Tuesday, September 29, 2009


When on retreat, I've learned to pay attention to the songs that spring up in my mind. Very often, they're telling me or reminding me of something that hasn't yet percolated up to the upper levels of my awareness. Since my musical turf tends toward rock and folk, very often I find myself mentored by unlikely gurus--one retreat day I spent several hours pondering a tune by Tina Turner that wouldn't get out of my head.

On camino, it was Joan Baez' song "Blessed are" that kept springing to mind. (Along with the sound track to "Jungle Book," but that's a different post...)

Blessed are the one way ticket holders
on a one way street.
Blessed are the midnight riders
for in the shadow of God they sleep.
Blessed are the huddled hikers
staring out at falling rain,
wondering at the retribution
in their personal acquaintance with pain.
Blessed are the blood relations
of the young ones who have died,
who had not the time or patience
to carry on this earthly ride.
Rain will come and winds will blow,
wild deer die in the mountain snow.
Birds will beat at heaven's wall,
what comes to one must come to us all.

For you and I are one way ticket holders
on a one way street.
which lies across a golden valley
where the waters of joy and hope run deep.
So if you pass the parents weeping
of the young ones who have died,
take them to your warmth and keeping
for blessed are the tears they cried
and many were the years they tried.
Take them to that valley wide
and let their souls be pacified.
(© 1970, 1971 Chandos Music (ASCAP))

The connections of this song to our trek require no deep insight to catch--I think it was the sense of one-way-ness that first grabbed me. The arrows on the camino all point to Santiago. There's no going back--like life itself, there's a single direction, and we try to progress, slowly or quickly, alone or together, limping or sound. At the end of the day, pilgrims commiserate and rejoice together, we share information about the trail or the towns. ("Remember that labyrinth at the top of the hill?") Such is not merely what's on our minds--it is a kind of responsibility. The story of the camino is found not just in the walking, but in the story-telling, the pointing out of what caught a pilgrim's eye, or soul, that day. In this song it is mourning that we are called to share--but it is also true that the one-way street "lies across a golden valley, were the waters of joy and hope run deep." We do need to hear that sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting up the lyrics for this. I remember talking about it along the way, and I am so happy to have it written down.
    We saw a lot of folks using iPods for the soundtrack of their Camino, but I was also interested in the songs that were playing deeper inside.
    Like this one rolling through your head!
    Thanks for posting this.