13 March 2016
Given my previous day’s experience with taking the path I was warned not to, I wondered how successful this network of yellow arrows would be. Would I see them? Would I wander? Would I find my way?
Martin and I left the monastery at that magical moment in the morning when the sun’s first rays are peeking over the horizon and the shadow of the moon is dropping opposite. With our first steps out the door, we each slipped unexpectedly. I righted myself just before making full body contact with the invisible ice on the sidewalk. Not worried anymore about the arrows, I was worried about whether my bones would survive intact the remaining 790 km of the Camino. “One step at a time,” I reassured myself. “Just one step.” Slowly I navigated my way to the road, where plows had pushed the snow aside and the way was relatively easy walking.
We had been warned that we would need to take the road for a while (snow and ice made initial parts of the Camino impassible), but that it would be clear when to join the trail again. We followed the road until we saw the first yellow arrow pointing us to right, towards a snowy field. We attempted to go down the paved slope and repeated the morning’s routine, slipping and sliding and falling, thankful for backpacks that broke backwards falls. We decided to continue along the road, wary of the condition of the path we couldn’t quite reach.
Further along, we happened upon another arrow beside a closed up house, again, pointing towards a field. We could see the arrow, but beyond that the path was covered with snow. We looked around for other pilgrims, hoping for a clue we were on the right path. The small village was sleepy, not yet awake on this Sunday morning. The shutters were drawn on the houses, no evidence of life yet stirring. We stood looking at the arrow, wondering if this really was the correct path. In my mind, I wondered what prevented mischievous kids from painting alternate arrows, arrows leading to nowhere. It seemed like a plausible prank. We shrugged and started down the path, when we heard a voice behind us say, “No, this way.” We looked around, and there was an elderly woman, still in her housedress, with the upper half of her front door opened. She leaned on the sill of the bottom half of the door, and motioned along the road, explaining that it was too dangerous to take the Camino in this weather, it was better to take the road.
Where had she come from? How did she know that we needed help? How had she seen us, with all the windows on her house shuttered?
We thanked her profusely and as we left, she smiled and warmly said, “Buen Camino!”