DAY THIRTY FIVE: 12 November 2012 from Triacastela to Sarria
We have been left to our own devices in Complexo Xacobeo, there is no hospitalero for the handful of pilgrims this late in the year. The two cyclists in the dorm, asleep when we totter in from our jolly Sunday evening supper, are unapologetically up and rustling around at what must be the crack of dawn. As I slip back to the Land Of Nod I can feel but not see a hyena watching me, waiting. I am alert to every movement of my breathe, still and tense. And then it is 9.30am. This end of season ambivalence serves my love of bed and snoozing but today I am compelled to get on the road. There are two routes from Triacastela; one via Samos where the main attraction is the enormous Benedictine monastery, one of the oldest in the western world with the largest floor plan and cloisters in Spain. Basic, austere, stark; all words that pull at my romantic heart strings but I have had my fill of being side tracked by my nostalgic definitions. I have had the experience of St Juan de Ortega and the Benedictine Nuns in Leon; dont get me wrong they are both unique and authentic pilgrim experiences but I have learnt. Learnt that my heart will be far more inspired by the high road of woodland paths across the rugged high point of Alto Riocabo and my soul will be nurtured by the spread of the world below me. But there is another attraction. The day before Kevin received an email from another pilgrim, Seth who I had last seen hobbling along with shin splints in west of Los Arcos. Seth was now ahead of us and he wrote to Kevin waxing lyrically about an exotic Brazilian shaman-ess, an alchemist and his crystal collection about half a kilometer off route on the way to Sarria. Far more intriguing to me than the low road to Samos.
A stunning day for walking; surrounded by a patchwork of emerald green countryside, a carpet of unruly fields I drink in nature’s nourishment. I am afraid that I will miss the sign to the cristal exposition , that I will get lost in this living breathing landscape with magic fungi circles but I needn’t have worried. Dropping down to a tarmacadam road an innocuous sign stands out in its simplicity. It points down the road and I am drawn towards a huddle of lopsided buildings. Kevin, Kath & Carolyn have arrived before me and are ensconsed in the warm hearted belly of the kitchen. They tell me the alchemist has just left but taking in the elderly man making tea at the range and trying to impress on Carolyn that she is from The Pleiades I think whoever left it wasn’t the alchemist. Wandering the warren of draughty, ramshackle rooms reveals a vast collection and variety of crystals; shattered and fragmented in raw form then styled into swirls and ancient patterns of creativity. Clearly there is someone here who loves the taking rock and working it into art but I am a little disappointed. Is this an alchemist of the material plane? What about the alchemy of vibration, turning the lead of our human soul into the gold of the divine spirit? What was I expecting?
Returning to the kitchen our host, Antonio, is reading my friends totem cards. He is earnest, he sees them as their cards. He watches with dark obsidian eyes, still, deep, playful. I ask him why he calls himself El Alquimista he tells me because he died, he has been in the tunnel of light and because he has been received by aliens. Now I am curious. I pull my totem card; I am Deer the power of gentleness, kindness and compassion. That feels like just half the story. Then I realize I have pulled two cards; the other half of my story is Bear is concerned with reaching goals through inner strength and knowing. It is afternoon, the day is starting to cool. My friends are eager to go, restless here. I am invited to stay. My friends leave and Carlos and María return. Carlos, the would be alchemist, has long soft greying hair, he is coiffed and slight, gracefully feminine. When he speaks he announces. Maria ebullient, vibrant, potent. This is Seth‘s shamaness. Carlos makes dinner but doesn’t eat. His role to serve. I see the visitor’s book; Tobias and Seth write of the magic in this portal. It is after 3pm, the creeping cold wisps of evening and my gentle introspection calls me to leave. It is late and I am going to be walking in darkness. Antonio is waiting to wave me off, a catches my hand and I feel rough, sharp edges of the crystal. He tells me it has a secret for me and my journey is to discover it.