Camino Stories: On Iggy, and waiting…(numero tres)

Basque Staircase

Staircase in a Basque town house. St. Jean Pied de Port, France

Alright, now,  Iggy was crafting a plan.  A plan to bypass the whole priest thing, a plan to do things the easy way.  Now this plan was less crafty – more crazy, (or perhaps just to do with the follies of youth):

  • He gave up on the ladies! He gave up on gambling!
  • There was an incident where a donkey showed better judgement than he – actually not so surprising considering the superb judgement displayed by the donkeys of the day.
  • There was an embarrassing incident near a shrine to the Virgin Mary during which he removed all of his clothes…
  • He spent some time in a hospital tending to the sick, and during his breaks he went down to the river to ‘have visions’ and write his ‘masterwork.’
  • And finally, in an effort to achieve saint-like behavior he tired to out-do all of the saints who had come before – extreme penitence.  It never really took off as a spiritual practice.  It also left him with many chronic health problems.

Very typical of a young person seeking change, Iggy’s ‘easy’ plan turned out to be less than easy.  Once Iggy got over some fervor, and relaxed, he chose another path.  If he couldn’t get admission to seminary with the marks that he had, he would try something that would be sure to bring at least a laugh (as it did for Adam Sandler).  He returned to grammar school…


 Whhhhew!  619 steps and then a hill!

 The sun beat down upon my unprotected head, and a trail of sweat was making it’s way down my back.  Squinting at the valley below, nerves took a seat at my table.  If I couldn’t handle a climb to the citadel of St. Jean Pied de Port without tiring, how was I going to do 27k and a 1430m pass over the Pyrenees tomorrow?

 I decided to find a tree and sit for a moment.  Sitting in the shade of a tree is an age old method of solving problems.  I rounded the citadel, found a grove of trees, sat down and unpacked some food.

 <A few hours before, I´d asked a shopkeeper to help me find a meal to eat with the cherries she had sitting in a big barrel on the floor.  What she handed me was a bag filled with delicious Basque fare: dry ham, sheep’s cheese, dark soft bread, the fresh cherries, and a bar of chocolate – ‘my best lunch for the sun!’ she had said, smiling brightly.>

 I rolled the stone of a cherry in my mouth and stared at the grasses, the flowers, the river, the sheep whose bells echoed through the hills.  The balmy air ruffled my hair.  I closed my eyes.

 Later that evening, in the deep cool passage of the town house where I was lodging, I tried to relate my plan for the next day to the innkeeper.  She nodded her silvered head quite a lot and said many things in Euskara that were lost to me.

 I gathered that I should heed her advice.  The key should be left on the table next to the front door.  I was to be sure to drink all of the coffee and eat all of the bread that she left for me before I departed, and I was to take my time and have courage on my Camino…



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