Father’s Day

Today in the USA we celebrate Father’s Day. I feel very blessed to be the dad of two outrageously great boys! I feel a similar sentiment to Solomon who wrote in Psalm 127,

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

If you have been following my blog, you know that my oldest boy is with me journeying across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I’ll say more about him later in this post. Today I am missing my younger son who is 11 and is on holiday with his mom (and my wife ❤️) in Nashville visiting his aunt. While he is not much of a walker, trekker, or hiker, I am sure here are parts of our journey that he would really enjoy – especially the interactions with so many interesting people from around the world (he is our card-carrying extrovert!) He also brings a lot of joy through his ability and need to make most everything in life a game. The photos of my boys above illustrate that, in that neither of them wears glasses like their mom and dad, but when Caleb put my glasses on yesterday, and then texted the silly photo back home, our other son answered back with his own version of the silliness. “I am missing you today, son, and glad we got to say ‘hi’ on the phone today!”

Regarding Caleb, who is with me on this pilgrimage, I have written from the beginnings of our journey that we believe this is as much for him as it is for me. When I was talking with a friend before coming over to Spain about how poorly Western culture does rites of passage, he recommended a book to me that Caleb and I have been reading out loud to one another on this trip by Richard Rohr called “Adam’s Return.”

I have read other things by Rohr, and this book is proving to be equally enriching and challenging. Caleb may say some things about what he is learning in a future post, but I’ll share one quote that I have been reflecting on that has a strong ring of truth to me:

If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it in some form. If we do not learn this all-important spiritual lesson, at least one, maybe all, of the following things will happen: 1. We will become inflexible, blaming, and petty as we grow older. 2. We will need other people to hate in order to expel our inner negativity. 3. We will play the victim in some form as a means of false power. 4. We will spend much of our life seeking security and status as a cover-up for lack of a substantial sense of self. 5. We will pass on our deadness to our family, children, and friends.

God has been doing some deep things in my own soul as I sit with Rohr’s observation. Some of it is very hard to look at, but at the same time there is a beauty in knowing that Christ wants to transform and use the pain I experience. As Rohr continues to observe, “Our wounds are the only things humbling enough to break our attachment to our false self and strong enough to make us yearn for our true self.” May both Caleb’s and my true selves become more visible as we two wounded pilgrims enjoy limping along together.

Regarding our present Camino adventures, Thomas (our traveling friend and fellow dad) and I decided our Father’s Day gift to one another should be a true “0” day tomorrow. We are in San Vicente, and discovered that the albergue is closed. However, we found a delightful hotel for pilgrims with a private room for 3, shower and bath tub(!), as well as kitchen privileges for 13 euros each. And the hostess said we can stay two nights! We highly recommend “Libreria Anjana” to our fellow pilgrims staying in this town. Tomorrow we explore the town, including an 8th century castle, and lie out on the beach!

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads!

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Cóbreces

Today was a fascinating experience coming into the very small seaside town of Cobreces. We knew that the local albergue was connected with a Cistercian monastery, so as we crested a hill and saw a two-spired cathedral in the distance of what we thought was our destination, we got pretty excited.

As we drew closer to those spires, I had a welcoming feeling to this beacon in the distance showing us the way, much like what pilgrims of previous generations experienced before the advent of GPS software on our phones.

The beauty of the cathedral was only surpassed by the beauty of the aged monk who welcomed us to the albergue. He could not speak a word of English, but he made it clear we were invited to the vespers service at 6:45. This proved to be a rich worship experience with the 21 brothers chanting most of the worship. Unfortunately, we were the only pilgrims there, and I got the feeling that the monks were surprised by our presence, though running the albergue and serving pilgrims has obviously been a long-standing ministry for this community.

Caleb noted to me afterward that he can’t remember any pilgrims we have met who are doing the Camino for spiritual reasons. I am sure pilgrims like us still are out there, but the Camino seems to have sadly become yet another thing to be physically conquered by people, rather than allowing God use it to do his amazing work in each of us.

A page from the liturgy that was sung tonight.

Day 15

Our little blue line tracking our progress across Spain from my satellite tracker is growing! Click on this link and zoom in to get a feel for the terrains we have encountered.

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Almost all has been on foot, except for 3 ferry rides across rivers, and today, one 2 kilometer train ride to avoid going 7 kilometers out of our way to get to a pedestrian bridge. (We still counted those 2 kilometers, and we’re sure you would too if you were in our place!)

I did a little calculation on the Excel spreadsheet I am using to track progress, expenses, etc., and if we are to finish the 830 kilometers (511 miles) in 40 days, we should be at 311 k today and we are sitting at 294 k. That is really encouraging to us as we purposely did a slow start, both because of the difficulty of the Basque hills and mountains in the first week, and to let our bodies adjust to our daily task. Lately we have been doing a lot of 25 k days, and all 3 of us feel this rhythm is pretty sustainable. As always though your prayers are appreciated and welcomed (and we love your comments too!)

Here’s a few photos showing some of the beauty we have seen as well as some of the daily grind.

Examples of those welcomed pointers that we’re headed the right way!

All-important foot-care on the path, and then Thomas doing laundry and working his upper body at the albergue.

A beautiful walk along the beach followed by a ferry ride into Santander.

The cathedral in Santander as seen in the reflection of a bookstore window. You can make out the heading “Cantabria” in the bookstore, which is the region we are now in following our travels through Basque country.

And just a few portraits to wrap things up.

Laredo – Day 12 on the Camino

We just arrived in Laredo, and are staying in a beautiful private albergue with only four beds in the room! It is also called Albergue Buen Pastor, so I feel right at home 🙂 This a wonderfully spacious change after last night’s stay at Castro-Urdiales in an albergue with 21 pilgrims, though the facility is designed to accommodate only 16.

Nevertheless Castro-Urdiales was a beautiful seaside town with a rich history. Artifacts of human civilization have been found in this area dating back to 12,000 BC. There is also the remains of a medieval Templar castle, which one of the turrets now serves as the foundation for the lighthouse, and there is an extraordinary cathedral that was a treat to tour. Here’s some photos to enjoy.

Today was mostly walking on the highway, so here’s some photos as well to show you the more mundane, but, nevertheless rich parts of our journey.

As of today we have logged 140 miles and all of us are feeling pretty good. Caleb was complaining about his toes hurting, but lacing his shoes tighter seems to have fixed that problem. I haven’t experienced any joint pain or sharp muscle problems, so I praise God for that! My feet are very sore at the end of each day’s journey, but getting the pack off, walking around the towns in the evening in my Tevas, and then getting a good night’s sleep, seems to be a sustainable rhythm. Thanks for all your prayers and encouraging comments!

Pobeña

This was close to a perfect day, except for tired feet! We arrived in this gorgeous little gem of a town just west of Bilbao, and when we checked into the albergue, Caleb noticed a guitar hanging on the wall. I asked the host, “Puedo tocar guitarra?” To which he answered, “Si!” I played for a little bit on his 5-string guitar (missing the first string), and then hung it back up. An hour later a friend of his pulled up in front of the alberge with another guitar and a set of strings. The host looked at me and said, “Duet!” They re-strung the other guitar, then for the next hour I tried to follow along as this other player ran through jazz standard after jazz standard – it was bliss!

Caleb got to jump in too, so here’s a clip of the two of them.

After that we enjoyed a wonderful dinner – I had artichokes and clams slathered in a butter sauce, grilled pork chop, and a bottle of vino, all for 10 euros on the “Pilgrim’s Menu.” We decided afterwards to walk down to the beach, since the afternoon rain had stopped. That’s where the proverb “The best camera is the one you have with you” came into play. I still am kicking myself for not grabbing my “big-boy” camera before heading down to the beach, as it was simply stunning light, and water at low-tide. I did have my iPhone though and a willing model in Caleb, so here’s the best of the best photos.

Tomorrow onto the next seaside town and more adventures (and tired feet).

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Bilbao

Bilbao has even in our plans for a zero-day, and that is how it played out for the most part. Since one can’t stay in an albergue for more than one night, we investigated hostels. The first hostel we arrived at in the city center did not allow anyone under 16, however, the host thee was very helpful and called ahead to another hostel that was close by. It was definitely a different vibe from the albergues – lots of college-age people, and we didn’t see any other pilgrims there. It was a nice place, but expensive, so today we walked across town to the actual albergue in Bilbao. This is another donativo (donation) alberge, so 10. Euros each gives us a bed, shower, breakfast, and for the first time, dinner is included here! We were told macaroni and salad.

This morning we all slept in until 8ish, and all of our feet appreciated the day of rest. It was a beautiful morning before the cloud and rain started. Here are some photos from our wandering around Bilbao.

And some shots of the Gueggenheim Modern Art Museum, which one local commentator described it as an amazing architectural achievement that far surpasses anything on display inside. We decided to heed that advice and not go in.

Finally here’s a shot of our sleeping arrangements for tonight. Caleb is happy there are no bunk beds, since he always gets sent to the top 🙂

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A Wonderful Traveling Companion

Besides having some delightful and rich conversations with my 13 year old son while we walk the Camino together, there are at least two other ways that he has significantly blessed me and other pilgrims.

One is that the fact that he is only 13 and seems to frequently be poking fun at “the old man’s” lack of Spanish prowess with the locals, has twice got us private rooms in the albergues so far. This is huge considering the level of snoring that often occurs in the main rooms of the albergues. Last night was a private room, and shower and toilet for the 2 of us and our friend Thomas, tonight is a room just for Caleb and I. I should mention though that I have been very impressed with the cleanliness of the albergues. What a very inexpensive way to spend time here, averaging 10 euros each per night.

The second way he has been a blessing is the amazing way he is able to walk and play his recorder, even on fairly steep terrain! Many pilgrims have commented to both of us how good he is and how much his music takes their mind off the prevalent aches and pains of walking day after day. Keep on playing, Caleb!

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