Saturday, June 19, 2004

Reflections on a journey to heaven.

Hola nos amigos y amigas,

This has been a journey - a journey of yellow arrows and scallop
shells, a journey of high lonely sierras and wide empty mesetas,
of blisters and beauty, of backpacks and people on the route, of
wildflowers and roses, cows and sheep, chirping birds and croaking
frogs. We have walked the road for 28 days and covered 600 kilometers,
and now we feel we will miss the daily walk with beauty and solitude.

Last evening we went to Mass and saw the great incense burner swing
overhead. Today we went to the church, walked through La Puerta
del Perdon (open only in Jubilee years and providing us with an
extra measure of protection when we reach purgatory) and followed
the tradition of the pilgrims down the centuries.

We put our hands into the open mouth of the creatures at the base
of a marble pillar, our hands on the imprint of fingers in the same
column which are the mark of millions of fingers, bumped our heads
against Maestro Mateo, the wise builder of the Cathedral, and hugged
the image of the saint above the main altar with it´s cape of gold,
silver and jewels. In the crypt below we viewed the silver casket
holding the bones of Saint James (Santiago), and watched as two
devout Catholics recieved communion at the chapel of the casket.

There are so many memories of the camino which we will keep with
us forever. Perhaps the most special is the memory of people. So
many people along the way, people who live along the Camino, and
see pilgrims every day, welcomed us and greeted us with a serious
Buen Viaje, or even better, Buen Camino. A little old lady in the
last week stood at the end of the lane calling to pilgrims and offering
them little sweet wild strawberries. A seven year old boy on his
way to school at 8:00 am called us a Buen Camino as he went alone.
And those whom we called friends as we went, from all over the world,
Denmark, Germany, Mexico, Uraguay, Australia, Holland, Canada. These
are the people we walked with, the walking wounded and those like
Geordie, injury free, but all excited to be on the Pilgrim Trail.
We remember how hard it was to get started again after a stop on
the Camino de Cafe, with feet which again had to get used to the
feel of rocks, concrete, pavement or dirt tracks.

And we know the Pilgrims keep the farmacias in business along the
route. How much tape, how many blister packs do the sell, and how
much pain reliever? I used 15 meters of tape, ten packs of gauze
bandages, five in a pack, which I cut into fours with my trusty
scissors and a container of vaseline to relieve my blisters as I
wrapped them. And a quarter liter of Betadine to keep my blisters from being infected.

Santiago comes as a shock - a big city with traffic, people everywhere
and no greetings of Buen Camino anymore. We had a chance to see
some of our friends from the road, but we feel we have lost a large
group who have all headed off on their own personal camino now.

Today we went shopping at designer shops, Spanish designers like
Adolfo Domingo, Zara, Pull and Bear - Espana a la moda. Geordie
has new socks, we both have new shirts and we have tired legs from
shopping - a rather different pilgrimage.

We are heading to a beach soon. We plan to leave tomorrow, Thursday,
for Pontevedra and from there to the beach areas along the west
coast. We will soak our poor tired feet in the cool salt water of
the Atlantic Ocean and think of those of you across the water. At
mass last night both Geordie and I made our prayers for our families,
our friends, the pilgrims on the trail and the people who helped
us along the way, not forgetting the nurse who bandaged my feet
and the woman who blessed me as I limped out of the treatment room.

We thank all of you for your concerns, your love and your thoughts
as we walked on. You have been with us in thought and mind, and
we feel we have been with you. Gracias to all of you.

Yesterday we got our Compostela - the certificate which names us
as honest pilgrims on a journey of discovery. Since it was in Latin we will sign off that way.


Nigellum and Georgium