Tag: The Meseta


Spring Camino 14 June 2013: Wading Into The Ocean

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Harvest apocalyse on the Camino

I met Dan McCarthy last Autumn – or Fall as Dan from Rhode Island would call it, when I was walking the Camino Francais. On May 6 2013 Dan left home to walk El Camino de Santiago for the tenth time. Having tried but failed to set up a blog for this landmark Camino he decided to share his journey by email. I have loved Dan’s insights and am honoured that he agreed to allow me to guest edit his entries and share them here on my Crossing Frontiers blog. Dan started on the Camino El Norte but after 7 arduous days switched back to the Camino Francais.

On 14 June 2013 just 3 days before he completes his tenth Camino Dan writes about the subtler but deeper realities of the Camino.  I too experienced the magical connections of dining with other pilgrims that Dan shares but walking the fallow land of the Meseta in Autumn after the apocalypse of harvest was quite a contrast to Dan’s rich experience of Spring growth.

Several weeks ago I was walking the marvelous, the magnificent meseta, the high plane that inserts days of quiet, flat, meditative walking into the struggles of the Pyrenees of the beginning of the Camino and those of the mountains of Leon that make up the greater part of the last third of the Camino. The Way was passing through fields of grain  that I could not identify, having for some time lost contact with Tracy the jolly Welshman and grain expert.

The grain was very fine, just a slender stalk, no leaves like the very green sprouts that support wheat, but tall and thin reeds, light green color at base but a rich blue green in their head with well formed kernels. I waded into the grain field to get a sense of the height of the grain. It was up to my chest. But standing in this  field with its dense growth, light green below, almost blue on the surface stretching for acres brought a sudden memory of wading into the ocean at Scarborough* on a bright calm day.

And I had an impulse to lower myself into this immensity as I do in the ocean. I resisted the impulse but was overcome with the sense that I have at the ocean of giving myself to something greater than I, the ocean, somehow the force of life, immense, beautiful, awesome. I felt the Camino as large, as forceful, as full of life as the ocean, as full of life as the mountains I had walked over, as the rivers who had gurgled and raced along side me as I walked the valleys, as the bird song and wild flowers that had gladdened my days. And I found that life in the pilgrims I walked with and, truth be told, in myself. I have felt alive on this Camino, strong, well, my body like a walking machine, my mind empty (nothing new there some will say) and at peace, alive!

Night before last I had the usual pilgrim cena (dinner) with people I had gotten to know along the way, Marcelo from Brazil, Deidre from New Zealand and Neil from Ireland. Neil apparently has made enough money on the Irish Tiger and kept it so that he can live 6 month a year in Ireland “to keep in touch with my roots” and live in India for 6 months ” a place where spirituality is alive, where you can always find people who take spirituality seriously”. and then he added that that Camino was like India in Europe.

One of the advantages of so many people walking is that every evening you will have several choices of which table of pilgrim to join for dinner. And so the wine will be poured and the intense conversation will begin, the day’s experience, what the Camino means to me, personal reflections on the meaning of the Camino etc, etc. And so the Camino gives life, experiences life, comes alive around the common meal, generous with wine each evening. The meal nourishes life, brings life. Pilgrims transmit life to each other.

Each of us will label this life source out of our own tradition. For Christians it will be the Spirit sent by the Lord Christ. Jesus knew what he was doing when he made wine the sign, the Sacrament of his sharing of life. That life is in all everywhere but more vividly available in sacred places as on the Camino de Santiago.

*Scarborough State Beach is in Narrangansett, Rhode Island, USA

You can contact Dan directly on daniel_m_02921@yahoo.com

Spring Camino 1 June 2013: The Green Robes Of An Irish God

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Lounging in Leon

I met Dan McCarthy last Autumn – or Fall as Dan from Rhode Island would call it, when I was walking the Camino Francais. On May 6 2013 Dan left home to walk El Camino de Santiago for the tenth time. Having tried but failed to set up a blog for this landmark Camino he decided to share his journey by email. I have loved Dan’s insights and am honoured that he agreed to allow me to guest edit his entries and share them here on my Crossing Frontiers blog. Dan started on the Camino El Norte but after 7 arduous days switched back to the Camino Francais.

On the 1st June 2013 Dan writes from Leon:

I started on 9th May.  I have walked about 250 miles with about 200 to go. Weather for the last week has been glorious sunshine but cold. It was 32F (zero degrees C) in Leon yesterday.

I have spent the last 6 days walking across the Meseta, the high flat plane, planalto, that covers the middle of Spain. The meseta is high and flat as its name implies. It dips down here and there for a small town to nestle in the hollow and provide a place for a pilgrim hostal. I have stayed in several.

But up there on the plane I feel in a world apart, walking through huge patchwork quilt of greens and tans and browns, the greens being grain fields, tans where the grain has been cut and is drying, the year’s first crop, and the browns plowed for the planting of a second  crop.

My meseta walk was made much more interesting this year by the company (part of the way) of Tracy, a jolly Welshman who says he is just a farmer, but travels around the world advising on the planting of grains.

On a given day the way will be bordered by a rich dark green growth with a strong straight proud head of perfectly formed kernels. This is the elite wheat, tall and strong but hardly gives me a slight nod, even in a hefty breeze. Across the road another, light lively almost Kelly green. This is rye, but rye it isn’t. With the slightest breath of wind  rye gets silly, spinning and shimmying and waving at everybody. Rye is welcoming. As les zephyrs dance over this sea of happy green, the more sedate wheat sways with dignity. The whole scene proclaims life and its Source. If God is on the meseta–and most pilgrims will acknowledge a special presence there–if that is so then God must be Irish for She/He has chosen robes of exquisite green.

I must mention the boarders of these robes. The field’s edges, outside the reach of the giant harvesting blades but beneficiaries of some of the natural fertilizer spread on the fields, have given birth to a absolute riot of wild flowers. The Camino, at one point winds around a 6 or 7 ft high knoll whose side appeared as though a blanket of color had been thrown over it. The royal poppy, the more than royal poppy, “For not  even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these” (scholars tell us Jesus was looking at these Mediterranean poppies when he spoke these words) the poppies flood these wild patches, often springing up in dense clusters of small white daisies. Then there are several shades of purple, of yellow, of blue. It creates an almost complete cover of the ground, a veritable Giverny in the wild. I wonder did Monet make the Camino Francais?

I’m off to 6PM Mass now in the magnificent 1000 year old Cathedral of Leon which is famous for an early use of stained glass. I wonder if the inspiration for those  brilliant reds and rich blues came from the wildflowers of the Camino, which is a couple of hundred years older than the Cathedral.

Ultreya to us all!

You can contact Dan directly on daniel_m_02921@yahoo.com