Camino Stories: On Iggy and delay…(numero dos)


Canal. St. Jean Pied de Port, France

When we last spoke of Iggy he was reading the Bible…

 Okay, I think that he’s had time to finish.  Now, Iggy was inspired by the life of Jésus Christo.  The minute he finished the good book he wanted all of his friends to be moved by it too!  Pronto!  So he went out and started talking about it, as if it were good ‘wine and swine’ conversation, which it might have been, if it were not the purview of THE CHURCH!

 His place at court kept him from the Inquisition – for now, but just a pointer: ‘Spain’ circa Iggy’s day was not really about talking when it came to God, it was more about listening and hiding, or maybe…changing venue.

 Iggy was rich, so he moved and decided that priesthood was for him.  The problem is that all of the seminaries were like: ‘dude, you’ve got no Latin!’ and, ‘Your marks in Ancient Greek are truly deplorable!’ and, ‘We regret to inform you that your previous education does not qualify you for admission to our institution.  Might we refer you to one of our fine smithing apprenticeship programs?’  (These are not the sorts of things that any hopeful academic is glad to hear – especially if they’ve been coasting on their family name, looks, and battle glory for most of their lives.)

 He was at a loss.  Becoming a priest was not easy.  So he was patient and crafted a plan…


 ‘I’m sorry senorita, it has departed.’

 ‘Yes, Sí, I understand.  When does the next bus depart?’ I asked quietly.

 ‘I’m sorry senorita, it has departed,’ the man at the ticket window repeated.

 We’d been doing this dance for a while.  Sometimes, a language barrier is like the mountains in winter – no getting through. ‘Sí, sí, gracias.’  I smiled and walked away to stare at the time tables on the station wall.

 Thus far I had missed a plane, a train, and two buses.  I had lost my Castillian phrasebook sometime during my rush through the Madrid metro system.  I had arrived just 5 minutes after the departure of each mode of transport, and the sky was becoming the warm early evening yellow that brings out the birdsong and dims the hum of the post-siesta traffic.

 It was time to find a bed for the night.

Boarding the metro once more, I made my way to the center of Madrid’s old town.  I found a hostel, made a friend, and accosted a tapas bar until I was ready to fall asleep.  I had planned to be in the heart of Basque country by the next day.  I had a reservation at a hotel and a plan to start the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port on the 17th of May.  It was the night of the 16th and I still had a full day’s travel ahead of me to reach St. Jean.  I decided to give in to Spain’s cheerfully relaxed pace.

 The next evening, weary from many a ride on many a train, I arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port, France.  The sun was setting quickly, as it often does in the mountains, and the humid air was loosing its tack just a bit.  Walking uphill from the station, I encountered a very strange old woman.  (My travels yield many encounters with strange old women, who say things in cryptic phrases, then disappear – this was no exception.)

 She was dressed in a widow’s black.  Her hair had been dyed brown.  She threw her hands above her head as if to bring something down.  The something must have been her words – the only one of which I understood was ‘courage,’ repeated several times.  As she lowered her hands she turned and was gone.

 I walked forward and thought that I’d better find a place to rest for two nights.  My travel weary body wasn’t going to scale any Pyrénéan peeks for at least another day…


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