I Have Arrived!

I don’t know that “I have arrived” in any elevated sense of the phrase, but my body is in Santiago de Compostela. We arrived November 6th after a seriously long trek across Northern Spain.

DSCN0929The last 16Km was not so long in distance or in elevation gain, but to make the pilgrim mass at noon, we had our work cut out for us. To allow for any hiccups along the way, we left at 6 :00 a.m. It is seriously dark at six – especially in a claustrophobic,  Hansel and Gretel forest. If anyone had dropped bread crumbs for us to follow, we never would have seen them. As it was, the Demboskys and Prebbles, adjusted their minimally effective /better-than-nothing headlamps and headed out through mud, mountain run-off and… no surprise here… rain. Nearly blind, we read the forest floor by Brailling it with our feet.

DSCN0986But we made it! With time to spare, we checked into our hotel, the XVI century Seminario Martin Pinario. The monastery is enormous! I am left to wonder how many thousands of young men gave their lives to God – who these men were – how they were called – and once they were called, to what far corners of the world were they sent.

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Parts of the cathedral go back to the 12th century. The exterior is newer and only goes back to 1750. (What snobs we’ve become! At this point, we really can’t be bothered with anything newer than the 15th century. Older is infinitely better.) Despite the cavernous space, the cathedral is warm and feels surprisingly intimate.

The giant censor swings -fumigating all the soiled and diseased pilgrims.

The giant censor swings -fumigating all the soiled and diseased pilgrims.

 

Gold drips off every surface behind the high altar (usually I get testy and political… going on and on about the human and cultural costs of acquiring the gold: in Peru, for example, 95 percent of the Inca population was wiped out through warfare, subjugation and disease), but in Santiago, I sat transfixed by the beauty and grandeur of it all. Don’t ask me to explain: my response was entirely emotional.

Smug in 21st century knowledge (if we don’t have the knowledge ourselves, it is only a few computer strokes away) it is all too easy to fall into the revisionist trap. Like Monday Morning Quarterbacks, we sophisticates harshly judge everyone whose past actions ultimately led to bad outcomes.

Prior to the mass itself, a nun welcomed the pilgrims and a goodly number of tourists and townfolk. She was plain of face, and her sensible black shoes, black hose, shapeless black dress and black veil did little to liven her up. But then she spoke. Her voice was warm and humorous. She liked us! She welcomed us to her home. And then as the priest and lay-readers worked their way through the service, she led the congregates in Gregorian chant and call-and-response. Chuckling, she urged us to give it more… to sing louder. What a delightful woman. Her voice was lovely, and the subtle play of her hand as she directed us through the music was beautiful – her artistry was that of a person who “signs” for the deaf. I was transported, not by the service itself, but by the music and the community of like souls together in an ancient place.

In Galicia you make every effort to capture that rare ray of sun

In Galicia you make every effort to capture that rare ray of sun.

I have experienced any number of surprises on El Camino. Perhaps one of the most surprising has been how many people have walked the Camino multiple times. When I have asked them why they did that, to the man they said that walking El Camino is addictive. Foot-sore and exhausted  at the time, I didn’t give much credence to their response. Today, however, I have a better notion.

Yes, it gets old… washing out your clothes in the bathroom sink at night and wearing them damp the next day, but walking with an international community of people looking for a transcendental experience, is a powerful motivation that takes you outside yourself. No one is on the same path, but everyone is looking for transformation.

A friend wrote a note the other day… something to the effect that she wished she could travel more. Her note arrived as I had just read Nuthatch, a poem by Kirsten Dierking  posted on the November 6th Writer’s Almanac. You should read the poem in its entirety but the first two stanzas read as follows: What if a sleek, grey-feathered nuthatch /  flew from a tree and offered to perch / on your left shoulder, accompany you / on all your journeys. Nowhere fancy, / just the brief everyday walks, from garage / to house, from house to mailbox, from / the store to your car in the parking lot. 

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You don’t have to travel to delight in the greater world.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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12 Responses to I Have Arrived!

  1. Brent says:

    Lovely. Peace comes in many forms as does joy. Thank you for sharing your journey.
    Brent

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Brent, Having left Spain and having picked up our London luggage, I am shocked by the amount of luggage I brought to the city. In contrast to my backpack belongings, far more “stuff” than I needed. Paraphrasing a quote that I don’t clearly remember: A rich man acquires something every day; a wise man loses something every day. If I have learned anything on El Camino, it would be to pack light. Metaphorically, we carry too much baggage with us.

  2. Carol Moran says:

    Thank your for sharing your journey and thoughts. We all have different journeys but we are not so wise as to share them. gives me something to think about. Love to you and your family and congratulations on your achievement!!! Carol M.

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Carol, It has been nice to re-connect with you and Judy. I look forward to getting together – New York or Colorado – both would work. If I can’t pin Christine to a date, I might just have to take the bit in my mouth and run with it.

  3. Els says:

    Congratulations on completing this journey, I am very impressed. We watched “The Way” last night and have some idea of where you went and feel we don’t have to travel the Camino, since we’ve heard it all from you and watched the scenery on the movie screen, HA!
    Now it’s time to come home and rest… safe travels!

  4. Mark Prebble says:

    Great blog Doris!!! Love, Lynn

    Sent from my iPod

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you, Lynn and Mark, for sharing El Camino with us. The ups, the downs and living in the moment. Even the downs were good. And the downs will get better with every passing day. Enjoy your time in Turkey. xo

  5. Nigel Orr says:

    Congratulations to all from Nigel . Hope to see you aboard Waterman soon.

    • timeout2 says:

      We have grand memories of your hospitality and The Waterman. It would be lovely to see the two of you again. Another month on the canals of France would suit me just fine. Best wishes, Doris

  6. Sherry says:

    Congratulations on your efforts and on your journey. I hope you had a fantastic celebration. Sending many blessings to you today; that your body will be healed and invigorated from this accomplishment and that your soul may see and feel more clearly as you return back to your normal daily life; and that you’ll share your experiences and insights with many others. LOVE to you Doris!

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