After completing my first Camino in 2013, and after receiving my Compostela and attending the midday Pilgrim’s Mass in the Santiago Cathedral, I then met up with the pilgrims that I’d walked with on and off during the past thirty days: Balazs, Laszlo, Rosa, and Ivan the Terrible and his Beautiful Wife Giovanna.
We went to Santiago’s classic restaurant, the O Gato Negro – and we had a long lunch, and I remember feeling a happiness I’d not felt since my wedding day (at that stage) some thirty-one years earlier.
As part of the film that’s now underway, a reimagining of my Camino Memoir, The Way My Way, we’ll be recreating that lunch in the same part of that tiny restaurant – and today we surveyed the location in preparation for the shoot.
So there were seven of us in the crew in the O Gato Negro today, combining our location survey with lunch, and we were at the same table in the same backroom where I’d had that lunch ten years earlier. A man sitting at a table across from us stared at me and called out: Are you Bill Bennett?
I said yes, and stood as he came over.
He was a big man, in his 70s, an American – and he said: I knew you were in Spain right now but I never thought I’d meet you.
He then went on to explain that he’d read my blog when I walked that Camino in 2013, then he read my book, then he went and saw my film PGS Intuition is your Personal Guidance System when it screened in San Diego in 2018 during its US cinema run.
That was extraordinary in itself – that we should meet like that.
But the thing that knocked me out was this:
He told me that he read in my blog, then later in my book, that when I arrived into Burgos in 2013, I went immediately into the Cathedral. I was in a great deal of pain from my knee, and I found myself in one of the Cathedral’s chapels. There was a star on the floor of this chapel, made out of black and white tiles, well worn by the centuries. I stood on this star, then felt compelled to look up – and discovered that high in the vaulted ceiling above me was another star, made from leadlight glass.
Immediately I felt a rush run through my body, from the star above me, through the top of my head down through my body into my feet to the star I was standing on, then back up again. I described it at the time as a rush of divine ecstasy.
I then walked out of that Cathedral with no more pain in my knee.
Anyway, this gentleman told me that a year later, in 2014, he was walking the Camino and he too was in pain when he got to Burgos. His pain was in his feet. He could barely walk. But he remembered what I’d written and so he made his way into the Cathedral and he found the chapel and he too stood on the star – and he too walked away with his pain gone.
He told me this today in the little restaurant, and I felt incredibly humbled, I have to say. Humbled that I recognised once again that there are greater forces at work than I often acknowledge, and that these forces are working through me and through many others – as a reminder that “…there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” as Hamlet says to Horatio, and as I quote in PGS.
I left that restaurant today feeling very strange – this gentleman, Dana Gassaway, said that he’d never been to that restaurant before but a Camino friend, Kelly Lin (a Taiwanese pilgrim and author), had suggested it, and had he not been in the backroom he would not have seen me (and recognised me from my blog.)
Not one hour earlier, I was speaking with one of our crew, Paco Plaza, (our brilliant Spanish locations fixer) about getting permission to film in the Burgos Cathedral, and I’d shown him photos of that star on the floor, and the domed star.
I’d explained to him what had happened. How after standing on that star the pain in my knee disappeared. Less than an hour later I met Dana in the O Gato Negro and he told me his story.
A chance meeting?
I don’t think so.
I don’t think so.
This film is coming together in ways that sometimes leave me in a state of awe and wonder.