They say everyone cries on a long camino and seeing as the girls have made the 500km mark, I think that constitutes a long walk. Tessa’s tears were prompted over a week ago by beastly sibling banter. Ella-Rose’s fell today when she did. She took a tumble on the steep stony path into San Miguel, but recovered her composure remarkably quickly, even if her tail is taking longer 😉
It is no secret that Micaiah cried bucketfulls over a couple of days when Daddy went home. Levi claims to have had tears at that point, but he hasn’t cried;-)
My tears arrived unexpectedly today and it was all over a pair of socks. Actually, not even a pair, but two unmatching ones.
We had got up just after five (and no, we were not *those* pilgrims – through careful planning the night before, all five of us managed to sneak away without disturbing anyone) and were standing outside looking over the valley watching dark silhouettes of mountains appear out of the blackness that was night. Dogs barked and a cluster of lights twinkled far away, suggesting a village.
We were expecting a dramatic sunrise, but the sky just slowly lightened, indistinct blobs turned into cows, the mountains sprouted trees and the dogs kept barking.
The sky took on the faintest of pink hues for a few moments before turning pale blue. A few clouds were tinged with pale peach for a little longer. There was nothing dramatic. It was all very gentle.
And so was the walking. Well, that is to say, after yesterday’s rugged aggressive rocky mountains, today’s paths in contrast wound their way mostly through leafy glades.
Yes, there were climbs (and no, they were not gentle!), but the overall feeling was one of peace and tranquility. Except for the rumbling tummies. We had shared food we were carrying with a pilgrim who was less well prepared and this meant we were left with just a couple of muesli bars each to get us the 17km to the next town with a supermercado. This is not where the socks come in!
The walking was pleasant and at one stage the sun broke through the clouds and spread rays across a distant valley.
The walking went on, the tummies rumbled, but no one grumbled. Even better, they had clearly taken on board a spontaneous teachable moment lesson I had given yesterday – one that went along the lines of: being a leader is not about being the first to find the arrow, the first to arrive at the destination. A leader will look after his team, stop to see that the weakest members are going strong – or at least keeping up. A leader will show compassion and not have to be first. This was happening today.
We all knew there would be a steep downhill that would take us to the food village. We kept thinking *this must be it*, but there was never a village at the end of it!
Eventually there was a downhill like no other, even more steep than the one that had taken Ella-Rose down. And there was a village. We had been discussing what we would like to buy at the supermarket – potato salad, empanada, icecreams, brie, croissants! But the supermarket turned out to be just a tienda, a modest grocer’s shop. The kids filed in to make their choices – and out again immediately with the verdict: there’s nothing! So I went in and found bread, butter, ham, salami and cream-filled pastries 😉
Just as we finished eating one of the children confessed that he had lost two socks that had been drying on his pack. Not a pair, but one of his liner socks and one took-me-forever-and-a-day-to-handknit long hiking socks.
The reason they had disappeared was largely because he had insisted on attaching them to his pack *his* way and not the way I had advised.
I did not cry at this point. We tried to determine when they may have fallen. The last known sighting was about ten kilometres back.
I backtracked to the tienda, but found nothing on the street.
I moved the children to a shady bus stop, dropped my pack and poles, and headed back towards that downhill like no other. Only this time, of course, I had to go up it. Actually, I fumed my way up, maybe even raged. I composed a few choice phrases to use after my descent, because I just knew I was embarking on a fruitless exercise and this was going to become another teachable moment.
Then a conversation started.
*This is what love does, it goes in search of the lost.
*But I’m not loving, I’m caring more about *stuff* right now.
*You love him, you are going because you don’t want him to be without the socks – you know he needs them.
*He sure does, seeing as he ruined his spare pair – and that was through refusing to do what I said too.
*That’s what grace is all about, isn’t it?
*Yes, but he disobeyed, I wouldn’t be storming up this mountain if he’d just done what I said.
*I know. Disobedience is ugly, that’s what grace is all about. That’s why you need grace.
*And he left my brand new shampoo in the shower and it walked. And there was the lost towel and disappearing nail clippers, which admittedly may not have been him.
*Hardly seventy times seven.
*He just will not listen or learn.
*Grace. It’s never deserved.
And then I realised……
I am just the same. I do things my own way, and You willingly walked up a hill for me.
I love, because you loved me first.
At that point I glimpsed bright blue hanging in the thorn bush with a pin still attached. Nearby, somewhat camouflaged, was a long greeny handmade-with-love sock. As I unhooked them from the brambles, I cried. Not because I found them, but because God dealt gently with me and let me walk back up a mountain to hear His voice.
On the way back down, I saw again that I still need to learn the lesson I had been trying to teach the children. Lead with compassion. My words will be hollow if they are not accompanied by action.
I hurried slowly down the downhill like no other. I was glad I had taken the bumbag off and was not carrying the phone with the GPS – I did not want to measure the extra distance I had walked. Grace keeps no record, and I had taken a journey that could not be measured anyway.
When I got to the bottom I headed straight back to the tienda. This called for a celebration: five icecreams.
“These are celebration icecreams, guys. I learnt an important lesson up the hill and I want you to remember it so I’m doing something to help you remember.”
“But you said we’d wait til Pola de Lena for icecreams coz they only had expensive ones.”
“I tell you, I want you to remember this day.”
“So what was the lesson?”
“I’m going to write it on the blog and I’ll read it to you.”
“You sure know how to make suspense, Mum.”
And now I need to go and read to the kids I love.
Destination: Pola de Lena
Distance: 26.8km and then some
Cumulative Distance: 838km
162km to go to 1,000
Weather: overcast, sunny, cool, warm
Dinner: ham and salad roll with cherry tomatoes, then strawberries and cream pastries shared with the other pilgrims in the albergue tonight (the same ones as the last two nights)
Cobra count: two today, both dead