– and that’s just the weather. But we often let our outer environment dictate our inner experience. This can certainly be true on the Camino, especially when you cross Spain’s central plateau known as the Meseta and the seemingly endless cornfields that stretch from Burgos to León. An increasing number of pilgrims are deciding it is too boring to bother with and are jumping on a bus.
Paul was one of those – until he met me in a deserted café in Burgos. You can read about that provocative encounter here. This section of the Camino is a natural landscape in which the beauty lies in the detail: a solitary sunflower in an expanse of corn, for example. It is also a man-made landscape which may not boast the architectural splendour of the cathedral cities, but has its own minor magnificences, if you know where to find them.
One of my favourites is on the exterior facade of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo in Castrojeriz. It comprises two stone skulls that remind us of the past and of eternity. These cannot, of course, have the same resonance for us as they had for medieval pilgrims. But, if we notice them – and many pilgrims do not, they are evidence of an important truth: we are present both in the moment and to all that it has to offer us.
Being present while walking creates an inner space in which new insights arrive effortlessly. We cease to pass judgement on our environment, surrendering ourselves both to it and to the regular rhythm of our footsteps. In some way that I have yet to understand, this act can lead us to some unexpected places.