We returned to Arthez-de-Béarn two days ago. Yesterday, even before we had opened the pilgrim shelter, our first pilgrim arrived – so unexpectedly that we did not even get her name or photo. But she had seen the entry for Emmaüs in the Miam Miam Dodo guidebook. Here it is.
Bienvenue aujourd’hui aux nos premiers visiteurs du 2021 ! Geneviève et Jean-Pierre étaient de la région de Nantes ; ses amis Anne et Francisque étaient de Cherbourg.
Moins d’une demi-heure plus tard sont arrivées Christine et Justine, deux amies du Sud-Est de la France.
Un bon commencement de la saison du 2021!
Bon Camino. Ultreia!
Bastien, from Hamburg, came by yesterday and eventually had lunch with us. He was walking his sixth Camino having set out from Hamburg in January seven months earlier.
He had had a difficult childhood. But while walking the Camino had started reading the Bible – initially to show Christians he met on the Way how wrong they were. But in fact as a result he had been converted to Christianity himself. He was now wondering what next to do in his life, being determined not to let his past define who he was.
Stefanie stopped by a few days ago for her lunch. She is a retired opera singer.
This was the first day of her pilgrimage this year and she did not want to walk long distances each day. So we discussed the best plan for her to adopt.
Bon Camino, Stefanie
Gaëlle, Myriam, Emmanuel, Yannick et Costantino nous ont visité hier. Il était tard dans la journée. Alors, nous les avons donné permis à monter leur tente sur notre pelouse et rester la nuit. Aujourd’hui, nous avons récité la prière du matin ensemble, avant qu’ils sont parti pour Sauvelade.
Gaëlle, Myriam, Emmanuel, Yannick and Costantino visited us yesterday. It was late in the day. So we permitted them to put up their tent on our lawn and stay the night. Today we read morning prayer together before they left for Sauvelade.
Two days ago, for the first time in 2020, we reopened our shelter. A few pilgrims are passing by. This morning Alix, from Paris, was the first pilgrim to stop. Bon Camino, Alix!
Marie, qui vient d’Albi, s’est arrêtée aujourd’hui. Elle marche pour son père qui est très malade. Prions pour lui et pour elle. Sa sœur est aussi sur le chemin. Nous espérons la rencontrer aussi d’ici deux ou trois semaines.
Marie from Albi, stopped by today. She is walking for her father who is very ill. Let us pray for him and for her. Her sister is also walking the Camino. We hope we might meet her as well in two or three weeks’ time.
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.
Susan and Rose
Latest novelty at Emmaüs – Tibetan prayer flags and a windchime with a beautiful tone.
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