Stage 21: Astorga to Foncebadón
Official: 25.19km // iPhone Step Count: 24.4km
Situated amidst the clouds the mysterious haze blurs the lines between myth and reality.
As a child I remember always looking up to the clouds knowing, with childhood confidence, that Heaven was up there. On my first plane ride, around 8 years old, I remember the excitement of plunging into the absolute whiteness of the clouds. My eyes glued to the window, transfixed by the illusion before my eyes, and baffled by the blazing sun that arose as we pierced through the surface of the cottoned clouds. The blinding whiteness before the bold blue sky, I knew I was right, I knew this was heaven. “Mom,” I exclaimed, “we’re in heaven!”
Now, some 20 years later, up here, atop the highest point along the Camino, those same clouds surround us. Through the trees and shrubs the clouds billow through the leaves and creep into the streets and between the buildings. Open doorways and windows seem to invite the damp fog to flow indoors. The mysterious white haze questions even the shortest distances.
What has happened in those twenty years?
At 8 years old, I knew that heaven was amongst the clouds.
At 28 years old, now in the clouds, the only thing I know is the unanswered questions of some untold mystery.
What experiences have changed my perceptions of God and Heaven? What experience have changed my understandings of life?
Was it a loss of innocence? Some stupid sin? Feigned intelligence?
Was it a profound moment that suggested something different? An epiphany?
In life we pick up ideas, beliefs, and wisdom that we have collected along our travels. Books, teachers, courses, family members, friends, moments, and experiences all paint upon the canvas of our own reality. Some add rich reds and profound purples, while others shade with violent violets and grieving greys. The truths of the masterpiece known only to an unknown artist.
While we are never fully given a new canvas in life, we are often offered moments to reclaim parts of our story.
As we continue to walk, we carry our canvas with us as we pass through new experiences. With broad brushes, sections of our canvas are whitened leaving a veiling color over our previous pain(ting). The thickness of the new surface reminds us that what has passed is never fully forgotten, only transformed into a new space for growth.
The haze of these mountainous clouds seem to be suggesting the same. Just when we feel ourselves isolated and alone, a gentle breeze blows and a subtle figure fades into existence. A bright orange shirt upon a trusted friend washes through the colorless clouds. Browned buildings beckon in the distance.
What seemed impossible and unknowable is gently revealed. Hope slowly pierces above the horizon of clouds.
That little 8-year-old-Bobby, mesmerized by the brilliance of the clouds, still lingers within me. Amidst the thickness of the clouds, however, he seems an impossible distance away. Beneath layers of paint, the fabric of his absolution is alive, yet I have only just begun to plunge above the surface.
My life, it seems, has been colored by untold stories that, for good and ill, have clouded the simplicity of my existence. Rising into the mountains and preparing for the Crux de Ferro tomorrow, these clouds are slowly beginning to seep onto my canvas, bleaching the chaos of my life.
The line between mystery and realty fades, and my soul fails to recognize the difference.