Saturday, September 5th

I thought it might help to use a date every once in a while, and today seemed a good time to start. Because today is a very special day. But more about that later.

Thanks to John’s investigative work, I was able to solve two problems before dinner last night.

The two previous evenings I found myself uncomfortably cold around dinner time and after. Probably for several reasons: sun going down, temperature dropping into the fifties and even the forties last night, the fact I did not bring any real warm clothing, and maybe even my weight loss. Shivering through dinner is not a pleasant way to spend an evening!

My second problem involved my rain poncho. I had decided it just wouldn’t hold up in a blustery rain storm…no sleeves and a system of Velcro snaps supposedly designed to keep the poncho closed on the left and right hand sides of the body but which in reality don’t work.

The store John found had both a warm sweatshirt with a hood and a light weight raincoat the looks like a poncho but has sleeves and a extra room in the back for a backpack. Both fit! My new “poncho” weighs no more than the old one did, and there is plenty of room in my backpack for the sweatshirt because I have been slowly giving away stuff I don’t really need.

So I was a very happy camper as I set off for dinner.

After we ate, we went to the Pilgrim Mass. I entered the church early for a little quiet time and discovered a guitarist was performing the last two pieces of a concert.

I was riveted by the way he played. I have NEVER heard someone play an acoustic guitar the way he did.

Both pieces were some form of classical music and both touched the soul.

The highlight of the Pilgrim Mass was the presence of our friend Fr. Paul as a concelebrant. He was also the one who gave John and me the pilgrim blessing.

The parish priest also seemed very nice and I think every one of the pilgrim friends I highlighted yesterday were there.  I was also touched by the high percentage of young people among the 40+ pilgrims who stayed afterward Mass for a blessing.

Today started very cool, around 45. But for reasons I am not sure I understand I felt a strange sense of exhilaration as I began the 20 mile walk (turned out it was only 19). I knew I was on my own because John was doing just as he should taking another day off. It was sort of God and me spending the day together.

And that’s how the day went. With the exception of a brief encounter with Gertrude and Louis, I never saw another familiar face. Most of the afternoon I was completely alone. And here’s what the walk looked like.

It started with some trees

But then was very Meseta like

Every oce in a while my favorite road side flower would appear to cheer me on

Passing through one small town, I got a special welcome from a flower bed

During the afternoon there was one small hill to climb

But then, guess what? More Meseta

Several times during the day I could see the whisper of mountains to our west, so I know that all too soon we will leave this marvelous open country. I loved what I was doing and the weather was beautiful, sunny and warming up to the high 6os.

Arrived at our hotel around 5:15. I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be but am sure I will sleep well tonight.

There is something intoxicating about spending the whole day walking in open country, the weather perfect, with the feeling you are not alone.

Now…for the special significance of this day. We have passed the half way point of our pilgrimage. Remember that sign outside Roncevalles (the third day of walking) that read “SANTIAGO de COMPOSTELLA 790 km”.

If there were a sign outside our hotel like that it would now say 385 km.

in 2 1/2 weeks we have walked a little over 250 miles.

I feel good.

Thanks for all the prayers.

Blessings to all.

PS Go Irish