When I consider how my life is spent
An easy stroll this morning, along the river for a while and then up a gently ascending road into the hills. And then the fork in the road where the Caminos split. I veered to the left, down for a few deceptive yards, and then began a steady climb upwards, glancing backwards for a last glimpse of the sea. Different terrain from now on. I stopped to talk to a friendly goat. And then on again to another fork in the road leading to low and high level options. I chose the former, which should have been easier, but in fact was more difficult. The road led down into the valley, to the monastery of San Salvador, giving up all the height I had gained.
And then began a climb so brutal I can barely describe it. Imagine being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and looking up to the rim. There was no easy way, just up and up, with no levelling off for a moment to catch your breath. Often, a concealed valley leading to a pass opens up as you climb, but not this time. It was straight on up to the ridge. To make matters worse, as I was making very heavy weather of it, puffing like a steam train, another pilgrim came striding by, barely out of breath. I think it was the Swede who inspired the Canadian Participaction campaign years ago, the one with the grammatical atrocity, "Breathe Easier".
But I reached the top and for the rest of the day I walked west towards Pola de Siero along the highway or looping off on minor roads or tracks. I passed through a string of villages, each with their little church, towards Pola de Siero.
As I wander past these old churches, I wonder about the priests that serve them, a handful of parishioners in each. Do they have doubts, these men who have given their lives to God? Do they doubt that He exists? It's not so bad for a Protestant minister, who likely has the support of a spouse and family, but for a priest? The Church is his whole life, his living. What if he doesn't believe in it any more?
The United Church of Canada if currently facing an ethical dilemma, for a minister has openly admitted that she doesn't belief in God, and conducts her services accordingly. I suspect that many of her colleagues don't believe either, but like the the US military in their attitude towards gays in the nineties, the Church has followed a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Now it's forced to act because someone has "told". (These thoughts cost me an extra kilometre, for I missed a turning.)
After our initial climb, the terrain has levelled out into gentle hills and valleys before the first range of mountains in a few days.
We are staying at nice, open albergue at Pola de Siero, open enough that I can find a spot on the floor for my top-bunk mattress.