When I was still in preparation for this pilgrimage, I wrote a post entitled “Momentum” about the phases of the journey and the idea of sliding my own footsteps into those of pilgrims many centuries old once I began. Now I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like after, in some cases, many months depending on where they started…finally arriving in Santiago de Compostela–the Field of Stars–and the cathedral with all its opulence, pomp and circumstance. But even more so, for those who elected to make the further journey to Finisterre, Land’s End, all the way to the sea. For some, seeing such a large body of water for the first time.
What it must have been like…gazing out from the End of the World, as it was known at the time. Anything beyond the horizon was unknown and, for all they knew, could have been The Great Abyss. From the Field of Stars to the End of the World, the two seem linked in some way.
This is where I went to more reflect on my Camino and where it has brought me. Finisterre is a small town, but I elected to stay out of town away from the crowds, overlooking the sea and a short walk away from the lesser frequented beach on the western side called Praia Foro do Mar. I spent most of my time there gazing out at the view and walking the beach. Indeed the ocean seemed to stretch into oblivion. Depending on the time of day, it shimmered, not much differentiation from water to sky, and could have been easily taken in those old times for a pathway continuing to the heavens.
I have been sheltered on this journey in a way pilgrims weren’t back then, or for so many people today. Life has been simple. You get up. You walk. Although I had some challenges, I was not attacked or robbed. I had food and water. I had a bed to sleep in. I was not isolated. The outside world was kept at bay. Life has been simple.
I made the mistake of turning on TV for the first time since I began the Camino and watched the news on Al Jazeera, known for not candy coating the facts. I saw the reports from home on the latest acts of racism and violence. Having been sheltered from these increasingly regular occurrences for the last two months, I can’t describe the level of horror and sadness with which I took this in.
Somewhere on this pilgrimage, I read where–I believe it was the Dalai Lama–was quoted, “We see bad news because it is news.” Essentially saying, so much good is in the world it’s not news of difference but the bad is. Perhaps seeing that statement was preparing me for the moment I mentioned above. It’s something to sit with. About halfway through the Camino, a woman from Greece asked me if I thought evil exists. I answered yes. You can’t have light without the dark. Somehow there’s a way to integrate the two and/or accept what is. I know Indigenous traditions that do, the Maya being one. I don’t know much about Buddhism but think something similar is true within that belief system.
Although I never really left this world, there was a buffer. Now I’m faced with being reminded to provide my own buffer, while still acknowledging these things are there. It’s the world I’m re-entering. To deny otherwise is fooling myself.
I started this walk asking to learn how to be most present, and continue doing what I love and care deeply about…but with more grace and ease…and give care to myself much more. I come back to this intent, this question.
When I bought the bus ticket back to Santiago, the agent said, “It’s good for any day. There are no assigned seats.” To my ears I heard a deeper message: This must be the threshold I spoke of at that communal meal back in St Jean when answering why I chose to undertake this pilgrimage.
I’m at a choice point. There’s no prescribed path but the one I choose. There never is. I’m disengaging from the footsteps of pilgrims past and landing firmly back into my own–although I never left them.
In “Momentum” I spoke of the small (but mighty) Singing Bowl my dear friend Hilary Bee had entrusted me to carry on the Camino. I sounded it during key points for me along the way, the most recent standing, facing the sea, at the End of the World. The vibrations of the Camino live within its shape as much as its pronouncements are sent ahead. With gratitude I’ll send it back across the ocean to Hilary in the UK once I’m back home where I’ll sound it to introduce those vibrations to the larger bowl she made, her community supported, and she gave to me. Full circle.
In Finisterre I booked a place through airbnb.com with Rosa Trabo Martinez for a room listed as Einzelzimmer Cape Finisterre. It’s actually a modern three-story home with other bedrooms available and common rooms, bathrooms and kitchen. I had the good fortune to be the only guest while there at a very reasonable rate. Rosa lives next door and was so accommodating to me. And you can’t top the quiet or view. If you’re thinking of going to Finisterre, I highly recommend.