How Did the Chicken Cross the Road?? – Day 39 – Melide to O Pino



I’m so close to the end, it just doesn’t seem possible.

My head and my heart feel so full of thoughts and ideas that I hardly know where to begin.

The Camino is the perfect actualization of the idea of “Ask and you shall receive,” but not from God, from your fellow pilgrims.

“Can you grab my hat?”

“Can you get my water?”

“Do you have a euro?”

I have asked my fellow sojourners these questions at various times in the past five weeks. Strangers all. And the questions were always answered with an unconditional “Yes.”

I have been asked to adjust ponchos in the wind, to pick up hiking poles, to watch packs while the owner makes a quick dash into the woods for relief and, yes, to lend a euro to someone whom we both knew I’d never see again.

And I, also, had done all without a moment’s hesitation.

We are all strangers passing alone on a long journey together.


I saw a person without legs biking the Camino. He was riding a recumbent bicycle powered by his arms.

I saw a blind person walking the Camino. He had two companions hold each end of a long – 10, maybe 12 foot – bamboo pole, one in front of him, one behind. The blind pilgrim walked in the middle, one hand on the pole, and the three of them walked along, chatting, fully loaded packs on their backs.

What a long, strange journey it’s been.

I arrived at the small town where I planned to get my cafe con leche and croissant for breakfast. The two lane road butted up against the narrow sidewalk of the bar and was just at the receiving end of a blind curve.

As I put my backpack down, I heard the loud squeal and angry honking of a heavy eighteen-wheeler, braking just in time for a car that had blindly entered the road. My fellow pilgrims and I looked in the direction of the noise but, hearing no crash, thud, or cries, returned to our activities.

The doorway was crowded as people entered and exited. It was a beautiful morning but threatened to get extremely hot in the full sunshine of the cloudless sky.

I noticed something odd as I headed for the entrance.

A chicken was strutting in front of the doorway.

Chickens and dogs had been the most common domestic animals I’d seen on the Camino. It was fitting that I should see a chicken one last time before reaching the metropolis of Santiago. But I worried about this one wandering into the road. The road was clearly problematic for cars and no doubt for pilgrims (the Camino continued on the other side).  I’d be foolish to take bets on any chicken crossing this road.

Yet, I was transfixed by what I saw next as I waited for the bird to move so I could get my coffee.

A pilgrim leaving the bar picked the chicken up. That’s when I noticed the string  on the bird’s leg. The man put the bird in the top pocket of a backpack which was leaning next to the doorway and which the bird was tied to.

The bird went in – plop – not protesting, with its head sticking out and happily looking around.

Another man came out and lifted the pack to help his friend get the pack on without losing the bird. Then he put on his own. They belted themselves up and, apparently in good spirits from a good breakfast, carefully yet nonchalantly crossed the road.

The chicken was bright-eyed and alert, almost cheerful, as it looked around at the world from the top of the pack.

Poultry in motion.

I stood there, pondering what I had just seen. The chicken literally crossed the road.

Why were they carrying a chicken? Did they find it? Was it a pet? A gift? Had they been carrying it for a long time? Did they always travel with a chicken? What did the bottom of his pack look like? What would they do with the chicken when they got to Santiago? Take it into the Cathedral? Take it home? Set it free? Eat it?

I had walked for 38 days. I had only about 48 more hours on the Camino.

I thought I had seen everything the Camino had to offer.

But the day would still be full of surprises.






Camino minus 10 – Big Tess, Plus a Cute Photo

I’ve found another “wing man” for my journey.

Big Tess is going with me. Big Tess, whom my DF calls “Big Theresa,” and is otherwise known as St. Teresa of Avila.

If you read about my man with superpowers, you may have an idea of the type of person I’m looking for and Big Tess fits the bill

She was born in Avila, Spain on March 28, 1515. When she was a child, she convinced her older brother to run off with her to the “land of the Moors” where they could sacrifice themselves for God. Their uncle found them before they even got out of town and sent them home. Some people see this as an indicator of her early devotion to God.  However, I agree with those who think it shows her ability to get into trouble.

She was a typical teenager who loved to read romance novels just like her mother. Her teenage focus was not on God but on boys, clothes, and flirting. Her Dad, who was pretty strict with the ten kids and with his own wife, got fed up and sent her to the local nunnery.  At first, Teresa didn’t like it, but soon realized that the convent wasn’t as strict as her Dad had been!

She got very sick with what appears to have been malaria and spent years recovering. She stopped praying! Can you imagine a saint who stops praying? She got stuck and just couldn’t do it. She said she often died a thousand deaths waiting for prayer time to end so she could get back to better things.

Sorry, but that’s no way for a saint to talk. But, it does make her rather interesting.

She says she finally got back into praying but it was “definitely not easy.” And she decided that the life in the convent, which sounds more like a 1950’s sorority house than a convent, was way off course for her. In those days, the more you could bring to the convent, in the form of riches and influence, the more you were liked at the convent. Men came by, nuns wore jewelry, etc.

Can you spell Reformation?

She decided to bring an end to all that. And, boy, did that make the townspeople mad! They threatened her, denounced her. And this was going on during the Spanish Inquisition, so don’t think she didn’t have a run-in or two with those guys.  “A restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as if she was a professor” is how one adversary described her.

“May God protect me from gloomy saints,” was her answer  to those who felt her proposed way of living –  based on poverty and prayer – was too far out for a religious life. But she also realized that this brush up was good publicity for her new religious order, the new and improved Carmelites. People read her writing and heard about her and soon she had women lining up at the door to join her.

She wrote alot and some of her greatest books includes her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus), El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), and the Camino de Perfection (The Way of Perfection)

The story goes that she was once riding a donkey to a town where she was starting a new convent and the donkey threw her off, getting her clothing all dirty and giving her some lumps and bumps. She got up, dusting off the dirt and complained to God. God jokingly answered, ‘That’s how I treat my friends.”  “No wonder you have so few,” she responded.

One of the convents she started is in Burgos, a large city in northern Spain. I will be passing right through Burgos on the Camino and had intended to stay there an extra night because it has one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Spain. I wonder if I can track down Tess’ convent?

After starting the convent in Burgos, she continued her journey to Alba de Tormes, where she got sick and died on October 4, 1582.  She was canonized soon after her death but was not made a Doctor of the Church until 1970, along with St Catherine of Siena – I believe they are the only two women Doctors of the Church.

I think Big Tess will be good to have along. She isn’t a barrel of laughs, but she seems practical and confident. She believed that, if you did something wrong, don’t punish yourself – change! She wrote that the best prayer is prayer which leads to action. She knows it can be difficult to pray and  will have my back.

What would she look like on the road with me? Maybe something like this:

I can use someone like that.

Camino minus 13 – My Short List of Saints . . . Plus, a Catholic Joke

It’s getting down to the wire and I have to pick my saints.

I asked for suggestions for saints to bring along with me for the walk on the Camino. In my post titled “Camino minus 20 – Calling All Saints,” I listed my requirements for the  saints who would accompany me. To recap:

  1. Male or Female
  2. Sense of humor
  3. Cheerfully face reality
  4. Be a writer or be written about
  5. Like to travel
  6. Able to pull own weight
  7. Superpowers (please see Camino minus 20 for explanation on this one)
  8. Ability to stay focused
  9. Keeps cool
  10. Available for life

Please go to Camino minus 20 for a better explanation on these requirements.

Unfortunately, it seems others are no more familiar with the saints than I am. We think of them as  far away spirits who perhaps really existed, perhaps not, and are  not  relevant to our day-to-day lives.

But, that was my point. I wanted to try to make the saints, or at least one of them, relevant to me.  Saints aren’t angels or spirits. They were real, ordinary people who did extraordinary things. We have photographs of them. We have books by them. We have interviews of them on television. They were real people.

At least, we know many of them were. Just as there are debates about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, there are debates about who the saints of long ago really were. I’m OK with legendary, actually. I’m OK with a person having lived a heroic life, if only in my gullible imagination.

Babe Ruth’s real life was not exemplary. We admire him for what he accomplished. If he wasn’t really as great a person as my imagination tells me he was, so what? He can still be a legendary hero to me.

So why wouldn’t I do the same for the saints?

In the midst of the worst of the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandals, the New York Times writer, Nicholas Kristof, whom I admire greatly for his humanity and his writing, wrote a short editorial on the Church for that paper. In it, he reminded his readers of the grace and humanity of those who are walking the walk and talking the talk, day in and day out, unaffected by the turmoil around them. Their focus is clear. And their devotion and humility reminded me, as a Catholic, to not lose heart.

I have been researching for my companion saints and a few have made it to the short list.

  1. St. Christopher (although not for the reason you might think)
  2. St. Philip Neri
  3. St. Teresa of Avila
  4. St. Roch

I shall explain why I have short listed these four at another time. Maybe I’ll pick up a few more (doubtful, I don’t have much time left).

In closing, I’m serious when I put “sense of humor”  up towards the top of the list of requirements:

An engineer died and reported to the Pearly Gates. An intern angel, filling in for St. Peter, checked his dossier and grimly said, “Ah, an engineer; you’re in the wrong place.”

So the engineer was cast down to hell. Pretty soon, dissatisfied with the level of comfort hell offered, he began designing improvements. Soon, the underworld had air-conditioning, flush toilets and escalators. The engineer was becoming a pretty popular guy among the demons.

One day, God called Satan and asked, ‘So, how’s it going down there in hell?”

Satan laughed and replied, “Hey, things are going great. We’ve got air-conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there’s no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next.”

God’s face clouded over and he exploded, “What? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake; he should never have been there; send him up.”

Satan shook his head, “No way. I like having an engineer down here. I’ve never had one before.”

God was angry. “This isn’t the way things are supposed to work and you know it. Send him back up here or I’ll sue.”

Satan laughed uproariously, ‘And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?” *




*The Book of Catholic Jokes, Deacon Tom Sheridan, Acta  Publications