…Bearing down the suffering road,
You were carrying your burdens,
To the palace of the Lord.
From “No guru, No method, No teacher” an album that is arguably Van Morrison’s magnum opus.
Or as Baldrick would say, his magnificent octopus.
The song floated into my mind as a woman hailed us Buen Camino from an upper window in her house as we walked past and I thought the lyrics quite apt.
I was beginning to accept the weight on my back as my burdens to carry to St James, to offer up for hope and forgiveness. It really helped me rally my strength and push on at times, knowing that this was my cross to bear.
It appears a few customers are a tad miffed that I have not concluded properly, my little odyssey. So at the risk of not fully delivering on what was promised, I shall bring this little collection to a conclusion and sign off.
A Philosopher set off on a journey and before starting, turned to his apprentice and asked “Please shorten my road”. The apprentice was befuddled saying he did not understand and so his master turned, went home and told him to be ready to start again the very next morning. Proceeding again their journey, he asked again to the apprentice, “Please shorten my road”. The young man was dismayed. “How can I possibly shorten the road. I do not understand”. Again, his master turned and went home instructing his apprentice to be ready at first light. The poor young man returned home at a loss. He explained his plight to his Mother and so she sat him down and told him that the next time he was given this instruction he was to tell his master the story which she then recited to him. Sure enough, the very next morning the Philosopher commanded his apprentice, “Please shorten my road”. The apprentice then started the story his Mother told him and by the time he had finished, they had reached their destination. “Thank you” said the Philosopher “for shortening my road”.
A quaint little tale told to me on the road by another Pilgrim, as we agreed that good conversation certainly soaks up the miles.
The final day into Santiago was a happy day of pleasant company and nice little places to stop and refresh.
It was a strange feeling of elation that the journey was at an end but also sadness for the same reason. There is a part of one that just wants to keep walking and doesn’t want the adventure to end but as we all sometimes too painfully know, all things must pass.
Entering Santiago is odd. It must be like entering London in say, Peckham but you are heading to St Paul’s Cathedral. You may finally be in London but you still have a long way to go. Still, a quick hitch up of the old rucksack and onwards on adrenalin.
15 mins out I thought I would pay homage to my dear compadrés at the Bouncing Barrel in Herne Bay and walk the final part of my journey playing the beautiful guitarlele they bought me, so wonderfully illustrated with the Camino by the gifted artist Mr Peter Gander.
And so this was it.
Finally, my fellow Pilgrims and I entered the great city of Santiago de Compostella after (for me) a month of walking across Northern Spain.
The atmosphere in the main square was happy and busy. The Cathedral was majestic.
We went to the office to receive our official certificates after having our Pilgrims Passports scrutinised and being congratulated officially, receiving the certificate, then stepping out to realise the weight of accomplishment and that it was finally all over, was for me (of course) quite overwhelming.
I then went to the shrine and wrapped my arms around the broad shoulders of old St James, hugged him as if I didn’t ever want to let go and allowed the tears to flow. I then followed the signs to the crypt and there behind glass was a silver casket containing his mortal remains. Yes, I can hear people shout…”allegedly”…”yeah right”…”don’t be fooled” but I don’t care. People have been doing this for a thousand years and I believe.
I believe in God. I believe in the life of Christ and most importantly the mystery of his resurrection. Yes there are a tons of things I can’t rationalise or explain (and don’t really care to), a billion questions to which there may never be answers enough to satisfy the human mind but it is the power of faith not to believe in what is seen but what remains unseen.
You think I’m mad?
Take a look at the double slit experiment, particle entanglement, the serious discussions physicists are having around simulation (a discussion no different in my mind to the contingency of being and the un -moved mover, that Thomas Aquinas was reasoning in the 13thC.) Some science especially in the field of quantum physics is looney tunes compared to my belief 😂
Anyway, I am wandering off topic.
At the kindness and generosity of my Sister I was treated to 3 nights of unashamed luxury in a Parador right by the Cathedral. In the 15thC it was a hostal for the Catholic Kings on Pilgrimage and boy did they know how to do the Camino. The place is a palace. No dirty, flea-bitten, unwashed here my friend.
The Camino has been a wonderful and hopefully life changing thing to do. It has really affected me in ways I could not have imagined but maybe that’s usual when someone achieves a big goal in life. I must admit I don’t get out much😀 and haven’t done many great and adventurous things, so maybe it’s an effect of that.
But whenever I see a scallop shell or a yellow arrow something stirs deep inside and a yearning arises. A yearning for the Camino, for enlightenment, for God?
This sign as you enter the outskirts has been artistically defaced by passing Peregrinos. It is a wonderful sign of togetherness, shared experiences of pain and joy and a unified celebration of achievement. I have loved spending the days here watching new Pilgrims come into the square, crying, laughing, hugging and cheering each other. I kind of envy them. It’s funny. But it gives me a warm glow.
And now I am here…
…much further south in Andalucia at a house The Sister keeps, resting and reflecting and waiting for Easyjet prices to fall so I can come back to Albion.
So there it is.
A big thank you to all the followers of this blog journey. The support, well wishes and humorous comments. And to all the dear folk at the BB for the multitude of kind and generous gifts and good wishes.
I consider myself lucky to have such goodness in my life.
Buen Camino on the journey through life to you all.