Our third day on the Camino dawned with pilgrims perhaps moving a little more slowly, but also with a kind of expectant air as we looked forward for the first time to a much shorter walk of only about 9 miles. Our group seemed to be the last to leave our albergue, and we set out in cool but comfortable temperatures under cloudy skies. Our backpacks (and, in a couple cases, hats) sported small American flags in recognition of the Fourth of July (in honor of American Independence Day, toward the end of the day’s walk, a French couple led us in a rousing chorus of Woody Guthrie’s classic song, “This Land is Your Land”).
Every day seems different on the Camino, from the spirit and mood of the pilgrims to the area through which we are walking. Today seemed to be a quiet day, but with a number of meaningful conversations and moments of walking alone. At our daily Eucharist, which we celebrate just before dinner, our Liturgy of the Word consists of each person sharing his or her reflections on the day, and we were able to share our observations about how different this day had been compared to the day before, and the day before that. It was with joy that we reached Melide at only 3 pm in the afternoon, leaving time for more relaxation after the longer walks of our first two days. It was a gift that we were really able to appreciate.
Personally, from the beginning of today’s walk, I felt my own body wanting to have a slower pace, which led me to be the trailing end of the group today, a place where I felt quite content to be. Unexpectedly, early on, the story of Moses and the burning bush came to my mind. Sensible, perhaps, given that the story also involves someone who is on a walking journey. I immediately thought about the heart of that story, when Moses asks for God’s name, and hears in answer: “I am who I am.” For me, that answer reminds me that God is who God is, and part of my task is to be able to accept that without wanting to make God into someone I would find more pleasing–and who would then not be God. But today, during the walk, I felt led to consider another implication of this: that as God is who God is, so each of us is who we are, and our task is to accept that about ourselves, rather than wishing that we were different, or trying to be someone that we aren’t and thus ceasing to be ourselves.
The Camino, I realized, doesn’t allow you to be anything other than who you are. You can’t really pretend on the Camino. It leaves you with your own thoughts to work through, with your own physical strengths and deficits that can’t be hidden or denied. And the fact that you depend on the hospitality of strangers along the way reminds you that you really never stand on your own, but rather in constant relationship and dependence — an interesting thought on this day when Americans celebrate independence.
Tomorrow we have another modest 9 mile walk to Azura. And how strange it is that I now think of 9 miles of walking as modest!