We must be getting used to this: the villages are all beginning to look alike.
I was trying to remark on one of four tiny towns we passed through yesterday, and they all seemed to run together. To distinguish this one, I had to tell the story. It had a shaded square where a father was playing with his three children, pushing them on a swingset. They ran off to do something else, and he sat on the swing, rocking back and forth. Then he stopped, went over to his car, fiddled with the dashboard -- and suddenly, the plaza filled with opera! He sat on the swingset and began swinging, this time with purpose. I began singing along, operatic gestures in my hiking boots.
This village we remembered -- and that was how.
So it is with the Camino itself. We remember its parts by the people. Eric and Sophie from the first part of the Camino have now given way to Richard and Caroline, our companions from this part of the way. We keep bumping into Nancy and Linda, who've traveled this stage with us. They popped into the only bar open in Belorado last night, and I exclaimed with the kind of spontaneity that comes with truth: "I'm so glad to see you again: it makes me feel like I'm on the right track." A path marked with yellow arrows becomes marked with people.
For you see, we've had to make some adjustments: our feet need Sabbath. So the two-day trek to Burgos needs to be broken into three shorter segments. We figured this out last night, as we hobbled around Belorado, a "down at the heels" town where the whole town celebrated the last of a five-day fiesta. Nothing was open; we were exhausted; we sat in a very crowded bar trying to refigure the trip.
Hardest in all of this was knowing that we'd lose contact with our friends. They'd pass us -- and go on. We'd never know if Paolo's blisters ever healed or whether Linda's cold got better. We'd never finish that conversation with Nancy about spirituality.
We weren't sad that we'd fall behind schedule, that we'd proven less macho than we'd hoped. We simply missed fellow travelers who'd become friends along the Way.
Just as the villages have become distinct because of the people who populate them, the Camino itself has become distinguished by the people who are on it.
It's less a route to a sacred place, than a stream of people whom we've begun to know.
And it's also true: we'll meet others.