May 29, 2012
What gifts I have been blessed with in the past several days. Here are just a few:
The walk to Santa Domingo including a long, hot hill. But at its summit many gifts awaited us. First there was the wind. We raised our arms and let it embrace us, grateful for its cooling effects. And also cold, fresh water pumped from the fuente – a delightful refueling. Then there was the small park atop the hill, simple but elegant and modern in its design. Benches and trees were there, as in other towns, but here too were concrete chaises – a surprising design feat. We stopped to rest.
Just ahead was a restaurant where we feasted on ensalada mixta (greens, tuna, and sundry colorful vegetables). The wind persisted and we were now warmed by our cafe con leches. As I sat sipping my warm beverage, I was approached by a delightful old gentleman from a town just north of Dublin. He was curious about how me and the baby were both doing. He then pulled out a stunning purple wildflower that he had found while walking that morning. Its stem was a thick grass green, its bloom a fierce head of pink purple spikes. He offered this object for me and for the baby. I was humbled by his kindness.
At the hostel that night the man in the bed next to mine was a vivacious Brazilian in his, I would bet, 50s. We traded stories about our paths along the Camino until I faded off for an afternoon siesta. When I woke he approached me with a white ribbon with blue writing on it. I didn’t understand; it was in Portuguese. He explained, “close your eyes, make three wishes. When the band breaks, the time has come.” I was still half asleep when he left. The band felt tight, uncomfortable, but special. I barely notice its soft outlines now.
Arriving tired in Santa Domingo, my bed was switched for a lower bunk. With a view of the cathedral steeple. At 4am I woke with the donging of the bells. I didn’t regret being up so early. The air from the window was cool, but I was warm in my bed. The lights of the church shone out against the night sky.
I notice more and more that all that is needed will be provided. I ask myself: What must I ask for? What must I be open to receive?
Present Day Reflections
The Camino provided me with such a wonderful community. The gifts I received on this particular day were special, but not unusual. Seeking ways to help those around you seemed to be built into the spirit of this journey. It’s a very personal experience, but one that is rooted in community.
I’ve been musing a lot on community this week. In part because my current neighborhood community – and also the place where I grew up – has been in the news a lot recently. Hyattsville, MD was first profiled a few weeks ago by NPR as a place attracting many Catholic families who are building an intentional community together. This week it became a character in the New Yorker piece on Rob Dreher’s Monastic Vision.
I’m sure to be coming back to some of the ideas that were raised in these pieces in the coming weeks because they definitely got me thinking – especially because I’ve got some questions around how the place I’ve called home for most of my life is being portrayed. But for now I’ll stick with how these articles got me thinking about community. I’m torn. In some ways I can see how community can be hard to find in our modern world. On the other hand, I’ve experienced it personally throughout my whole life. Growing up in Hyattsville in the 80s and 90s, we had a group of families who really did hang together. I had my own lovely parents (happy mother’s day, mom!), but there was a larger collective of “Hyattsville Moms and Dads.” I really did feel watched out for, for better and sometimes – ahem those teenage years! – for worse. Later, at my small liberal arts school in the cornfields of Ohio, I experienced a different but no less tight-knit community. Today community shows up in my life in many ways. There is the community of neighbors on our block who sit down all together every fall in a laid-back, lawn-chairs-welcome-in-the-streets block party celebration. There is the community of families from our kids’ learning center. There is the community of our local pool which strengthens during the summer but exists year-round. There is the community at our year-round Farmer’s Market where many of the above communities mix together as one. And the list goes on.
Yes, there are places and times in my life where community has felt absent. But I wonder: How much was that about the community and how much was that about my own sense of self at that time?
The questions I came to at the end of this journal entry seem important when considering our place in a community: What must I ask for? What must I be open to receive? And also: What must I give? What will my contribution be?
ABOUT THE SERIES
My Pregnant Pilgrimage is a blog series that I’m sharing in the Spring of 2017 during my present-day maternity leave. The arrival of my third little seemed a fitting time to return to these journal reflections from those last months of my life pre-parenthood. Learn more about the inspiration for this series here.