the hope of  a decent cafe.
 
And there it was, at the end of a long, gentle descent, Santillana del Mar, with its ancient collegiate church and its cobblestones and a cafe in every second building. We found the small and very new albergue, showered, bought coffee and tapas and looked around.
The next morning we decided to have a rest day, so took a room in a 15th Century palacio. The old house was crammed with antiques and our room had a balcony with a view into the street. We rested and made decisions.The camino is a place to think. It is a place for the Spirit to act. The repeated task of walking is itself a spiritual exercise, and in the daily rhythms of the journey much that has long been hidden is surfaced and dealt with.
What we decided there - to walk the Primitivo instead of carrying on with the Norte and for Clemency to take a few days out if necessary - changed the shape of our camino. But like everything else on this sacramental path, the decisions were actually deeper and truer than we imagined at the time. The spiritual path is a journey away from falsehood into truth. And the journey had surfaced for me one of the most deeply cherished lies I had told myself about myself.

We lie when we knowingly deceive, either by stating falsehoods or by withholding truth. When we lie we present to the other - or to ourselves - not the truth of who we are but a fiction; a version of ourselves which we hope will be safer and more presentable. Lies, therefore, make true communion impossible.

So, this morning I woke in my lovely house, more than a year after being in Santillana del Mar and remembered a commitment I made there, to myself and to God, to walk towards truth and away from lies.

We continued our camino the next morning, out of the ancient town and along the path towards Comillas; towards Asturias and Lugo and Santiago de Compostela; towards the future kept in store for us, waiting for us to be courageous enough to receive it.  


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