Monday, October 5, 2015

Thinking about trees and aging from Cocabelos to Trabadelo on the way to Santiago de Compostella, 2015, Log # 9

Day 16 July 24 – Cocabelos to Trabadelo

After dinner in Cocabelos, we watched the sunset from our hotel room and went to bed.  Throughout the afternoon the town had felt asleep.  But as the evening wore on, the rumble of the street grew to a quiet roar.  The sun seemed to never go down.  

Eventually, we got to sleep.  But the rumble of the street below never quite slowed. 

The stroll out of Cocabelos to Villafranca del Bierzo was eight or nine k.  By this point, everyone was becoming punchy.

“Man is but an ass,” number two declared, quoting Midsummer Nights Dream, but pointing at her father, myself.

Walking we see a number of circle A Anarchy signs. “There are more anarchy signs than crosses on the road,” number two follows.
“I wish,” I follow.  

What fools these morals be on our merry caravan.  

I read Shakespeare to everyone.
Captain of our ferry band
Helena is here at hand.
The bards youthful exuberance shines through the words.  But he ages, as we all do.  A more mature tone, of the passing of time, comedy overlapping with tragedy in Twelfth Night.
“In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s stuff will not endure”
Our youth passes.  We are reminded of it on the Camino.
“What a piece of work is man,” the bard reminds us. We inspire and feel pain, try to be our best, but sometimes stumble.  Yet, the road leads us through our life.
“Our revels are now ended.   These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
                        We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.”
The Tempest was Dad’s favorite of the Shakespeare’s plays.  He is with me as we walk and I think about the bard’s words.  Of Macbeths soliloquy, which poured off Dad’s lips, just months before he died. 
“Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow….
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time…”
Over the last two Camino hikes, I have read a lot of Shakespeare and thought about Dad.  We read Bill Bryson’s biography of the bard together, enjoying dad’s memories and the stories of his time studying him, the lessons of his life, on our lives, a gift to me forever from Dad. It continues to this day as grieving gives way to good feelings.  The Camino offers so many gifts.
The morning hike was lovely.

Arriving in Villafranca del Bierzo, we go for coffee in the plaza of the old village, where an outbreak of plague in 1589 and flood in 1715 shaped and transformed the space.  Today, it feels very real, grounded beyond time, out of our time but of this, of today and some other moment.  Yet, the place is very real.  Pilgrims sleep and battle here.  Friends converge.  We eat and meet here.  Reunions take shape here.  And the city opens itself to us.  
 “Ben,” I hear someone scream in the square.
It was Paul, our friend who’d walked with us to Villar de Mozarife.
“How have you been?” 
We sit to reflect on the trail.
“The Camino teaches us humility,” he confesses, explaining he’s been battling tendinitis.  Some days he wants to quit.
And then he gets up and walks again.  After all the Northern Route and this French route, he’s taking a bus to Sarria to finish the hike and get his Camino passport.
“You are only as good as your feet,” he laments, looking down.  “Last night I found a bar and propped up my legs, ordering beer.  They brought me one topas after another taking care of me.”
We talk about all our adventures and books, our journeys from the worst to the best days of the Camino and the surprise lodge in Rabanal.  
“Read El Cid.  Its like Star Wars.”  He tells us about the Pilgrimage by Paul Cohello and the Knights Templar Friday the 13th murder story. We’ve enjoyed all these stories along the way. But Paul is pretty done.
“Don’t be hard on yourself.  You did it.  You really walked the Camino.  Please look us up in Brooklyn.  You love New York architecture. We live by the Brooklyn Bridge.”
We keep talking about magic realist literature from Cervantez to Marquez and Faulkner.
“Let the language pass over you,” Caroline explains, referring to Absalom Absalom. It’s a lesson she takes to all she reads, novels from around the world.

After a few coffees, we all say goodbye and make our way out of Villafranca. We have 10 k more to walk to get to Trabadelo where we’ll sleep.  Renowned as one of the most beautiful sites on the whole Camino, we relish the stroll, stopping and lingering as we meander out of town, where the city meets the mountain and we begin our ascent toward O Cebreiro.  Trabadelo would be out first stop, however,  in Galacia. The map of the incline looks like a nose, rising up and then descending before we would get there.  We were moved a we walked.  Sometimes I walk too fast. Caroline wanted to stay, but after eight k, we keep walking.
“Its like a fairy tale,” notes Caroline. “Its so stunning.”  Birds and river sounds are everywhere, as we climb up, winding our way to the local albergue. 
Getting closer to the albergue, we see larger trees, as well as logs from trees apparently violently cut down by the timber industry.  These trees feel like they have old souls, offering the world peace and oxygen.  Yet, capitalism has to cut away at these ancient forests where the faeries reside, consuming bits and pieces of the sustainable future we hope to grasp for ourselves. The bulldozer in the creek below reminds us there is a limit to how much we can forge for ourselves without grappling with the destructive tendencies of this corrosive economic system, which puts profits above all else.  Yet, the Camino reminds us we can de grow. We need less, can consume less, and make our way with our feet. There are alternatives to clear cutting capitalism.  The destruction of the trees reminds us how compelling these alternatives can be.

The local albergue gives us a space for ourselves. The food is great in the little country inn.  Lentil soup and salmon and wine for ten Euros, its one of the best meals we had of the Camino.  The whole town seems to be there, what little there is of a town, which is basically a few buildings up the road in between forest. 

Still, the battle with bedbugs continues, as number one is interrupted with more than a few and we sneak out early the next morning with more discombobulated sleeping badly.  The Camino teaches us ways to sleep deeply or little at all. Regardless the trail awaits.  The next morning, we'll be climbing a mountain. 

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