Gorma Tales of the Camino: Christoph and the Icy Lake

Gorma was cleaning up her picnic lunch, shaking away crumbs for the ants and birds to share, and washing her bowl and her spoon in the water of a beautiful mountain lake. The water was icy cold, and made Gorma shiver by the time her bowl and spoon were clean.

As she packed everything away in her bag, she saw a man standing a short distance away from her, looking very concerned and very undecided, as is often the case.

“Have you lost something?” Gorma called to him and startled him from his concentration.

“Oh, Gorma, Gorma, yes I have – I’ve lost track of time, and now I’ve lost my way, because of it,” he called back, and his shoulders carried a heavy weight that could not be seen by anyone but Gorma. His name was Christoph, and in his coming and going to and from work, he had started to think about things, considering more and more each day his three sons, and what he should teach them as their father, and this started him wondering what sort of man he had grown up to be, and thus he had quickly gotten lost in endless thoughts that wandered down endless paths, and his feet had simply followed, until now he was in a wilderness he did not recognize.

“Well, luckily your feet have wandered onto the very path you need, as feet often do,” Gorma reassured him. “Can you not see what is directly before you?”

“This large lake?” Christoph asked, baffled.

“Look farther,” Gorma urged him, so Christoph took a deep breath and looked as far as he could see across the lake.

“Why, it is my own village, just there, past the opposite shore,” Christoph responded, quietly surprised. “I must have been walking in circles for some time.”

“Oh yes, this can happen easily when our wandering thoughts loop ’round our cares,” Gorma agreed.

“Well, at least I know where I am now. But it will do me no good – my sons need me to meet them in the village and take them home from school. There is much talk of a wolf loose in the forest surrounding the village, and they are too young to take on a fully grown wolf, even three boys together.” Christoph’s eyes were worried, though he simply stood and looked at the village away across the lake.

“But if you were there, you would be able to manage this wolf?” Gorma surmised, understanding his concern.

Christoph took a second deep breath. “Well, I am no great hunter, Gorma, but I suppose I would do what I might to drive it off, if I had to,” Christoph replied seriously.

“And what will your sons do, waiting at the schoolhouse, if you do not arrive to meet them?” Gorma asked plainly.

“Oh, Gorma, Gorma, this is my fear – I have not told them the stories of the wolf, because I did not want them to be afraid. So they do not know, you see?, the danger waiting for them! What can I do, Gorma? What can I do? They will decide to walk home without me.”

Gorma looked out over the lake. “It is too far to walk around this lake, because it is stretched out long across the land. Even with a ride from a kind stranger, no horse or hay wagon is fast enough to reach the village before they set off.”

“Yes, this I have calculated also, Gorma,” Christoph nodded, and he gave a great sigh of despair.

“Sometimes, we must meet danger with the element of surprise,” Gorma nodded back. “Sometimes, we must risk everything we are for the benefit of everything we love.”

Christoph turned to Gorma. “How so?” he asked, baffled once again.

“You think if you hide uncertainty, peril, from your sons, it will not find them? That if you hide from it, it will not find you? Even now, it prowls your woods. You must go to meet it, Christoph. You must face your fears. And you must do it with confidence and conviction. There is only one path to your sons – the most direct, truest path of your life. You must choose it. And you must choose it now.” For Gorma knew that there is no other time…only now.

At Gorma’s words, Christoph saw his path. He took a third deep breath, and as he did so, the weight on his shoulders was transformed into a great strength, which carried him forward – as he dove into the icy lake. Under the surface he went, where the lake is dark and full of mysteries. But as he swam, strong and determined, he rose again toward the light, and air, stroke after stroke pulling him all the way across the deep water to his village, where he arrived soaking wet but proud and confident as he walked up to the schoolhouse door. For duty and responsibility can drag us down to the bottom of the dark waters, or they can make us strong and sure, and this strength will carry us far. In this way, instead of being lost, we find our true path to the joys of our heart that stand waiting at the doorway; it is no matter, then, how we may appear to others.

Gorma picked up her bag and her walking stick, Saint Thomas, and walked on down the path by the lake, quiet and smiling. She reached the next albergue just in time for a bed, for which she was very grateful, and she slept deeply. Outside, the lake waters lapped gently against the shore, and ducks floated sleepily in the gentle rocking, warm and cozy in their downy feathers. And far, far away, many days’ travel from the village, high in the wild mountains, a lone wolf howled.

Buen Camino, Christoph.