Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Camino Angel for Joe

Joe sent me this story this morning from Logroño:

Sometimes when things are not what they should be, something better happens when you don't get discouraged and you decide to follow the lead presented.

I went to the TI in Viana during normal hours to get the bus times and parada location for the ride into Logrono. We had had a challenging walk through rollercoaster hills, some rain with cooler weather and most of us were looking forward to a warm bus ride that would cut off the extra 5 miles of our walk, and also deposit us at the station only a block and a half from our posh hotel with tidy modern rooms and bath tubs waiting .

But the TI was closed, with a sign in Spanish that said, go to the Ayuntamiento and find the office of revenios. Next door the TI was the Casa Consistorial, which I knew should be synonymous with the ayjuntomiento.

I walked in and found that the office I was looking for was on the 2nd floor. Luckily there was an elevator to carry me, in a wet poncho, with pack and walking sticks up those flights of stairs. Down the hall and around the corner from the elevator, there was an office with a short man, white-bearded and long-locked, sitting at a desk with his back to me and the door. He was concentrating on some papers at his desk.

I asked his pardon and explained in my broken Spanish that the TI was closed and I was looking for information about the bus. He said yes, he could help me. He put aside his work, took a scratch pad and wrote the two times a bus to Logrono would depart, the price of a ticket, and the names of the 2 operating bus companies.

When I asked where I could find the parada, he said in Spanish "wait a moment and I will show you". He closed the office and we walked the two flights of stairs to the ground floor and out the door into the church square. As we walked down the street past the church he told me about how significant this church was, with much information I did not understand. His voice was soft and calm, unlike much of what you will normally hear on the busy streets at midday. We walked 100 meters to the high ring road round the ancient hill-town, to the waist-high stone wall that overlooks the green valley into Logrono.

He explained the first bus stops next to the basura bins just below us; the second bus stops on the other side of the street below, and they go in opposite directions. " Dos paradas". He made certain I understood that although the buses go in opposite directions, that they both go to Logrono. He made sure I knew the names of both bus companies and that I knew which bus went in which direction, by writing the names and directional arrows on the paper he had given me.

" Si, claro, intiendo" I assured him.

I followed him back to the church and the square that separated the Casa Consistorial from the magnificent church. I thought myself very lucky that I had been able to get the information for our weary group and that indeed we were in time to catch either bus we chose. Many times you can find no help or it is already too late to catch the last bus.

Then, the best part, of what had been a somewhat worrisome situation, happened.

The gentleman told me he was the curator of the library of ancient books in Viana; that the library held books that were 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, and 800 years old, including the Codex Calixtinus--the first travel guide of the Way to Santiago.

Suddenly I became very interested in spending more time with this very kind man, as those who know me know I have a keen interest in books of this sort in any language.

I summoned what courage I had and in my malo espanol, I asked if someone like me would be allowed to visit the library and have a look at

los libros. He smiled warmly and said, yes. I told him I would certainly return, perhaps next year and do so.

With that, it was time for both of us to return to our individual responsibilities and we parted with a hand shake and my best attempts at expressing my sincere gratitude for his assistance.

I lingered in the square for a moment and watched my benefactor being greeted by three older men as he walked to the front of the casa consistorial. They engaged in lighthearted conversation and then I recalled that he had been greeted with the same warmth by virtually every person we had passed in the street as he had lead me to the dos paradas. Was this a man of some deserved stature in the town-- well-known, accessible and well-liked-- who had put aside his important business to assist a scruffy, mud-splattered wanderer with fewer than 100 Spanish words in his vocabulary? Perhaps.

And perhaps it was his admirable mix of training and knowledge combined with a genuinely caring disposition which made it easy for him to gain the respect and affection of everyone I saw him pass.

Sometimes when there is a hiccup in the system, and we resolve to follow the thread of an unexpected trail, we find something far better than what we were initially seeking. Sometimes we find an example of how to act in a better way and see the rewards for doing so, all in an instant. When these instants stick in memory like super-glue, challenges can sometimes be recognized for the presents they offer.

My benefactor in the man in the red jacket. Perhaps my interruption of his work, was a challenge he recognized could become a present he might offer to me. But I believe he gave no thought at all to it, and that it was simply his habit.

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