It is early morning as I leave the albergue. In the predawn moments of the day, the birds chirp all around, the rooster crows, and wings flutter. I set out westward through the village. Not a single person is to be seen. I am the only one partaking in this moment as the world awakens. I turn at the end of town, after a small rise, to see the church and village backlit by the first rays of the rising sun. A new day has come.
When you begin walking before the sun has risen, you begin in relative darkness. Gradually the world around lightens, but it is a grey sort of light. There is a special moment that happens when the sun actually rises. Suddenly the world around is bathed in golden sunshine, and you realize that what you had before was not really light, but just a hint, a foretaste, a hope of what was to come.
This is how I imagine the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s here, Jesus says. But we live in the hours between the darkness and the true coming of the light. We see glimpses of God’s kingdom coming into reality around us, but we also long for the full extent of its arrival.
I trudge up a long hill. This hill is not particularly steep, but it is long and tiring. I can’t see anything beyond the climb ahead of me. Suddenly I burst onto the top and am on the meseta, the high flat land that dominates this region of Spain. While I was in the valley I could not see what lay ahead of me, but now my breath is taken away by row upon row of wind turbines, some close by and then stretching out seemingly to the horizon. I pause to admire the sight. The stillness is the next thing that takes my breath away. I am alone, and there is no sound except the rustling of wheat in the gentle breeze.
This is a moment that nourishes my soul. I sit down because I need time to take it in
Friends pass by and we communicate with a look. No words are needed, and no words are spoken into this hushed and holy moment.
After some minutes pass, I rise and walk again. A few hundred metres on, I find my friends perched on their own rocks, taking it all in. Again, no words are needed as we share a look. We cannot speak into this holy moment. I know by the looks on their faces that they have discovered the same thing I have.
We are in awe of our Creator God.
A sudden noise behind me alerts me to the fact that someone is behind me. As he approaches, I turn and look. It is my friend Matthew! I haven’t seen him in four days. Our conversation picks up more or less where it left off last time. After a few minutes, he pulls ahead again. No goodbyes are spoken as he leaves. Maybe we will see each other again. Maybe we will not.
It is as I walk that I realize today is my 14th day of walking. I feel strong. My muscles have gotten used to this. A good sleep and good meals make for a good next day. On the other hand, my body has bruises, sores, and rashes that won’t go away. An ankle will hurt one day, and a knee be tender the next. The pain seems to move around from place to place each day.
I am used to the rhythm of the Camino. Each day seeming like two: a day of walking and a day of rest, cleaning, and socializing. I have not thought of school at all out here. I don’t worry about work, about life. My tasks are easy: walk and then rest. There is a simplicity to this that is beautiful.