One quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet. 26 bones in each foot. Also 33 tendons and 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. This morning I felt all of them. The psalmist says, ‘I can count every one of my bones.’ So could I today. Each one ached.
Having said that, its amazing what a few stretches and groans can do.
To experience the miracle of dawn each day is a wonderful thing. At the Albergue we were given breakfast by the volunteers working there. Tea and toast.
I set off in the dark and for the first hour walked gently uphill on ancient footpaths through beautiful Galician countryside. I was surrounded by birdsong. There was a deep mist covering the land. There were beautiful rock formations to right and left. For the last couple of days it has taken a while for the sun to break through the mist, sometimes not till midday, but today as soon as the sun came up the mist cleared and I could experience the extraordinary beauty of the low sun in the east casting its great blessing of light through the trees, catching the hundreds and hundreds of cobwebs in the hedgerows and lighting them up. Apart from a horse that I encountered on the path (and gingerly circled), I met no one.
The dawn is always beautiful. But one of the precious privileges of this pilgrimage has been to experience it each day and be out, alone, walking in the countryside. But today it was particularly special.
There were two coffee stops on the way. At the second I was entertained (and slightly intimidated) by the owners’ pet turkey that patrolled the tables hissing and strutting.
I had three phone calls today. BBC Essex in the morning, Rebecca at mid day (who was also out walking) and my mum in the afternoon.
I’m staying tonight at the great Cistercian monastery at Sobrado, dating from 952.
As I came into Sobrado I passed a huge beautiful lake, which the monks had made 500 years ago by diverting the river so was to provide them with water and irrigation for their crops. As I was walking up the hilI I heard the sound of gentle singing behind me. It was Carlos from Mexico. I had not seen him before on the road. I asked him what he was singing. He replied, ‘Catholic and Mexican songs.’
We arrived at the monastery at almost exactly 3 o’clock. Registration for pilgrims wishing to stay wasn’t till 4.30, so I found a bar for a beer and somewhere shady for a snooze.
Staying in the monastery is lovely. An English brother signed us in. The dormitories are off the pilgrim’s cloister. After a shower and washing my clothes (which are hanging out the back of the cloister) I looked around the church, which is vast and beautiful, but in a shocking state of disrepair. No quinquennial inspections here. I also chatted with a lovely Irish priest, Barry.
Vespers was at 7.00pm. It was moving for many of the pilgrim community that I have become a part of to join with the monastic community. Dinner followed, with my two Dutch companions and also Manuel from Columbia. Tonight’s menu was anchovy salad, veal steak and chips, flan, coffee and wine.
Several people have asked about the sonnets. So here is one that feels slightly more finished than the others.
Though still in need of some polish. It is about St James himself.
You had no destination here. You moved where the wind blew you, finally to Spain.
It is the price of knowing you are loved.
Made homeless by the one who called you home,
you died traveling. It was the cup you’d
promised to drain to the dregs. You never
knew it would take a lifetime.
The wind blew,
and you, it seemed, would walk this road forever.
Even your bones were not allowed to rest.
They became the end of many peoples journeys, and the seat of their requests.
Pointing to abandoned paths, the steeples
of a humbled church still challenge the sky,
making new beginnings from your story.