Published: Jul 17, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 17, 2012 04:56 PM
James in Spain
I should have known when I saw the poster of that familiar face at the Palau de Musica de Catalunya. But I didnt. Who knew that James Taylor was popular in Spain?We had touched down in Barcelona before heading to Pamplona to hike a hundred miles of the Camino de Santiago with a small group of (we hoped) equally aged and unfit peregrinos. We enjoyed a guitar concert in a tiny chapel in Santa Maria del Pi, and a performance of classic Spanish at the beautiful Palau. But James? Unfortunately, his concert was scheduled for a date when we would be on the Camino. But wed seen James before and listened to his records from the very first album, a sweet reminder of Carolina while we lived for many years up North.We met our group and shuttled up to the Ibañeta Pass, our starting point. It was chilly. A bit of snow on the mountain peaks. I cant remember when we started singing James Taylor songs. It might have been as we headed down from Ibañeta to Roncesvalles of Chanson de Roland fame, or Burguete, Hemingways favorite fishing spot. Or on the long walk in the Montes de Oca, a stretch frequented by bandits in the Middle Ages. No bandits here, but a pair of riders on stocky black horses, some bicyclists, and fellow walkers. Sometimes we changed walking partners, walking and talking, learning about each others lives. But given any group of three, we always seemed to start singing. And it was often James. I was surprised to find a brother and sister from England had no idea James was from North Carolina. What did they think In my Mind Im Gone to Carolina was about, anyway? The most amazing song was not one of James, I must confess. We were in Leon Cathedral. Its gorgeous stained glass windows reflected down on us. Its vaults soared. Nancy, our leader and guide, gave us the cue. Amazing Grace, she began. Soon, some of us could not follow. Tears kept us from singing the words was blind, but now, I see. Because not all of us could see. George, the best singer of all, had become blind as a young man. Yet he sang that song with all his heart. It is a moment that will forever be in my memory.And I think we owe it all to James. James got us started. James kept us walking when we were tired, and our feet hurt, and when Charles and I were at the end of the pack, where we usually were. James kept us singing in cathedrals, in tiny Romanesque churches, in restaurants, and on the long hike up to O Cebreiro.And I did not realize it until just now. James, the reason for the Camino. James, the saint. Not James Taylor, although he was a big part of our Camino, but Saint James, Sant Iago, Jaime, Jacobus, or whatever you choose to call him. At the end of the Camino, at the end of the field of stars, in the glorious cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, like other pilgrims I hugged the gaudy bejeweled statue of the saint. Im not religious, but I had to do it. Im not sure why. A strange feeling, embracing the saint and looking out over the long nave while Mass was being said. Could the congregation see a pair of tanned grubby hands hugging Santiago? James T., if you should happen to read this, you have to do it. Hug the saint, your namesake. Maybe you already have. And thanks, James, to both of you, for the memories.
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