Friday, April 18, 2014

Journey's end

Well, we have arrived.  Our good weather held out all week, and so we walked in sunshine the final day from Santa Irene to Santiago.  It was a reasonably long day -- 25 km or so -- and so it was with some pain in legs and feet that we made the last few steps into the plaza to see the Cathedral at last.  The last few days in Galicia are up and down through the rolling hills, sometimes in pine forests, sometimes in chestnut and sometimes in eucalyptus, intersperced with what seems like very rich farmland.  It is a lovely walk.

It was with mixed feelings that we concluded our walking pilgrimage.  On the one hand, we are very glad to get those packs off our backs!  On the other hand, we are not quite ready to be done with the experience of the Camino.  

So we walked into Santiago, admired the cathedral -- there is something awesome about the Santiago cathedral, even with one tower shrouded in scaffolding for restoration work -- and then headed for our night's accomodation to clean up and rest a bit.  Then on to the Peregrino office to get our offical "Compostela," the document that would have been called an "indulgence" in days gone by.  It is the official "you did it!" document.  And our names were recorded to be part of the prayers in the next pilgrim mass at the Cathedral.  

We actually have yet to go into the Cathedral for anything other than worship, so we haven't done the end-of-pilgrimage things that are part of the tradition -- ascending the steps behind the altar to hug the apostle's statue, and such.  Apparently some of these things one can no longer do, because they are causing wear and tear on the stone!

Next day we attended the pilgrim mass...

...and then headed out to Finisterre, the "end of the earth."  Finisterre is beautiful -- near the end of a spit of land, with beaches both on the Atlantic side and on the protected harbour side.  

We headed out to the lighthouse at the end of the point -- about an eight or nine km walk, which seems like a rest day now, especially without the packs.  We took some lunch, and ate out by the lighthouse, and watched, as we ate, two large groups of dolphins swim 'round the point -- jumping, leaping, splashing.  It was magical, but too far away for a photograph.

This is the other official end to the pilgrimage.  Traditionally, pilgrims would burn their clothes here (which by now would be rather ripe, traditional pilgrims not being as scrupulous as we have been about washing), bathe in the Atlantic (not under the lighthouse, which is quite dangerous water), and watch the sun set.  Then next morning they were to awake as if newly baptized, fresh and new into their post-Camino lives.  We didn't burn anything (though it was clear some have), and we found the Atlantic pretty darned cold at this time...

Then we walked back up to the top of the ridge for the views -- and to see the old Celtic sacred stones from which one could see the sun's nightly "death" in the Atlantic, and its rise in the east.  And after a fine meal of fish (this is a fishing village, after all) we headed back to Santiago.

Here in Santiago it is Semana Santa, with all those processions (see the previous post).  It is an interesting time to be here; the processions make heavy use of symbolic imagery in order to bring people into the story.  Here you can see one of the virgin Mary images -- with a sword sticking out of her!  Graphic image to recall Zechariah's words in Luke 2:  "and a sword shall pierce your own heart also."

The processions are interesting, and not what I expected.  There is certainly a solemnity to them, but they are also accompanied by marching bands -- as Karen has said, it is clearly street theatre.  An interesting way to proclaim, and enter into, the stories of the week.

So we are at the end of the Camino.  It has been something on the order of 800 km travelled (though not all by walking).  It has been fun!  There have been difficult parts.  It seems both like we only just got here to Spain, and that we have been here for ages.  We have met folks and formed surprisingly deep relationships, talking about things with people we've just met that we might not reveal to friends back home -- because we share this Camino, this quest.

Did we find what we were looking for?  That, I cannot answer.  I think it has been good for Karen and I to share this experience, to be a couple without the complication of shared work responsibilities.  I have tried as we have walked to live in the moment, to enter fully into the experience, to say "yes" to the life that the Camino has offered.   But have I been changed in some way?  I don't know.

I have rediscovered that I love Spain.  It remains a distinctive place, with strong cultural identities that have resisted the pressure to become generic, with big-box stores and chain restaurants.  It is still a friendly place, certainly on the Camino, where people will stop and talk even when there is no common language, where townsfolk take care of pilgrims with genuine friendliness and care -- even through we keep tramping through their space, tramping through their space...

Has something happened spiritually?  That I find even harder to answer.  It is as hard on the Camino to maintain a prayer discipline as it is at home.  At the refugios, once you awake, you need to get on the road fairly quickly.  There is little private space anywhere on the Camino.  So my discipline was simply walking -- and I cannot say what walking has worked into my body or my soul.  I do notice that I miss preaching -- that reflecting on Scripture and crafting sermons is in fact one of my primary spiritual practices.  Going to church isn't too satisfying here -- I just can't follow the Spanish.  I know enough about liturgy to know a bit of what is happening, and sometimes I can identify the Scripture that is being read -- but not being Catholic and not understanding Spanish means I am left out.   So in some ways I feel lost and disconnected...  But I knew when I came that I was looking for something deeper than all this -- deeper than ministry, deeper than thinking, even, something at the core of my being that I cannot access in "normal life."

So time will tell.  What have I "walked in" to my soul?  What have I "walked out?:  What did I leave behind at the Cruz de Ferro when I dropped my stone where folks have dropped stones for hundreds of years?   I am interested to find out.

But for now, the journey is ended, and a brief vacation begins.  We will rest, and continue to experience Spain, and Easter in Santiago, and perhaps after a time of reflection I will be able to say more about what might have become new as a result of this Camino.

So over and out from me from Santiago.  We'll post a few more about Easter, and Karen will finish her reflections here to wrap up this blog by Easter Sunday.

 Thanks for your interest, and blessings and love towards your own journey, wherever and however you are travelling.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, thoughts, insights, and photos. My God parents are on the trail, a few hundred km behind you, and between the 4 of you I have received a wonderful third-party/vicarious experience. Thanks, and safe travels for the rest of your journey!