Sunday, September 6, 2009

The cadence of ordinary time

We´re at Day 7, and things begin to fall into a rhythm. I´m getting used to the sun. I´m getting used to the soreness. I´m even getting used to the blisters. The landscape falls into familiar patterns of tightly cultivated plots of beans and tomatoes and grapes. The pilgrims´ faces have become recognizable -- I even know some of their names. Even the yellow arrows fade into the background: I notice them without even looking.

This is different from a week ago. Then, everything was new. Each twinge signaled major disaster; every new landscape begged for a photograph. Now it´s all part of a New Normal.

Cairns are part of this. They are everywhere, mounds of rocks that people have left behind. They all signal something. Sometimes they mark the way. Sometimes they celebrate a surprising view. Sometimes they congregate wildly for no reason in a hilltop or hollow. Yesterday, we came over a rise into a Valley of Cairns. It felt like the place was already populated.

If these stones could speak, what stories would they tell? Perhaps a lost love. Or a dead parent. Perhaps a grace discovered. We spent miles imagining the stories.

Then today we stumbled on a cairn that told its own. It held down a piece of blue paper several days old, a note from ¨Jas¨to ¨Tracy.¨ Of course, we read it, ethicists being voyeurs of a sort, and it was a kind of apology. "I waited for you in Najera at the bridge, but I had to go to the store. Maybe you passed by while I was gone. I´m now sorry I left you behind, but I had to walk faster. I hope your feet are better. I wish now I had stayed with you longer. Let me know how you are." And there was an e-mail address to Germany.

We looked at each other -- and put the paper back, in case Tracy happened by. But probably she had passed by long ago, not even noticing a now-familiar part of the landscape.

In the church year, it´s ordinary time, that long green season of Pentecost. As a child I used to get tired of green on the altar Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. But now I wonder: having things become familiar may not be a bad thing after all. It allows for looking in new ways.

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