Dear friends, how many hats does it take to make a grown woman cry?
This is the story of Camino Kindness that repeated over and over on my Journey of unexpected turns, detours, changes, surprises and lessons from the beginning. It is why I say, “The Camino never ends.”
Here is The six word Hemingway version: “Hospitalera sends Camino pilgrim lost hat.”
By now, you know I believe the story’s in the details. So for my version, have a cup of tea or café con leche and join me on my first day’s walk, this past September, on the Camino from Astorga to Rabanal; some you’ve read and some might be new, but here it is.
I stayed in León for two nights before leaving in the dark on the 7:00 a.m. train to Astorga, where I would begin my Camino Highlight Walk 👣.
I thought I might stay in Astorga, but it was dark and early, so I started walking through this beautiful sleepy town,
a square and Gaudi’s neo-gothic Bishop’s Palace and the pilgrim’s museum . . . . until I was out of town.
I passed Camino signs,
fountains. . . .
walked on highways and well marked paths. . . .
stopped for breakfast,
walked through villages with albergues, but I wasn’t ready to stop.
Ominous clouds and a few sprinkles, but still I followed the yellow arrows.
I couldn’t stop, when even the rocks cheered me on.
Passing the famous Cowboy Meson
and more arrows,
I was on my way to Cruz de Ferro, maybe halfway to Rabanal, so I kept walking until I met up with new friends from a chance meeting in Astorga.
Anu and Tero from Finland invited me to join them for a picnic, which was a feast.
Later a real rest stop and then the way was rocky and hilly, with some back road walking, occasional cars and finally. . . .
Rabanal and Refugio Guacelmo, the albergue run by hospitaleras and the Confraternity of Saint James in the UK, that my Camino amiga, Darlene McKee, recommended and worked as a hospitalera here last year.
The gracious hospitaleras (one is busy in the foyer welcoming more pilgrims) invited us all to tea and a great gathering with music, and conversations of excited and tired peregrinos in a multitude of languages.
I had dinner with a family of pilgrims from the States and met a scholar researcher, Aaron, who would be instrumental in my learning a little more about my ancestory/family history later on the Camino.
Flan for dessert, along with the 22 kms and jet lag, assured a deep sleep . . . .
. . . . so deep that everyone had departed by the time I woke up. I jumped out of bed, already dressed and grabbed my pack and some bread for my walk and left, ready to hike up the mountain to Cruz de Ferro.
First I had to find my way out of the village, then walked about three km up the mountain. As the sun began lighting my way, I realized I had left my trusty hat in the albergue. I wasn’t going to walk back, so I had to let that go. I was on my way to Cruz de Ferro. With the sun beating down later, I knew I would need a hat. In due time.
And I did climb the mountain to Cruz de Ferro that day. That is almost the end of the story.
Fast forward several days, I found place to buy another hat, one that would have to do, and really used a lot of sunscreen. A lesson in attachment, for sure. And I didn’t worry or think about it again.
Now, I’m home in the States, in the re-entry mode, feeling like I’m still on Camino and can and want to live a simpler, more conscious life, where we all care about people and our world, as much as our own country. Where I’m dreaming about next year on the Camino.
Yesterday, an envelope from the UK was delivered to my mail box. You already know the ending. I now have my hat and I am so grateful to Sue, the hospitalera who found it, wrote me a note and mailed it to me from her faraway home in the UK. This small package and Sue’s Camino kindness brought tears to my eyes when I opened it and discovered a true surprise. And I also have my Mother and her example, labeling her belongings with a simple address label, to thank for this good luck. The hat was one of the few things with my name on it, right on the tag.
I will be writing Sue to thank her and I have already written a note, offering a contribution to the Confraternity of St. James on behalf of Sue’s generosity and the amazing Refugio Guacelmo in Rabanal.
By now you know this story isn’t really about a hat. Camino kindness is why I’m ready to return to the Camino. Thank you for walking with me, amigos. Buen Camino, Irene