Magic Cottage Creations

Magic Cottage Creations
Return to Magic Cottage Creations.

November 30, 2017


By Maryanna Gabriel

"They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint..."
Isaiah 40:31

      We humans, being what we are, often display a bit of ourselves with our equipment.
Japanese Contingent Posing For Me
Some people sport flags or Camino paraphernalia, and I would often pass the time trying to guess nationality by clothing. It was hard not to notice a particularly colourful Japanese contingent carrying a tall musical instrument. I couldn't figure out their foot gear as it looked like it was slippers. They were walking faster than I was so it must have been effective. 

      Cathy and I had just stayed at a place that was quite romantic in that the husband met his wife when he was walking the Camino. He thought about her as he completed his journey and then came back to court her. They married and now they look after pilgrims. He was tons of fun, very funny and a wonderful cook. We had come to the end of the Meseta. Cathy's knee was really giving her grief. I was rather proud that we had come through this section so well. They say the Basque part of the Camino is breaking open the body, the Meseta is breaking open the soul, and the final Galician section is breaking open the spirit. 

      We had been travelling together now for 14 days. It was a really social and fun time. Leon, a great queen of a city with her famous and beautiful cathedral, was where we were to say goodbye. I had to move more quickly if I was to make my plane leaving from Santiago. We were very sad to be parting. 

November 29, 2017

Of Spinach & Bodegas

By Maryanna Gabriel

"The road goes ever on from out the door where it began..."
-Written over a Bodega doorway on the road to Santiago

     Cathy and I were walking when we came upon the Swede With The Tallest Legs I Had Ever Seen. He was waiting for a bus. He looked rather mournful. We could tell he did not want to leave. His holiday was over. It was time for him to go back to work in Stockholm. We tried to be encouraging and he smiled wanly saying he would be back next year. 

     That is the Camino for you. It gets in your blood. It inserts itself in your brain. They say you don't make the call - the Camino does, the Camino calls you. The Man From Montreal had told me that he had heard of someone who lived in Europe putting a dish towel down and walking out the door in answer to the Camino. I was still under the illusion I was in charge and not entirely in touch with this anima. I was to be corrected. Cathy and I happily continued on our way. 

Monastery at Carrion de Los Condes

    We were feeling pretty upbeat. I had convinced Cathy to come with me to stay at a monastery that was supposed to be beautiful. A woman giving a talk about the Camino had recommended it. I had carefully notated this information at the time and now here we were. I started to wonder about the name of the town we were in. Carrion de los Condes. Does that mean carrion of the condors? I think so. Does that mean us? Hope not. Gosh, it has a green lawn. All I wanted to do was scamper barefoot across the verdant expanse and wiggle my toes but one has to be terribly dignified. Trying not feel scruffy, we checked in. 

   You are probably thinking, that Maryanna must be made of money, gold taps this, luxurious monasteries that, but honestly, for the same price here at home I would be in a dingy chain hotel with creepy rugs one does not want to touch. Cathy and I gleefully agreed to meet for dinner. I was dying for something green,
The skulls of monks are embedded into the architecture.
specifically spinach. The fields have these collardy-type vegetables in them but they are fed to the cows, not to people. I had been walking by them wistfully. The restaurant was an aesthetic joy with the antiquity preserved. The chef knew what he was doing. It was, well... the best meal I had in Spain. We shared a spinach salad that was exquisitely prepared and creatively presented. The meal goes down as one of the top ten of my life and will probably flash before my eyes when I die. I didn't want to leave the place. 

     Feeling fortified, and continuing our journey across the Meseta, Cathy and I happened upon the funniest place. It was a hillside with bodegas burrowed into it. Bodegas are where wine is stored. These bodegas were very old. They looked like little hobbit houses. We took our time to walk around them and take photographs. 

November 25, 2017

Magic In The Morning

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Blessed are you pilgrim, when you contemplate the 'camino'
and you discover it is full of names and dawns."
-Beatitudes of the Pilgrim (from a church on the Santiago de Compostela)

       I was surprised to find that the stone I had brought from home to place on The Cruz De Ferro was missing. I must have dropped it. I took this to be a good sign. I was leaving the weights of my soul along the way and lightening up. Having nothing seemed like a graduation present. 

      Cathy and I were making an ascent when a gleam to the side of the pathway caught my eye. I looked closer. There was a vein of crystal along the path several feet long and emerging from the dust. I glanced around at my fellow peregrinos. Nobody saw it. People passed completely ignoring me as I climbed into the ditch and began to pick some. The crystals were clear with an amber tinge. I gave one to Cathy who was watching me and some to the Swede With The Tallest Legs I Have Ever Seen who happened to be passing by. I thought how funny this is that everybody is so focused on what they are doing that they are not even noticing these beautiful crystals. I felt wonderment and as the sun rose it seemed that the stones were alight like droplets of rain as they caught the beams of dawn. 

     A rainbow arched over a vast sky and the morning was aglow. We walked past a canal in the crisp early light. It all felt rather magical.



November 24, 2017

Saint Anton

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that one step back to help another
is more valuable than a hundred forward without seeing what is at your side."
-Beatitudes of the Pilgrim (from a church on the Santiago de Compostela)


     The warnings about the Meseta had been very clear. This parched plateau is with few facilities, a dry and unaccommodating landscape, and all very much a part of the test which is the Camino and something many walkers skip. I was noticing that a lot of people had left the Camino. It is said that only 25 percent complete the walk in one go - a figure that seems awfully low and I wonder if this is true. It was clear though that people were disappearing. Many walk The Camino in sections and return every year to do only a portion. 

     Cathy was a cheerful person to be walking with and I found that the time passed most agreeably. We both remarked on the lack of biodiversity in the earth. Where were the birds? Where were the worms? Where were the frogs? I researched pesticide control for Spain. It did not seem to me that there was not any. I thought of home with longing. Everywhere there is life. A morsel of earth teemed with microorganisms.  Here there did not appear to be very much. Maybe it was because I was prepared for this "desert" but I found it not as hard as the Rioja I had just come through. Perhaps it was Cathy. A happy person with a big smile, she was proving to be wonderful company. Her knee was bothering her. I could see she was having a hard time. I slowed and took her pack for her. As I felt the tremendous weight of it I encouraged her to do what I was doing and look into pack transport - it would be easier on her knee I pointed out, and beside which this journey is about lightening up rather than being weighed down, or at least I declared to her, it was for me. Cathy proved to be the kind of a person that brings people together and the Man From Montreal who by now was becoming a friend, walked with us. We were all rather gay I thought and having a wonderful time sharing meals and comparing notes about accommodation. We talked about The Cruz. The Cruz. Oi. This is where pilgrims ask for forgiveness. The Cruz de Ferro (Cross of Iron) was a famous part of the pilgrimage. He gave us a prayer to read at the cross and I tucked it away for further contemplation. 

     We came to a place called Saint Anton. Founded in 1146, it was a monastery created with the intention of helping pilgrims. It was a busy time back then. Many greats walked the Camino, kings and queens, Saint Francis, Claire of Assisi, a Queen Bridget of Sweden came with an entire royal entourage, and Paul Coelho says the Virgin Mary walked part of it although how he knows this escapes me. The monastery has a haunted Gothic feel to it and I thought it would make a great movie set. It closed in 1782 but in the 1980's and amongst the ruins, some enterprising individuals reopened it, without power and no water in sight, but it is a hospital today. I peered into the dark and candle-lit interior but did not feel drawn to go in. Besides, I was fine although for the first time on the journey I was using Ibuprofen as my knees were protesting.  

November 21, 2017

Burgos - Un Poco A Poco

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."
– Matsuo Bashō, (Japanese poet, 1644 – 1694)

     Breakfast, as you may imagine, was very much a focus but there was none in sight. I was appreciating the pine forest with shade, shade being a rare commodity. I walk and I enjoy the movement of my body, the changing light on the landscape, the people who pass and the fact that I sometimes know them, and the appearance of places that I have never seen before - not knowing what they look like, or not knowing where I will be staying will look like, nor whom I will meet and how that will be but it all feels so comfortable, simple and relaxed. As I walk people tell me their stories, their lives, their heartbreaks. I respond with my stories and I am surprised with how it has been - the amiable chattiness of it all. It has been so friendly. And fun. I find I am having fun. This surprises me. At this point I have walked 300 kilometers. I can feel I am losing weight and I am grateful that my body keeps responding to what I ask of it. "Say what? We are doing what today? You have got to be kidding me!" I whisper in reply, "Thank you, knees," and somehow the kilometers pass. So far I have not had to use the knee braces I have been shlepping. Un poco a poco an old man I had passed had said to me encouragingly. Little by little. Yes, it has all been little by little and one day at a time. I relate well to this. It is how I do things. Little by little. Then one can look back and see a vast distance.

      I had Burgos on my mind. A city founded in 884, it is home to the Catedral Basilica de Santa Maria de Burgos. This famous church is a sacred place and a world heritage site. I would be staying in a former convent right on the square that faces the basilica. It was going to be a luxury for the room had a bath. I had eaten all of my supplies so I eagerly looked for the next village. Finally, I arrived and bought the last tuna empanada and feeling lucky I had scored a banana. Like a hoard of locusts, famished backpackers entered the cafe behind me, ravishing what little was available. As was often the case, a formal meal would not be available until one in the afternoon. No point in bending the rules for starving hikers who had been walking for hours. It is all very much like a Mervyn Peake novel with crumbling architecture and an attitude of entrenchment. This is the way it has always been done. Change for the present is overruled by conformity to the past, or so it seemed. 

     I knew that the walk into Burgos was like any city with heavy traffic and my guide book warned I would feel the stress of urban life even more intensely having experienced so much nature. I read, "The last ten kilometers walking into Burgos is a four lane highway. It is horrible." I resolved to locate the "river route" which promised an easier entry. Feeling rather proud of myself for finding it, the route seemed to go on forever. After forever, I arrived. The cathedral was indeed breathtaking. Aesthetics aside, I badly needed to eat, wash my socks, for that matter I needed to bathe and so I checked in. Hey, gold taps. Nice. I could have spent the night in the bath tub but food was also on my mind. I found an interesting vegetarian place that had a hour and a half wait and made my lunch reservation close to my dinner time. By the time the city was formally dining for the evening meal I would be sound asleep. I bumped into the Man From Montreal and he urged me on to the cathedral. It was a lace-like architectural presentation which has to be an achievement with stone as a medium. It almost seemed to float with the clouds. Inside was the usual gilt and I was a little put off by an actual plastic mannequin on the alter that had long hair dressed like Christ after the crucifixion. Church parades with theatrics in Mexico came to mind and I connect Spain as the root. I was later to hear that the mannequin supposedly grows hair so is very much revered. That night there was a lot of bell ringing. It was an important ceremony. I was told that bishops and cardinals in full regalia walked the Christ-mannequin into the square on a moving float accompanied by an entourage of monks and nuns, followed by fire works. I was fast asleep I am happy to say, a major achievement with all of the hoopla, once again, survival taking precedent. In the morning and on the good side, the hotel had a breakfast buffet that almost made me weep with joy. Love hotel breakfast buffets! Another survival mechanism. I was learning. 

      Saying goodbye to the gold taps and with poles in hand, I set out. "It strikes me as odd," I was to write, "that people can't see the whole world as a church and a lot more unobstructed when outside. I must seem irreverent. It is not that. It is perhaps a greater intensity of reverence." Musings aside I look across the busy street. There she was. My friend. "Cathy!!!" I yell. She turned. We hugged warmly. We were overjoyed to be reuniting for this was the woman I had come over the Pyrenees with. Happily we strode together burbling about interim adventures. Little did we know what lay ahead. We were about to walk the Meseta and we would do it together. It was to be a life bonding experience. 

November 20, 2017


By Maryanna Gabriel

"Isn't my life path Camino enough?"
-Journal entry September 2014

    I had been intrigued by Atapuerca and being a former archaeology student and field assistant, I deliberately worked at a soft landing in this area. Atapuerca is a UNESCO site because of burials that are over a million years old and also it has some unique bronze age rock paintings only discovered in 1972. As I was to find, the walk and sight seeing are not always compatible. I marched past strange menhirs in an uninspired landscape. I thought this is odd. How did the Celtic/Stonehenge thing suddenly merge in on prehistory of this antiquity? I realized as I walked up to the tall stones that each were represented by different countries and that they were not actually authentic. Still not really understanding, I adjusted my hat and swigged on my water bottle. The heat bore down. I could see that the actual site was well off the beaten track out of town. It was the end of the day. I needed to figure out where I was staying, always the challenge when one arrives somewhere, weighing priorities and one's physical needs. I walked into an information center. It was with some disappointment I was made to understand that more kilometers lay ahead of me. I began to regret the decision to come as I walked ever on. Guard dogs barked from behind cloistered gardens. I finally came to it. There was no one. I couldn't figure it out. I stopped a woman and asked in Spanish if she knew what was going on? She called a number. The owners would arrive in twenty minutes. Oh boy. 

     It was all wood and very nice and somewhat mollified I gratefully showered and collapsed. I was unable to move. I felt nurtured by the room. More guests arrived and again there was no one for check-in. I helped, taking pity on two gorgeous young Danish men who had just completed 40 kilometers. I ate the breakfast that had been put out, grateful for the yogurt, and any desires beyond that had to be put aside. My need for rest was acute. No point in adding to the bone collection out there.

     In the morning I arose early. The brilliant stars were being slowly blotted by a strange mist. I walked with my head lamp and as I did I saw something running at a very fast speed in the field beside me. The rapidity of the creature's approach puzzled me. I started to feel alarmed as it headed right for me. My heart skipped. Was it a wolf? It was too fast for a dog. How could it be a wolf? Then I understood. It was a boar. He saw me alright and made the decision to veer. I felt wonder. It seemed kind of special to see him. Hard to believe there could be any wild boar left. The mist slowly lifted and dawn was beautiful as I looked back over the landscape and climbed into a forest.