Cows on the Camino

| Alyssa Bormes | July 7, 2016 | 0 Comments


It has begun. My stepsister, Brenda, and I have arrived and begun the trek from the northwestern tip of France, across Spain to Santiago, the resting place of St. James the Apostle. The journey has a name: “the Camino” — in Spanish, “The Way.”

We have met people from all over the world, and they have come to know us. However, instead of writing about family, or the many friends we have met, I would like instead to speak of the bovine set.

My second day hiking, I happened upon quite a few reminders that cows were nearby. There were the beautiful sounds of their bells in the distance, and at times, something else which could clutter the path. I believe their delicate term is “cow pies.”

And here is the lesson: Just because you might see a cow pie on the Way, it doesn’t mean cows walk the Camino.

What amazed me as I was looking at the magnificence of my surroundings is that no matter how grand, like the trees and mountains, and no matter how small, like the slugs and the moss, we, man, are the only ones walking the Camino.

It is our free will — which the rest of creation does not have — that sends us on all sorts of pilgrimages. We seek beyond ourselves to God, while the cows today and every day will be satisfied with their “cow-ness” in the midst of the Camino, but not on it.

I had been walking alone for some time. The trees formed a canopy that shielded me from a slight drizzle. In clearings, the mountains were majestic. The cloudy day allowed the colors around me to intensify, which made the many shades of moss all the more beautiful. The striated stones each deserved awe; the flowers were resplendent. The Creator is a wild artist!

Still, none of these are the height of creation.

It is very humbling walking in such grandeur to know that you are the peak of God’s creation. There is a part of
yourself that wants to feel insignificant and really does feel insignificant. But when the cows weren’t headed my way — and I had to pass through two gates to ensure they remained contained — I realized that a cow never goes to “find itself,” nor does a slug, nor the great apes, nor an ear of corn.

There is every reason for those cows and trees and mountains to be in the middle of Basque Country, but simply no reason for me to be here. I am a child of the plains of South Dakota; I have no physical characteristics that make it a good idea to take this hike, yet I am compelled to be here.

God is reckless in his love. He makes me feel utterly small, only to have me realize that I am more significant than all of it — and each life is! And in this odd juxtaposition, all I can think of is God’s greatness and his gifts, and that it is all a gift.

My necessary small steps give me time to ponder the cow pies, to pray, to be on a journey. No trees followed me on the Way; no mountains moved toward Santiago on a great pilgrimage — only I did.

Bormes, a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, is the author of the book “The Catechism of Hockey.”

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Category: Everyday Mercies, Featured