The picture to the left, which I have entitled Los Pereginos (“The Pilgrims”), shows several members of the group I walked with – Anne, Magnus and Sam. They have several things in common between them and with the majority of other pilgrims we shared the way with: they are walking, they are using staves to assist them, they are wearing backpacks. Key to this first reflection in my series, they are also all wearing hats.
That isn’t a fashion decision but a very pragmatic choice. When you are outdoors all day with the sun beating down, that extra protection for the scalp and shade for the eyes is invaluable.
I too had a stick, pack and hat but I almost lost the latter item at O’Cebreiro, before we had even begun the walk in earnest. Once the rest of the team had arrived and the tents were set up, I took a little time by myself to climb the hill above the campsite to where two rough crosses stand together. I wanted to do some sketching, take some photos of the crosses (last year there had been only one but, although I hadn’t captured it, the image had stayed in my mind) and to spent a bit of time in quiet contemplation, preparing for the journey. In the photo to the left, taken from the plinth of the newer, larger cross, you can see our campsite to the left and the village of O’Cebreiro to the right, as well as a sense of the lofty grandeur of that spot.
When I got back to the camp, I realised I wasn’t wearing my hat. I had a check in the tent but I was fairly sure I’d had it with me at the top of the hill. Therefore, I picked up my stick and began the steep, dusty ascent again.
However, I was met part way up by a fellow pilgrim who I’d seen at the summit, who was holding my hat and returned it to me with a smile. My woefully poor Spanish was inadequate to express my thanks to this person, who had seen me at the top and seen my hat left behind where I was sitting.
Even my English is not quite up to the job of capturing how encouraging and heartwarming that simple gesture of returning a lost item was. Back on the Camino, back among the kindness and generosity of pilgrim people. Small acts of kindness are always worthwhile, whether preparing to tread the trails of Northern Spain or in the walk of daily life:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
(Proverbs 3:3, NASB)