This camino has been a time of reflection, as most walks are, but it has been a special walk as we have been following the steps, and the thoughts of an exceptional woman and her life. We ended this first part of our camino today in Alba de Tormes, where St Teresa ended her life in one of the convents she founded.
In the midst of the glaring religiosity, the paintings of saints in various poses of humility, suffering, (transverberacion) there is a strong sense of the woman. From the books she wrote, the convents she founded, the papal bull of her canonisation, the memories of her male confessors, her spirit shines through. I could look at the huge urn and the reconstruction of the room where she died, complete with the folded arms veiled eyes image, and see a remarkable woman who kept faith with friends and her God, and forged ahead with her convictions.
From this Convento Anunciacion we walked through this pretty town with it’s Mudejar architecture and winding streets to the top of the town and the Tower of the Duke of Alba. St Teresa was a close friend of his wife and he was her patron, donating money to found some of her convents.
So what am I taking away from this walk, besides my admiration for this saint and a better grasp of the times in which she lived?
Silence. As we were walking on these very solitary paths the only sound was often the rustle of the long grass on either side. In the early mornings as we started off full of energy the sound of bird call and insects chirping blended with the rhythm of our footsteps. In such a silence there is peace and the space to contemplate.
A realisation that the life I have is right here in front of me, not in some other place : A lot of my life has been about searching but some of what I want is right in front of my nose. I have family to love and who love me and a home.
I no longer need to feel that I am opting out by not training hard for triathlons, running hard, flinging myself into dance. making friends and being fun. I can do or be who i want to be, I’m ok warts and all.
I accept who I am, while striving for the things I want to achieve. However there is a realisation that I can work with what I’ve got.
The recognition once more that endurance is the key to living life to its fullest. As I placed one foot in front of the other, or flinched as my hips just didn’t stretch as they used to, I did think about St Teresa and others who have walked this path so long ago in much harsher conditions.
In the villages we have passed through there are so many testimonials to people who have lived , worked , created . Especially in Alba de Tormes , looking at the pieces of lives from 500 years ago : the home,the churches, the history of the people, I was reminded of the nature of life .
.It’s a bit of a cliche “the camino throws up things that you need to look at or get through”. This camino more than any before has thrown up thoughts of aging, mortality, life direction, regrets. So along with the aches and pains I am learning to be accepting. Hard one that.
St Teresa prayed to bear witness to joy (of God), to advance “el camino de la vida interior’. If you take away the literal connotation of God, being joyful, grateful for this life and being alive is what I am taking away from this Camino Teresiano.