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December 3, 2017

Get Thee To A Nunnery

Dear Reader,
This entry is out of order. It belongs just before the end of October between the posts entitled "Zubiri" and "Pamplona". When I tried to move it back I thought I had lost everything, I mean everything, so have to live with this being like this for the time being due to a condition known as "blog terror".

For some reason, one day, the blog went rogue and decided to repost this entry under a different date...
 xo Maryanna



By Maryanna Gabriel


 "The soup, thin, and dark, and utterly savourless,
tasted as if it had been drained out of the umbrella stand."
 - Margaret Halsey





    The nun who admitted me was formidable. She demanded to know why I was not getting stamps every night in my credencial. I stammered it was because I was trying to save room. Well, she said, if the police are trying to locate me they can determine where I was the night before. Good point. Alrighty then. Chastised, I managed a shower and settled in. For the next three hours the door was knocked on and I was repeatedly visited. I was in the wrong room. Would I move. Yes, I would. Then nothing would happen. Tiring of this and perishing of hunger I sought out the kitchen. Hoping to speed things up I set the table for about 25 people, a full house.

    Four men were cooking. Why, I wondered, were men cooking in a convent? It seemed a logical question. Well, one replied, it was because they were volunteers from the north of Spain who had come to help the nuns. Clearly protocol was in a revival. Dinner was at seven, of course not a moment before, this was Spain after all, what was I thinking, and we all eagerly assembled. A bottle of red wine was presented. We poured a thimbleful each. I started to worry. Bread came and disappeared. I noticed some people didn't get any. Potatoes swimming in water came next. I accepted a couple of pieces of potato and my bowl was filled to the brim with potato water. A little salt and maybe an onion would have done wonders. Feeling brave, I looked around at my fellow diners. It was a bit like the emperor and his new clothes. Everybody looked like this was all perfectly normal and some elderly German women seemed to be positively beaming that they were having this amazing Camino experience. I wondered quietly if the church box needed more donations. I duly and slowly ate my potatoes and potato water. Staying alive, after all, was a priority. The pot came around again and this time it was sausage water. Ohh. I just couldn't manage that. Besides, I am not a pork or beef person. Lettuce came followed by olive oil. Okay. This is really lovely. Courses. I nibbled on my lettuce leaves wistfully wishing I could have combined them with the potatoes, but hey, I am just a Canadian and we tend to do that sort of thing. The olive oil was very nice, I decided.


    With the meal mercifully at an end we were expected at service. The church had been built a thousand years before and I stiffly ascended an ancient spiral stairway to an upper level where candles glowed as we sat in a circle on a warm rug. About five languages were spoken. I found myself feeling moved by the fact that I was part of a mass migration, a calling that so many people were answering and I prosaically voiced what I was experiencing. I was surprised to understand that I was the only person present who spoke English. A nun translated. A woman from Brazil wept because she and her husband were having a hard time on their bicycles and the kindness of strangers helping them with moving the bikes over the rocky terrain when they were so tired was very moving for her. The nun who admitted me read Psalm 36 "...in your house they find rich food..." I am not making this up. A blessing for pilgrims was invoked.

    Somehow I slept. A sweet young woman from Italy who constantly apologized had taken the upper bunk. I told her to stop saying sorry to me and she laughed and relaxed with me. Breakfast seemed a larger attempt at generosity. Maybe the donation box was replenished by my fellow pilgrims. A volunteer showed me that olive oil on bread was a real delicacy. This was not really my first breakfast choice but being rather polite I gave it a go. It was surprisingly good. The olive oil was so light it tasted like butter. And so it came to pass that I eagerly exited. Taking great gulpfuls of air I happily turned on my head lamp and sallied forth. An owl hooted as I descended a hillside path to rejoin the road. As dawn broke one thing was evidently clear. Having been thoroughly blessed inside and out these last two days, I knew I was definitely not cut out for the nunnery.