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December 4, 2017

Maria & Mercedes

By Maryanna Gabriel

"...renewed in strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles... "
Isaiah 40:31

      You know how it is. One can manage in the face of aridity and disenchantment and as soon as someone shows an understanding, the flood gates open. My heart was open. Mercedes whisked off to the counter and prepared a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice waving my money away. I promptly burst into tears again. I wondered how this woman could take the time for me in what was clearly a busy period, it being the height of the season. I felt humbled. It was too much. I could barely manage receiving the gifts of care she was giving. It still didn't stop. Where was I going tomorrow? And the next day? And where was I staying? Tsk. Tsk. No wonder I am having a hard time. No this would never do. She was making arrangements. She would call her friend Juan to help me. Off she went to find some slippers for my feet. Yes, we would most certainly drive me to where I was supposed to be staying. A long history on town politics followed. I was going to O'Cebreiro. I must pray to the saint. Would I pray to the saint for her? Funny things happened in that church. They will come to see me in Canada. We were friends for life. She would be phoning Juan to look out for me. Here is their card. When we said goodbye I bowed. It seemed like the right thing to do. She would have none of it and hugged me close. Call if I need anything. Please be careful. 

     Rest, and more rest followed, and better nutrition. It was as though I had been washed clean. My heart was cleared by a tsunami of loving care. Angels. Angels on the Camino. No question. I felt weak but better. Like I was renewed. Strength returned. I could feel it bubbling up. The body really is an amazing creation. O'Cebreiro captivated me immediately. It was clear it was deeply influenced by Celts. The homes were rounded with thatched rooves. There was a feeling I really liked about the place. I went to the church with Mercedes in my heart and made the petitions for her that she asked of me. I read about the priest who had once presided. He was the one responsible for the yellow arrows along the Camino. He was a great advocate to his countrymen for the Camino. I heard about a statue of an angel that turned it's bronze head in front of a congregation when this priest had been conducting a service. The entire congregation had witnessed it. I stared thoughtfully at his memorial bust in bronze posed lovingly amid many plaques of commemoration and gratitude from across Spain. I counted 24 plaques. I took my time, lingering. Thoughtfully, I descended into the valley below. By now most pilgrims were long gone. I had the walk mostly to myself. There were trees for I was now in Galicia. I enjoyed the rural vistas, the unfolding valleys, the ringing of cow bells as well as sheep and horses. I was grateful it was cooler. I felt a profound peace. I passed through small hamlets and wondered about the people that lived in such quiet places.