Friday, April 30, 2010

Hanging Prayers


As I walk past Logroño, heading towards Nájera, I reach a hill called Alto de la Grajera, in Spain.

There, the pilgrim's path is re-routed across the hill to avoid roadside walking along the motorway. Climbing steadily up to a sawmill, the tarmac road for pilgrims overlooks the motorway separated by a wired fence on the right side while a forest on the left offers a longer alternate path to the Camino.

As I get closer to the sawmill, I notice thousands of crosses threaded in the fence by passing pilgrims. They were in all shapes and materials from branches, chipped wood from the sawmill to wires, pipes and clothes. Here and there, messages and prayers were carved on planks of wood hanging on the kilometer long fence. The contrast was strong with the primitive crosses on the foreground and a busy motorway on the background.

I put down my backpack and stop for a while, connecting myself to the spirit of the place. One can almost sense the thousands of pilgrims, slowly threading crosses, whispering prayers to loved or lost ones.
Focusing on the messages and taking photos transports me to a different dimension, where stillness and peace float in the heavy cloudy atmosphere, sometimes broken by a passing truck overloaded with goods on the motorway.
My peaceful world is finally shattered by the sound of two young boys shouting and running around picking up branches to help their mother add a new cross in a small empty corner. I watch them weaving a new prayer in this spiritual cover protecting this place. I politely smile at them, wish them a "Buen Camino" and continue my path.

I sometimes wonder, how did this all start? Who put the first cross on a wired fence along a noisy motorway, followed by thousands of others? I realize later that Alto de la Grajera is a dangerous section where many accidents occur. It probably all started with prayers added in memory of road victims. It just happens to be on a spiritual path, where the smallest prayer is magnified by the hundreds of pilgrims seeking answers every day.

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