After a few quick days of traveling and relaxing on the beaches of Barcelona, I now have some time to reflect on my final walking day to Finisterre.
Excited by the prospect of affordable European travel, we decided to abridge our 90k walk to Finisterre. Taking advantage of visiting both coastal destinations of the Camino we caught a bus to Muxía and began to head south. Following arrows that pointed the opposite direction for a large portion of the journey we walked with hesitation to Finisterre—a feeling on our last day that was reminiscent of our first.
With our bus arriving past 10am and stopping for a filling breakfast we began our walk after noon. Knowing this would officially be our final day we headed to the point that until only 500 years ago was considered the end of the known world. For 30 kilometers we resigned ourselves to trying to answer the question, “What will we tell people when they ask, ‘How was the Camino?'”
Knowing that people would probably only want to listen for 5 minutes, we struggled with how to condense a difficult month into a quick exchange. Along beachside mountain ridges, we reflected on the people we walked with and the places we have been. Shaded by euclupius trees we reminesed on the stories that had unfolded before us. Stealing handfuls of wildflowers we rediscovered all the moments we carried with us and inhaled the aroma of their memories.
For as many people who walk the Camino annually, so too are the numerous reasons people have for beginning the pilgrimage. And just as life changes, so often what is expected from the Camino in the beginning has developed into someone new when we finally reach the end of the road. Each one of us seem to have gained something new and profound for each of the days traveled.
Perched along the cliff we watched the sun continue its daily Camino and under the mystical lure of its rays we each gazed upon the glory of this experience. While breaking bread and indulging in Spanish cheese, some shared that it was the overwhelming hospitality that surprised them and what they wished to carry with them when they return home. While eating local olives and sipping Rioja wine, others were mesmerized by the simplicity of the experience that rhythmically allowed them to accept each precious present. While slicing Iberian Chorizo and breaking Astorga Chocolate, still more shared how they valued being able to recognize the variety of people and walking with a communal family and how they dream to recreate that community back home. With the stories flowing as freely as the wine, we poured over our memories and watched the sun dive into the horizon.
Making its final descent, with the crest swimming below the surface of the Atlantic, a fellow pilgrim screamed into the distance, “Buen Camino Sun!” Laughing from the excitement of this regular mystery, the truth of his scream was obvious. The sun always rises and sets, but it is not until we stop to pay attention to its journey that we allow the majesty of its tranquility to grace us with its glory. Like the sun’s journey, we have always been on the Camino, but it was not until we began this pilgrimage that we allowed ourselves the grace to pay attention to our steps.
The regular setting and rising of the sun, marks countless other Caminos. Just like the items we brought from home to make this adventure, we soon recognized that this journey was only made possible because of the countless other journeys we had previously made. Experiences made in high school and college exposed me to encountering new spaces and places with an open heart. Experienced made in traveling and studying abroad allowed me to accept other cultures and unknown circumstances with a patient mind. Experiences on services projects and retreats allowed my spirit to humbly encounter the stranger and allow their soul to move with mine. The Camino de Santiago was both physically and mentally difficult, but the tools that were required to make this trek have always been with me. I have always been walking the Camino de Santiago but it was only a month ago that I allowed myself the grace to recognize that fact.
So now I will chant, “Buen Camino Sun!”, because while the sun is setting here, it is rising in other places. Our journey is revolving around its majesty, we only have to look up and recognize its Camino for it to mark our way.