I got to about 3 km from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the goal for my 36 days of walking, and decided to delay my arrival. I stopped at one of the café/bars to have a longish café con leche, my last on this Camino, and thought about my journey.
I still didn’t know why I’d come on this pilgrimage. I wasn’t sure what I’d learned. Nor was I sure what would come of it. Regardless of this and despite the discomforts of the journey, I’d found unexpected pleasure on it.
And nowhere along the way had I broken the rules I’d set out for myself: carry your pack, walk every step of the way (i.e. no buses or trains) and no drugs to ‘quiet’ what my body had to say. IF the object of the walk was to ‘listen’, I’d truly tried.
In fact, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t ready for the pilgrimage to end. I wasn’t ready to give up the dorms in the albergues, The Pilgrim’s Menus (the good ones, at least), the early morning walk with the stars, the changing landscapes, the different faces around me, and the simplicity of life.
When I yanked myself from the coffee shop, I found an albergue to drop my bag at. None of my rules said I had to carry the damn thing right to the Cathedral door.
That done, I left the cathedral for after and wandered over to the Pilgrim’s office for my Compostela, the official documentation stating I had walked the last 100 km to Santiago. To confirm, this the woman behind the counter inspected my pilgrim’s passport. The last 100km required two stamps a day. For the rest of the days walked, only one a day was required.
Happy with what she saw, she copied my name down (wrong as I realized later!), handed me the document, and asked if I wanted a tube to put it in. That was 2 €.
I handed her the money and said, That’s it? I’d walked over 800 km. Shouldn’t my name be written in gold ink? Or maybe a drum could have rolled?
That’s all, she confirmed.
And now, I was in a bus, hurtling down the road at breakneck speed as I said good-bye to Santiago. Some mist lay in a valley as we exited the city. I reached for my camera, but we’d already turned a corner by the time I got it out.
If I’d been walking, there would have been plenty of time to choose the shot and to admire the real beauty of the setting. And I could have smelled green leaves, wet dirt and maybe even found a beautiful rock worth taking home.
Those Camino days were done.
Today, the bus would cover, the same distance it had taken 36 days to walk, in just 13 hours. Where was the lesson in that?
Was it something to do with time? Or how we use it? But what exactly?
An epiphany lay just out of reach in my brain. I tried to grasp it, but my reaching seemed to push it further. I let it go. For now.
Why, I wondered, as the scenery hurtled past, do we hurry so much? And what is the Santiago our life is rushing to get to?