In a heatwave, walkers are few, but the young seem cheerfully brave about the high temperatures, and press on regardless. In our fortnight looking after the shelter at Emmaüs, Susan and I met some inspiring 20-somethings, whose dedication to the pilgrimage, open-heartedness and lively conversation more than made up for the longueurs of hours without visitors.
On our first day, Rafael took refuge from
the hot afternoon before setting off on the last kilometres to Maslaq. It was
obscurely comforting to look out now and again and see him quietly reading in
the shade: I wonder if a six-hour stay is a record; he must have finished his
book, because he left it behind for us – thank you, Rafael.
A couple of days later, Loulou and her
friend turned into the drive, almost by accident (as she wrote in the visitors’
book). She had been working as a carer in maisons
de retraite in France and Switzerland, and was taking some time off to
regroup before returning to studying.
Two of the three delightful young people
who graced my last day at Arthez were also ‘betweeners’. They had been working
in the film industry after studying visual effects at university, and had
decided to carry on all the way to Finisterre – more than 2000 km from their
starting point in Belgium – while they thought about ‘where now’. The
friend with whom they’d been walking since Le Puy en Velay was about to embark
on the last year and a half of a decade of training as a psychiatrist: no doubt
about her future, but perhaps a real
need to take a break and reflect before the final stage.
And there were others – not quite so
young – who were also considering turning points in their lives and who
honoured us with their confidence. We thank you all for your company and
conversation and trust. May you see your way with clear eyes. If you can walk
the camino in a canicule,you have the courage and spirit for
whatever you decide to do next.
I found Gavia sitting quietly in our shelter, giving her blistered feet a rest for a while. She carried a big pack. She explained that was because she was carrying her violin, which she played every day especially in churches. She was wearing a ‘rain skirt’. A few days previously a couple of American ladies had came by, also wearing rain skirts – the first time I had seen them. They explained that they were more practical than waterproof trousers. Then two more ladies arrived – Jeanette and her friend. They were from Quebec on the other side of Canada
Quatre charmants pèlerins sont passées aujourd’hui. D’abord, Evelyne et Véronique – deux amies marseillaises, profitent de l’occasion pour s’éloigner pendant quelques jours de la routine et des responsabilités de la vie quotidienne. Elles ont chacune choisi une de nos croix en bois d’olivier à prendre avec. Vient ensuite Agnès qui avait pris plusieurs mois d’absence de son travail de paysagiste pour parcourir tout le Camino du Puy à Santiago. Elle portait une petite croix en céramique qu’elle avait fabriquée elle-même. Enfin, nous avons rencontré John, un ministre méthodiste du Lancashire, bénéficiant également de quelques mois de congé sabbatique de son ministère.
Four delightful pilgrims came by today. First Evelyne and Veronique – two friends from Marseille taking the opportunity to be away for a week or so from the routine and responsibilities of daily life. They each selected one of our olive-wood crosses to take with them. Then came Agnès who had taken several months leave from her work as a landscape gardener to walk the whole Camino from Le Puy to Santiago. She was wearing a little ceramic cross which she had made herself. Finally we met John, a Methodist minister, from Lancashire, also enjoying a few months sabbatical from his ministry.
We met Hannah, an Australian law student, today – see her picture below. She had to reach St Jean Pied de Port in three days time so was walking nearly 40 km a day. But she still had time for a chat and a coffee.
A little later along came Anne. She had taken a six month sabbatical and was walking at a more leisurely pace. She talked of her mother who had died a year ago, and of her role in the Frence resistance during WWII.
Un peu plus tard arrive Anne. Elle a pris un congé sabbatique de six mois et marchait à un rythme plus tranquille. Elle parlait de sa mère, qui s’est décédé il y a un an, et de son rôle dans la Résistance pendant la deuxième Guerre Mondiale.
Today Ingrid and Lars stopped by for a coffee. It was their second visit to Emmaüs; the previous occasion was 5th May last year! Lovely to meet them again.
They are from Sweden – now living in Stockholm but previously just two hundred km from the Artic Circle. For environmental reasons they had travelled from Stockholm to Bordeaux by train – a 24-hour journey! They commented that the railways of Europe needed to get their ticketing better linked-up and coordinated.
We, our little group of volunteers, had our 2019 annual get-together in London on January 4. Lots of good conversation and serendipitous meetings. Here we are having lunch in the, perhaps appropriately named, Trinity Arms.
We mourn Mike who passed away on 11 September surrounded by all his loving family.
Mike was one of our early volunteers at Emmaüs and contributed in different ways to the development of our little project. He used to pass his days sitting and painting at the front gate which always encouraged passing pilgrims to stop and talk.
Professionally he had been a doctor – university lecturer and then general practitioner – with a particular interest in holistic medicine, seeing the patient as a whole – as a person . Throughout his varied and adventurous life he had consistently tried to discern God’s will for him and to act accordingly.
We are confident he now rests in God’s loving care and we keep his wife, Jenny, and their large family in our thoughts and prayers.
A place of welcome, rest and reflection for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago