Jeremiah Johnson Would Never Have Lost his Pants – Day 32 – Rabanal to Molinaseca

I’m feeling kind of “Jeremiah Johnson” today.

The latest in pilgrim attire, circa 1870.

The latest in pilgrim fashion, circa 1870.

Jeremiah Johnson was a character played in the movie of the same name by Robert Redford. This character started out as a pretty “green” newcomer to the American frontier, planning to make his way as a trapper or trader or some such thing in the American Rocky Mountains.

There were few people who lived in the frontier at this time, except for the native Americans who were wary of the newcomers who were slowly but surely crowding into their space. Also, the old timers who were doing what he was just starting out to do, and had been doing it for a while.

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Over time, Jeremiah Johnson learns how to fend for himself alone in the mountains. He becomes proficient at trapping and shooting. he can build his fires and keep warm as needed. He becomes a grizzled mountain man, respected by the Natives and the locals.

Slowly, he realizes how much he has learned during his time in the mountain, although he does not stop learning and, yes, making mistakes.

My Camino Family Portrait.

My Camino Family Portrait.

I’m feeling a little Jeremiah Johnson today.

I’ve met an unusual number of new peregrinos today. I’ve also run into groups of people starting out. “I just started in Leon.” “We haven’t had a day of rain!” “Wow! We’ve been walking for two days and it’s so much fun!”

Is it so wrong that I feel like smacking them?

Many of them have sent their packs ahead to the next town so they don’t have to carry them (OK if you have a legitimate physical need),  Walkers arrive by taxi (ditto for physical need).

They carry light little day packs and swing big bottles of water in their hands, spritely jogging up the hills, chatting and laughing.  They’ll get to the albergue long before me and I will, therefore, be unable to find a place to stay.

Yep, I’m feeling grizzled. I could just grunt in answer to their “dumb” questions. I could roll my eyes as they stop along the way and complain about their newly developing blisters. I could smile to myself as they race up the hills, knowing that I will pass them on the way down as they begin to nurse slowly disintegrating knees.

You call that a blister?? I know babies that have bigger blisters than that! And you call yourself a pilgrim.

You call that a blister?? I know babies that have bigger blisters than that! You’re a disgrace to pilgrims everywhere.

I could, but I don’t. Because, like Jeremiah Johnson, I’m still making mistakes.

Let’s put it in another way. The Camino is keeping me humble.

1.   It’s a long, challenging day, 25 kilometers, all of it mountainous.  To add to the challenge of the terrain, which includes lots of loose scree, the temperature goes from 5 degrees to 32 degrees Celsius today.

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It was really cold this morning.

2. I reach the impressive Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross).

El Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross

Shortly after, I come to the highest point on the Camino Frances, the Punto Alto, a heavenly 1,515 meters high and I celebrate the gorgeous view with some water, I spend several extra minutes up there. Why? Not because of the view , which is majestic, but because I can’t figure out the way down. I seem to have temporarily lost the trail. Thanks alot, St. Christopher.

I'm at the top of the world. Now how do I get down?

I’m at the top of the world. Now how do I get down?

3. I run out of money. Not cyber money, but real, honest-to-goodness, hold-in-your-hand, cash. And without cash, you can’t get into an albergue or buy a meal. The only cash machine in town has run out of money. I used my last euro at a wonderful lunch in Acebo. I planned to get more at the next cash machine.

St. Phil, the jokester, whom I haven’t mentioned in a while, decides to play a little trick on me instead and lets all the cash machines along the way (there aren’t many) run dry. Ha, ha.

4. My greatest tragedy happens today. It involves my beloved rain jacket.

Rip my heart, why don't you?

Rip my heart, why don’t you?

5.  After getting some money (several weird turns of events including a *gasp* ride into a city in a real car) I am enjoying my first communal meal in an albergue since day one in France.

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Suddenly a guy bursts into the dining room and frantically exclaims at the top of his lungs “WHO STOLE MY PANTS!!!???”

In the moment of silence that followed, I realize that the pair of pants he is holding up as an example of his stolen pants are MY pants, which I had washed and hung to dry outside. Then, he disappears, along with my pants.

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My goodness, my goodness.

Thank you, Camino.

Thank you, Saints.

How dreadfully boring my journey would be if I actually did have everything/anything under control. Instead, I chuckle as I write in my journal and review the day’s events.

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My Entourage of Saints

Let me tell you about my entourage, some of whom you’ve already met, some who will be new. They are seated next to me on this train to St. Jean Pied de Port.

Big Tess (St. Theresa) has already been introduced. I need her for her determination and for her confidence. She has already helped me in the first 2 hours of this trip and I hope to cover that in a future blog. She sat down next to me first. I pointed out to her that her long dark habit was not the most practical outfit for this journey. She agreed and plans to wear something less conspicuous when we next meet.

She left and Chris sat down next. Chris, (St. Christopher) will guide me on the right paths, or at least help me realize when I go the wrong way and will put me back on track. Putting his arm around my shoulder, he says he will also help carry my load.

Phil, St. Philip Neri, sat down after Chris left. I have not introduced him before. He is known as the “hilarious” saint. I’ve read some of the words attributed to him and I think they are proof that humor does not travel well over time. Hilarious is in the eye of the beholder. However, he does have a light-hearted point of view. He put his finger tips together and smiled. He says he will help me see the good will and humor in situations where they may not be obvious. He also says he likes these high speed trains.I am glad to have him along.

St. Roch seems to want to come along, unbidden. He nudged his way onto the seat.  Roch is the patron saint of people who survived the plague in the middle ages. DS1 took him as his saint for confirmation but I’m pretty sure it was only because he has a cool name. I doubt I will encounter the plague and St. Roch, Rocky, was not a saint I even considered. But ne appeared out of nowhere in a few churches DH and I visited recently.  Rocky showed up in side chapels in cathedrals in Vienna and in Wurtzburg, totally unexpectedly. At first I thought it was just cool, since I hadn’t thought of him since confirmation but twice in two consecutive churches? I’m sure there were many greatful people surviving the plague but I hadn’t found him anywhere else. When he sat down next to me on the train, I asked him why he wanted to come. I want to find out more about him but he hasn’t said a word. Maybe he just wanted to get out.

Last to join me is St. Julian. One of my blog friends suggested him because he is the patron saint of people who provide welcome to pilgrims. He seems an obvious choice, but I want to find out more about him. 

I’ve got quite an entourage. 

Camino minus 11 – He’s Got Superpowers!

I like St. Christopher, but not for the reason you think.
St. Christopher is an obvious choice to take as my “wing man” on my Camino. He is the patron saint of travelers. When you see his picture or statue (look for him on dashboards) he is the tall man holding a child on his shoulders.

But for me, alas, he raises many questions. Let me review his story for you.

Legend has it that he was a very large man – tall, not fat. A little over seven feet tall, by some accounts. He wanted to serve the greatest there was, so he decided to serve the King. But, one day, he saw the King bow down and cross himself. When he asked why he did that, the King told him that he was afraid of the devil.

So, Christopher says to himself, Hey, Here’s a guy even the King is afraid of. I’m going to serve him! So off he goes to find the devil.

Soon, he comes to a dark, scary forest. He’s a big guy, so he isn’t afraid, but soon he finds a band of robbers. They’re pretty bad and one of them calls himself the devil. St. Christopher says Aha, I’ve been looking for you! And he joins the robbers. But, one day, he saw the robber who was called the devil bow down and cross himself. When he asked why the devil did that, the devil said he was afraid of Christ.

So, St. Christopher says to himslef, Hey, here’s a guy even the devil is afraid of. I’m going to serve him so off he goes to find Christ.

Soon, he meets a hermit living in a cave by a river. He asks the hermit if he knows where to find Christ. The hermit says, Sure, and begins to teach St. Christopher about Christ. Pretty soon, Chris becomes a Christian.

How can I serve Christ? Christopher wants to know. Well, the hermit says, You can fast and pray. Christopher thinks about it and says, No, I don’t think I can do that. Is there anything else I can do? The hermit thinks and says, You’re big and strong. Why don’t you help carry people across this river. Everyone always has a hard time doing that. Christopher says, Great and so begins his job as traveler carrier.

One day, a child comes along and says, Hey, can you get me to the other side and Chris says Sure. But halfway across, while Chris is carrying the kid (you know who) on his shoulders, the child gets really heavy and the river gets really crazy. He has to work really hard to get the kid across but he does.

Once on the other side, Christopher says, Wow, kid, you were really heavy to carry and the kid says, Oh,yeah? Well, I’m Christ and I carry the sins of the world on my shoulders! Then he disappears!

The end.

O.k. I have a few problems with this story.

1. Why did people cross the river at the worst part of the river. Why didn’t they just go to a better part of the river and cross?
2. Boats had been invented. And rafts. So why did Christopher have to walk people across? Why not ferry them?
3. Didn’t anyone think it was weird that this little kid needed to cross the river by himself? There were no adults with him? Even in olden days, people took care of their children and didn’t let them travel alone.
4. Didn’t the hermit get mad? I mean, there he was, fasting and praying and living in a cave and who does Christ show up to? The new guy!

But here’s what I like about this story.

Christopher made up his own mind. He used his eyes to observe what people around him were doing. He thought the king was the greatest, then the devil, but changed his mind based on what he saw. He had no problem saying, Well, I guess I was wrong and continuing his search for truth.

When the hermit told him how to serve Christ, Christopher knew enough about himself to know that there were better options.

From a Church built on obedience, here’s a saint who says, humbly to be sure, Well, yes, I understand what you’re saying, but I think there might be a better way for me to serve Christ.

Mother Theresa taught school in India for 20 years, then decided that a better way for her to serve would be to be with the poorest of the poor. She got push-back from some of her superiors but she knew better than they how she could serve Christ best.

That’s why I’ll take Chris with me. He was practical and reality based. He trusted his instincts and wasn’t afraid to keep looking for the real deal.

And he has that superpower of getting through rivers.

Yes. I can use someone like that on my team.