We left Jesús y María albergue at 7:00am, walking with Meg and Ann through Pamplona. “We” was Carl and I, since we didn’t really know where Larry and Bill were. Walking out of Pamplona, we wound our way up towards Alto del Perdón, which is one of those iconic places on the Camino, with the iron sculptures of peregrinos. Spectacular views all along the way, wheat fields, poppies, and wide open vistas.
Pamplona to Puente la Reina, May 17, 2015
Our group walked the Camino de Santiago from May 13 thru June 16, 2015, a peak time for flowers in the Pyrenees and northern Spain. In addition to all of the beautiful landscapes and stunning vistas, we saw all kinds of flowers, both wild and domesticated. Poppies were especially prevalent, and we saw wildlife as well, especially several different species of birds. The European white stork, while considered uncommon in much of its range, is abundant across northern Spain, and in most every village we came to, we would see several nesting pairs, often on top of church buildings.
What does it mean to “make time to smell the roses”? Even on the Camino, a pilgrim can get caught up in feeling like they have to be somewhere by some pre-conceived time. During the peak season, some pilgrims will start their day’s walk well before sunrise, just to get a head start on other pilgrims, to ensure that they can find an albergue with available beds before they all fill up. Even on the Camino, there are parts that can feel a bit like a rat race. I definitely did not come to the Camino to take part in a rat race!
But there can be legitimate reasons to get an early start walking on the Camino. In the summer months, it can get pretty warm, especially in the mid and late afternoon hours. It’s usually cooler in the morning, much more pleasant for walking, so it makes sense to get an early start. Generally, I would try to arrive at my destination by 2 or 3 pm, before the afternoon heat got too oppressive. Arriving mid-afternoon afforded me time to relax, have a beer, take a shower, wash clothes, catch up on my journaling, and get ready for the next day. But sometimes the best of plans don’t pan out, so you have to be prepared for that possibility, and adjust accordingly.
Experiencing the Camino on foot offers one the opportunity to really slow down and notice the small things. You never know when you might come across something to spend some time with, or a side trip that is just too inviting to pass up. In other words, be flexible. I especially enjoyed the wild flowers growing in the woods, and the poppies growing wild on the roadsides and field edges. They were truly beautiful and resplendent in all their glory.
A couple of final thoughts on making time to smell the roses:
When I was walking the Camino de Santiago in 2015, I knew that Pope Francis would soon be issuing his now famous encyclical, Laudato Sí (Praise Be to You, My Lord), On Care For Our Common Home. Having made the environment and its care my life’s work, I was especially eager to to read Laudato Sí, and indeed many of my reflections while walking the Camino focused on how I could better integrate my religious faith with my passion for wild things and the natural world. Laudato Sí provides the inspired foundation for making that intersection, and I have focused many of my energies in the last 3 years into better living the lessons of this incredible document.
In closing, I’ll leave you with the following passage from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, which speaks to God’s creation, and all creation praising God. I pray this canticle often, and it always reminds me that all creation belongs to God, of which we humans are merely a part. We are meant to praise and thank God for being a part of his creation. It is as simple as that.
“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Let the earth bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord.
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord. *
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord. *
You sons of men, bless the Lord.”
Daniel 3:52, 74-82