Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Labyrinths: mini-pilgrimages within the Camino »« Sharing the path with “all creatures great and small”

A visit to Casa de los Dioses (House of the Gods): an oasis of love

tractor low-res 721

Earlier, when a tractor passed me, I gained a new perspective on relative speed. Back home, tractors were always too slow, the impediments at the side of the road that I needed to pass in my car. Here, they were the hare to my tortoise. Humbling indeed.

 

Walking solo past sprawling fields of wheat and corn, heading towards Astorga, I braced myself against the wind. Even with my windbreaker hood on, my jacket zipped up as high as it could go above my neck, gusts battered my face.

 

This was day 24, my third week on the Camino, when I was supposed to fall more deeply into myself, according to one seasoned pilgrim. “Week three is when you get in touch with your pain,” this retired European man had told me.

 

It never happened. “Still have had no profound insights or revelations, no new deep stuff from my past appear,” I wrote in my journal. But I was feeling increasingly content and peaceful.

 

And I needed a break. The arches of my feet ached. My blisters and the bottoms of my feet were sore. Since 7 a.m., I had covered almost 26 kilometres, surprised to have seen few people in my previous hours on this red dirt path.

 

In flat, open space and dry scrub, passing no town or village for almost seven kilometres, I felt delighted to see a building, a few trees, and some people ahead. Feeling dehydrated and wanting more water, I now truly understood the impact of the word “oasis.”

casa de los dioses low-res 724

Approaching the front of a long, crude brick building, which looked like a warehouse, I saw scattered backpacks and a few pilgrims seated under makeshift sheets of corrugated tin. A large mural of painted coloured circles, intersected around a star, was on the wall to the right. To the left stood a tiny, free-standing derelict wood stove with a kettle on top and a small fire pit in a circle of bricks on the dusty ground.

 

Beyond that, in the middle of the same wall, stood two tall rusty doors, which bore graffiti and large painted red hearts. In front of all of this hung the ultimate symbol of laid-back living: a hammock. (A long-time hammock lover and user, that sight alone warmed my heart.)

me in hammock low-res 728

I’m happy to lounge in a hammock

The dominant feature on the wall was a large blue tarp, which hung vertically across the entire left front of the building. Pilgrims from around the globe, current and past, had scrawled their name, the date, and/or a thoughtful saying in black marker, wherever they could find room on the fabric. “Love from Gibraltar.” The star of David. A white dove with a white heart above it. “Dios esta en los detalles” (God is in the details.) It was a tableau of temporary presence, a mingling of hearts. I loved it.

 

A woman named Elisa, whose smile and genuine warmth exuded love and kindness, gestured at me to help myself from a wooden cart decorated with a row of hearts. I joined a handful of pilgrims who were selecting from many cartons of juice; thermoses of coffee; a plate of cookies; crackers, peanut butter; oranges; and a jug of water. Everything on this Camino-style welcome wagon was available by donation.

food by donation low-res 726

As a handful of us stood around the cart, a beat-up old truck appeared from the west, pulling up next to the building. A handsome, tanned Spanish male, with his shirt off, jumped out, gave us a celebrity-bright grin, and said in English: “Welcome to paradise.”

 

His name wasn’t Adam, but David, the man who had created this slapdash stop for pilgrims in 2009. He called it Casa de los Dioses or “House of the Gods.” I asked him why he felt compelled to create such a place and gave it that name.

 

“I wanted to create somewhere where all gods, for all people, could come together,” he told me in broken English, “and where people could feel loved.”

David Casa de los dioses low-res 732

David and a friend

 

He explained that all religions wanted the same thing, love and peace. This humble pilgrim stopover was his attempt to create a loving sanctuary on the Camino. He and Elisa described, with passion in their voices, how they hoped to raise $30,000 to buy the surrounding land, owned by a friend of David’s, to establish Casa de los Dioses permanently.

 

Elisa, who had come from Italy to serve as a Casa host for two weeks like a hospitalera at an albergue (hostel), offered me a kind smile and hug. She exuded simple warmth and kindness. No smarmy niceness here.

 

This place is a church of the heart, I thought. To me, David’s sincere welcome and vision of oneness brought more love to my Camino experience than any church or cathedral I had entered so far along the way.

 

For the first time on The Way, I felt inspired to add my name and a sentiment to a collective pilgrim document. Grabbing a black marker, I wrote “One Heart, One Soul, One Spirit” with my name, the date, and Roberts Creek, BC on the bottom left-hand corner of the blue tarp. It felt good to be part of this cross-cultural, multilingual record.

One Heart One Soul low-res 731

This Casa—a feel-good haven with hippie ideals and a community-minded soul—reminded me of Roberts Creek, my home. In my journal, I called it “bohemian funk.” For a weary pilgrim seeking basic comfort, it was the sustenance I truly needed: validation that someone else, on a route defined around the world by Christianity, valued oneness beyond the separation of religion, culture, race or language.

heart table for stamp low-res 730

On a red, heart-shaped table, I eagerly stamped my credential (pilgrim passport) with the heart-shaped Casa “logo,” like a groupie getting a temporary tattoo. Continuing westward into the wind, I felt grateful to have visited this mini-oasis of love.

For more information about Casa de los Dioses, see their Facebook page.

, , , ,
August 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm
4 comments »
  • March 12, 2014 at 12:02 pmBarbara

    Dear Elisa, or more especially David, as it was him I met him when on Camino in May last year.
    What you are doing with La Casa de los Dioses is so special. Not only are you offering food – and what a variety – to pilgrims, for a donation if they can manage it, for free if they can’t but you’ve also thought about all the other needs and comforts that pilgrims welcome. The atmosphere that you have created is so unexpected, so wonderful, so loving and so giving. Thank you.
    When I was there magical things happened; a young American stripped to her shorts and gave us a hula hoop demonstration, everyone chatted, laughed, relaxed, made friends…..
    Thank you again
    PS. I’m finally writing up my journal and you definitely feature on my day 17!

  • September 8, 2013 at 3:25 pmelisa

    Thanks Heather, the way is long but we all get to Santiago, don’t we? :)

  • September 8, 2013 at 3:19 pmHeather Conn

    Thanks, Elisa. It is wonderful to hear from you. I am glad that you have raised so much money. Thanks for letting me know about this. I will correct the link.

  • September 8, 2013 at 3:09 pmelisa

    Ciao Heather,

    I cannot find the words to thank you. For having written this post about La Casa de los Dioses and for the way you wrote it. I remmber that you are a writer, I remember several things about your stay at La Casa de los Dioses, including when you took note of the name of the place and asked how much money we were trying to raise to buy the barn and told me that you would write something about it once at home. And you did it. Thank you.

    In the meantime things are going on, we have raised more than half of the required amount (about 17.000 dollars so far). We are confident that we will soon reach the goal.

    I hope you are doing well and I hope to see you when will open the door of the Casa.

    Love,
    elisa

    P.S. the link to the Facebook page that you posted doesn’t seem to work, find here the good one: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LA-CASA-DE-LOS-DIOSES/105241918270

Leave a Reply