Tolerating uncertainty

The church in O’Cebreiro where the modern Camino was born

Theirs is a journey of discovery, of trust, of opening up to something new, something more – not just externally, but within. A pilgrimage promotes a willingness to live with mystery in movement toward a destination – a willingness to believe that any re-routing is actually by a providential design.

I entered in Galicia in fog. O’Cebreiro was an apparition, the buildings barely visible in the misty rain. I nearly missed the church where a priest decided to reinvigorate the Camino for the twentieth century. He painted the ubiquitous yellow arrows to mark the Way and slowly the numbers of pilgrims built to the hundreds of thousands that now pass through O’Cebreiro every year. However the town was empty of any life when I passed through that chilly morning.
As I passed the albergue on the other side of O’Cebreiro I heard singing. A convoy of German pilgrims set out as I passed. Every few hundred metres they gathered to praise and pray. They only carried day packs so fluttered just ahead of me as I lugged my full pack.
Finally ahead of the choristers, I passed through a string of villages, bars and bathrooms. My knees ached and I argued with myself about sending my pack on with the courier next day. The trouble was that I didn’t know where I would end up on any day. Usually I decided on a provisional destination and chose a potential albergue in the town. If I didn’t make it I simply stopped and looked in my guide for the closest accommodation. If I sent my pack on I would have to book a bed and be sure to make it there.
Uncertainty is the only certainty on the Camino. An albergue might be open and a bed free – or not. My pack might arrive at an albergue before me or not until next day. I might see a congenial companion after lunch or never make contact again. A cafe might be open in the next village for second breakfast or it may have closed forever. The grocery shop in the next town may open in the morning or not until siesta is well over. I soon learnt to tolerate uncertainty.

Paula Gamble-Grant writes in unhurryUp! that pilgrims are on “a journey of discovery, of trust, of opening up to something new, something more – not just externally, but within. A pilgrimage promotes a willingness to live with mystery in movement toward a destination – a willingness to believe that any re-routing is actually by a providential design.”

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