Camino de Santiago Day 6: Arzua to O Pedrouzo
Fifth Day of Walking the Last 100 km to Santiago
Elevation: 382.12 meters up + 473.69 meters down
Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only she who sees
takes off her shoes.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I read this one simple stanza to our group as our starting prayer in the lobby of our hotel in Arzua before setting out.
Watching this group over the last several days, I had more than enough proof that each one of these ladies was indeed “she who sees.”
I had seen the photos they took in our shared photo album.
I saw them notice little details (spirals, logos, signposts) and big sweeping views.
The Camino is indeed “crammed with heaven” and it had commanded our full attention.
Some days you wake up inexplicably pregnant with tears.
Like you know they are coming at some point and you can’t put your finger on why.
This was one of those days.
I was just a bit weepy.
Maybe it was that I was getting close to Santiago after having been on the Camino for over three weeks.
Maybe it was out of a growing love and appreciation for this beautiful group of women.
Maybe I wasn’t ready for it to end.
Or maybe I was tired.
But somehow I walked with more reverence and awe on this day.
Everything felt connected.
Every step of the way overwhelmed me, mostly with amazement.
Sue Monk Kidd wrote that she first started going on retreat in order “to brush against the deep, intoxicating mysteries.”
I feel this all the way to my bones.
It’s part of why I keep going back to the Camino.
When so many have walked these same steps in order to brush against the mystery,
you can’t help but encounter it yourself.
Somehow the grass was more green. The sky more blue.
The countryside was lovelier, and yet also it was the same.
When we stopped at a church,
I sat on a rock wall outside and watched people going in and out, lighting candles, saying prayers.
Touching the mystery.
We made a stop at an enchanting little cafe and shop.
We weren’t hungry yet as we’d had such a gorgeous breakfast at our hotel that morning, but a few gals got coffee and the rest of us went in to use the bathroom.
I came around the corner of the shop to a bookshelf and spotted a painting that made me gasp. Then I looked all around and scattered among the books and journals and cards, there were more paintings: sketches of pilgrim symbols, pilgrims on the Camino and pilgrims arriving in Santiago. Behind the counter, there were pastries and homemade cheeses and all kinds of treasures. A few more ladies found things they had to have, shirts and pins.
Tears had filled my eyes from the simple, sweet beauty of this well-appointed little shop and the art that adorned its shelves and walls.
I walked outside to wait for everyone and to just be with all my feelings.
I consented to the fact that I was just going to be emotional on this day.
I rode the roller coaster, looking around at the little courtyard.
And then up at the fig tree above me.
I was lost in my own reverie for a while, but I joined the others for photos when we all spotted beautiful horses just above the trail.
I had been carrying a small wooden cross from my aunt that I left at a makeshift shrine we passed in the woods.
And then soon afterwards, we passed the shrine to pilgrims’ beer, a place I remembered from 2015,
but there were tons more bottles now. They were everywhere, covering every possible surface.
It was still too early for a beer but Liz and I split one anyway.
I met Liz this past May when I was in Minneapolis visiting my sister-in-law and her family.
Liz is a colleague of theirs and we ended up sitting around and chatting one afternoon following their office workout session.
Somewhere in our conversation, I mentioned to her that I was walking the Camino.
And my sister-in-law was going with us as well.
Later she emailed me and told me she wanted to join us, and I was so grateful she did.
Her presence was a gift to our party in so many ways.
Liz began each day on the trail with an hour of silence. She let us know ahead of time that she was going to be quiet for the first hour of each day, so that we wouldn’t all be awkwardly trying to talk to her.
When she was ready, she naturally joined the conversation mid-morning each day.
I loved how she created this beautiful rhythm for herself, showing us all that we can choose to create what we want.
We labeled our bottle and Liz added it to the shrine before we set off again.
The others had gotten ahead of us, but we were catching up to them.
We followed the path through the woods and under chestnut trees.
Chestnuts were already falling on the ground, and many of their bright green casings were popping open from being trampled.
Underneath the layers, there were brown chestnuts.
I tucked a couple in my pocket. Memories of this day where all the world felt held together as ONE.
Memories of the mystery.
We caught up to everyone else when they stopped for a bite to eat. They were sitting behind a restaurant in another gorgeous courtyard, with a little pond and lily pads. There was a statue of St James and a large patch of grass. The place was calling for a blanket and a picnic. I found a spot in the sun to take it all in while folks found what they wanted to eat and drink.
Everyone had small snacks because we were still planning to stop a few kilometers further at a place that we heard had the “best tortilla on the Camino.”
So we made our way there next.
I think we still had 3 or 4 kilometers left but we went ahead and ordered our “end of the day” celebration beers with the tortilla.
We sat at a gorgeous outdoor stone table while we rested and laughed.
When the tortilla came, we sliced it into pie pieces and devoured it. And we agreed. It was the best tortilla on the Camino.
(I’m determined to figure out how to make it.)
At the end of our stop at O Ceadoiro, we struggled to get going again.
The afternoon sun was a little hotter than it had been on the other days, and we still had a little ways to cover.
But we left our happy table of empty plates and cups behind and pushed on forward.
Just the next step. And then the next one.
Before we reached the end of the day we came upon this marker and I remembered that when I was here walking the Camino in 2015, we had all woken up one morning to the sad news that one of our fellow pilgrims had been hit by a car on a busy road crossing.
In that same spot, a marker now serves as a reminder.
You always walk among us.
It was nearly 5pm when we finally reached O Pedrouzo, and our hostel at the far edge of town.
Our rooms felt rather dingy after the hotel in Arzua, and we had several of us in each room.
While everyone rested and showered, I left to go find a dinner reservation, but first I found a bench outside and looked up at the sky.
I took several deep breaths and let the emotions of the day be released. I cried the tears I’d been carrying around and also laughed at some of the absurd moments of the day.
I could not believe we would be reaching Santiago the next day.
Isn’t it wild how no matter how long we plan or anticipate a thing,
eventually it arrives and passes?
All too soon, we would be some of the pilgrims who have left a bit of themselves behind on the Camino.
Maybe someone else will feel our presence as they walk their Camino.
For probably an hour, I stared up at the sky from my spot on a bench.
Then I sat up, dusted myself off and went and found the beer garden where we would have our last pilgrim dinner before our arrival in Santiago.