Day 7: Uterga to Lorca – Grace, serendipity, and angels unaware

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t know I was going to meet my next important friend on the Camino. Someone who would inspire and uplift me. But this is the gift of the Camino. You walk, and angels appear — if you are looking for them.

As we left early, the sun shone brightly and sparkled on everything. We passed the beautiful church in Muruzabal, noting a small tent set up on its lawn and a loyal pup keep watch outside. That was one intrepid pilgrim!

We walked beside undulating orchards of grapes and olives. I had one of those “I wish I had a camera” moments, but because I didn’t have time to draw, I stood for a few moments really taking in the detail instead. An old gnarled almond tree — among many — called to me with its dark bark and silvery green leaves, on a high field surrounded by red rock wall with the white Camino path passing beside it. In the distance, were fields of green and bright yellow beyond. Stunningly scenic.

While the dew was still fresh, I noted a glistening spiral snail shell clinging to a dewy thorn branch with dawn’s light.

I pointed out the snail to Katrin, “I love its spiral stripe!”

“Spiral?” She asked for clarification.

I drew a circle in the air.

“Ah, streudel.”

We laughed when I recognized the German word and joked that we’d rather eat the pastry.

We’d been following over Arga River for days, but crossing over it into Puente la Reina was a medieval stone bridge much wider than any previous and simply gorgeous. In the village we had breakfast and got back on the path.

And then we didn’t.

Something called Marisela into a side chapel of the Iglesia del Crucifijo, so we followed her into this stark, dimly lit space. The alabaster window behind the altar provided the only light. As the heavy, wooden door closed behind us, it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the dimness to take in the Y-shaped crucifix and its arching ceilings.

No one else was there. As we moved into the space, I could hear our footsteps echo and I thought, “I’ll bet the acoustics are amazing in here.”

I took a breath and courageously opened my mouth, singing the first thing that came to mind, Dona Nobis Pacem. The acoustics were amazing. We all got chills.

Photo credit: http://www.euskomedia.org

That moment was among my favorites of the Camino.

Spring is the time of year for flocks of sheep to be on the move. On the way up to Cirauqui, I encountered my first flock on the Camino. I stood aside as they passed and, if I stayed very still, the sheep came right up to me to give a sniff (or maybe search for a treat). Move a muscle, though, and they bolted for safety. I couldn’t stop grinning. Sheep!

Like clouds, they of the puffy fleece flooded the roadway, spilling out into the grassy areas on each side for a nibble. At the back, several dogs kept them moving forward. The shepherd in his requisite wool cap walked along peacefully, staff in hand, and occasionally instructed the dogs.

Cirauqui — Photo credit: http://www.ayuntamiento.org

The terrain was gravely and my feet were tender and eventually felt almost bruised. I questioned whether running shoes had been a good idea (ultimately they were). This day, I formed a new blister on the very bottom of my left pinky toe — to match the one on my right.

By 4pm, we were done walking. As we entered Lorca, we were faced with a dilemma: left or right? The towns two albergues face each other on the same cobbled street: which do we choose?

One of my favorite albergues — Photo credit: http://www.gronze.com

I went right (for a change) and couldn’t have chosen better. We got a quiet room for three and our host offered us gracious hospitality. He was sweet, funny, and attentive – and reminded me so much of my brother. The place had been recently renovated and one wall featured a gigantic world map which sparked interesting conversation between pilgrims.

Our host prepared a wonderful dinner, and we were joined by two Germans and a woman from France named Muriel. Although I normally feel a little nervous trying to speak French to the French, Muriel was delightful, spoke English wonderfully, and the conversation went on until well after dinner was over. This was one of my “angels unaware” moments. Muriel would become one of my best Camino friends (I just didn’t know it yet).

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