sacredness and mystery
i burrowed deep into the limbs of the giant fig tree trying to catch a break from the rain. up above me in the branches of this ancient giant were figs were so ripe, they melted like sweet butter in my mouth. Love takes care of me, i thought. i looked down and saw that the downpour was washing away the mud that skirted the bottom of my trail pants. mud that was contributing to a hearty split now growing in one of my sandals. shit, these old friends had seen me through a previous camino and months walking across the golden fields of the meseta with peaceable dogs. it will be hard to let them go. *note to self: next village, get duct tape.
and nestled here inside this womb of branches and leaves, thoughts drifted into my mind about things like sacredness and mystery. questions about how can i remain within it when i am outside of this liminal space of the camino … the place between here and there. i want to understand how i can live my life from within this place of the heart. big sigh. a few more figs.
it was getting late and i still had 2 kilometers to walk before i would reach the curious eunate. i was taking my chances that it would be open and that there would be a place for me to sleep for the night once i did get there. risky. the date now 10/10/10 and an auspicious time in some circles. to be a pilgrim. on the holy road. during a holy year, in what some say is a powerful place. will see for myself. i ate one last piece of juicy fruit and reassured myself, ok … if the doors are closed, i will know that it was not meant for me to be there. no problem, no complaining. … and with that, i wiggled out from under the gentle tree and made my way on down the road.
santa maria de eunate is a bit of a mystery. some attribute the eight cornered church to the order of the knights templar, others say it was built for a queen or simply a burial ground for pilgrims. for me, a small and beautiful jewel made of thick stone along my path.
i rounded the corner and saw the church just ahead and a few steps further, a man to the left of me. we have been waiting for you, he said with a smile. one bed left. it was like entering some kind of strange dream. even stranger, the french hospitalero looked so familiar to me and then when i met his wife, i was sure i was having some kind of a mystical experience. i must have eaten too many figs, i thought. sitting around the large table was a cozy group. five women and one man, all older than me. two of the women were americans, and the rest of the tribe, from germany. everyone seemed at ease and comfortable in the smallish space, playing cards and writing in their journals.
during dinner together, we shared a bit about why we were on the camino and when we finished with our stories, the hospitaleros told us theirs. about how they work to help support children of prisoners in bolivia and that in their old lives, they had been snail farmers. raised for research and dinner. how they left everything behind to become the newest caretakers of eunate and the pilgrims who happen to pass this way. … they also mentioned that they had been hospitaleros in another place and time on the camino. this lifetime. and as it turns out, i had in fact met them before.
a previous camino, albergue at cizur menor: last thing i wrote in my journal before i went to sleep that night ‘i need a walking stick’. … and in the morning as i left the albergue, the hospitalero was standing at the bottom of the stairs. he had a stick in his hand. and without a word, only a smile … he handed it to me. i received what i needed. the camino is like this. Love takes care of me, i remember thinking.
it had been the same hospitalero. we all had a good laugh about it. he said that he was sorry, but he didn’t remember giving me the stick. a mystery.
after dinner we were led through the rain to the church. the hospitalero used ancient looking keys to open the heavy door. and with a creak, we went inside. like a gypsy in the palace, i felt my heart jump at this gift. we each had a glowing candle in our hands and the light danced on the walls behind and above us. we took turns saying a prayer or some words of our choosing. the most sacred words i could remember outside of a krishna das chant or pearl jam lyrics were the four immeasurables. i was a little shy and shaky but i included tender prayers for a beautiful poet friend who is in a coma after a brain aneurism — a prayer that she finds her way back when she is ready, for my family and friends so far away in different ways, the peaceable kingdom and all of it’s beloved creatures, the pearl patrons still seeking.
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is beyond all sorrow.
May all beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.
eight voices in a circle sang spontaneous ahs and ohms that ebbed and flowed like a holy tide and filled the entire space with the sweetness of one hundred thousand golden figs. we were being held gently in the womb of this stone jewel. Love takes care of me, i felt.
in the morning, as i stuffed my things in my backpack, i remembered the dream that i had that night. in the dream, the hospitalera, marie-rose, had taken me to a spot beneath a palm tree. i stood with hands outstretched, palms open as she gently applied a natural salve that she had made out of the sap from the tree. first the healing balm to my right palm and then to the left. i felt her motherly tenderness. when i shared the dream with her, she just nodded her head a bit and said to her it was clear. and when i was ready to understand, i would. next, i gave the hospitalero his gift. my way of thanking him for that stick thing … my last little piece of barn wood that i painted fresh that morning with a hafiz poem. Love takes care of us, i know.
i went back to the church with the intention of walking under the arches before i headed on down the trail. but, when i reached the iron gate, it was locked. i couldn’t go in. what i had received was enough. it was time for me to continue on my road.
taking one last glance behind me when i reached the top of the hill, i asked myself, hmmm, powerful place? quite possibly. … what i am beginning to understand now is that we all, without exception, carry this potential for the sacred within us. what we are bringing is what we are receiving, ebbing and flowing like a sweet and holy tide. for me, this is a great and most beautiful mystery.