The River of Life

I’ve been too speechless and emotional to write my blog for the past two days. As we walked the last 16 kms into Santiago, we were quiet and thoughtful, reminiscing about all we have been through. I fought back tears all morning, just consumed with emotion. Whether it was exhaustion, joy, sadness…I don’t know, but I guess I feel all of these things. I didn’t feel like this last time.  I sobbed when I walked into the square, when Colleen and I looked at each other. I couldn’t speak.
It was a shock and I was overwhelmed with all the people around me, after such solitude.  I stood watching as each person experienced their own version of what I was going through. Some just stared at the sky or the cathedral. Others rushed to greet people they had met along the way. Some lay on the ground exhausted, and some just looked as though they were like me, in shock. I noticed the Indian man sitting cross legged on his mat in a far corner. He was meditating. I had heard of him but we had not met. He had taken a vow of silence for the whole VDLP!

I looked around at all the different people, all coming together because of one destination. Like the scallop shell with its lines all pointing to one spot. 

I’m so glad I kept a blog, my diary. Reading back over it brings everything back. I was led to believe that the VDLP was flat and boring but it is anything but. Yes, there were long flat plains, heat, flies and nothing much else for a while but mostly it was very scenic, hilly, mountainous and truly beautiful. The Roman ruins we encountered, although expected, were mind blowing. My feet absorbed the energy of those who have walked before me over centuries. The solitude enveloped me completely. This Camino was such a different experience. A friend told me of an ancient teaching about the ever flowing river of life carrying us forward and how you can never put your foot in the river in the same place twice… The water of the past has already flowed on. Seems very apt.

I’m  tired but unable to sleep right now. It’s 2.30 am and we are in an apartment near Finisterre (the end of the world). We went to watch the sunset at the lighthouse tonight. It was windy, cold and pouring with rain, but we went anyway. The sky cleared for a few photos and I walked down to the bronze boot which is soldered onto a large rock on the cliff top. I watched people come and go, standing perilously close to the edge of the cliff as they posed for photographs… Some elated and some deep in thought. I watched a sight impaired man just breathing in the atmosphere, probably imagining what was in front of him, and I envied his experience, wondering what was going through his mind. I sensed he was ‘feeling’ a lot more than most. 

The rain bucketed down and everyone scrambled for shelter in the cafe. It was so noisy in there. A man asked Colleen if he could have the seat next to her because he had just walked 800 kms! She gave it to him. I couldn’t cope with it all. I waited for the others by the door, happy to breathe the fresh air and not the conversations. What has happened to me? Who am I to judge? We have all just achieved and experienced something wonderful  no matter how far we have walked and it matters not the way in which we did it.

I have carried a few letters and talismans with me on this walk, hoping they will absorb the Camino’s gentle and humbling energy. I have held them in my hands as I sat in churches and cathedrals. I have prayed for these people, even though I am not Catholic or even Christian, but I don’t think that matters. The intention is set. I have prayed so hard for beautiful Jess and her family, for many of my friends who are going through hard times, and for people in my life who struggle daily with their various shit. And to my lovely friend Carlo, you have been a strong support for me with your kind and timely words. Keep doing the work you do. If only there was more people in the world like you.

And lastly, my thoughts are with Will. I thank everyone that contributed to his worthy cause as he struggles to improve and adapt to his new life. You can still donate if you feel inclined.

And perhaps it could be called littering, but I quietly left a fabric cornflower ( the symbol for Motor Neurone Disease) on top of a mountain the other day. As many of you know, my husband and his father both died from this awful illness. I hope the flower floats  away in the wind -free.

And so it is, as my  Via de la Plata Camino is complete, I will return to my life soon, unsure of how I will have changed.  I will go to Muxia tomorrow and spend a couple more days in Santiago before moving on to Paris and Normandy,  where I will catch up with other Camino friends from last year (Anne from Paris and Gerard from San Fransisco).

Everyone walks for their own reasons whether it is for religious, spiritual, physical or emotional. Everyone has their own experiences, inner growth. That is how I feel right now ……. I feel as if I have finally grown up.

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