It has been one week today since I walked into the city of Santiago, tears flowing freely but was not embarrssed by it as so many pilgrims were doing the same thing. The emotion one feels at the completion of this journey is amazing and I heard people, who were not doing this as a pilgrimage, say that something about this path got to them. I know it did to me.
I have not published this blog as a travel guide to the Camino as there are lots of those, but rather as a guide to the feelings and emotions I had as I walked it. I did this pilgrimage as a way to reappraise life's purpose for me and I think it did that. I felt from the start at Saint Jean Pier de Port, in France, that what I was doing was going to be life changing for me and it was. That first day of nearly 20 miles was the hardest thing I have ever done. I could hardly unlace my boots when I got to my hotel 12 hours later and was so tired that night that I could not sleep. But not one time did I think if quitting but along the way, on some of the long, long days with the temperatures close to 100 and no shade a all, I did think that I might just die on the Way. Truly. But along the Way I saw sights which amazed me: a cow had just given birth to a calf and while she was cleaning it up a horse came over and helped her lick the baby clean and get it on its feet! I have 3 pictures to prove it. That to me was a miracle and it said that this path of 1250 years was special. I saw strangers stop and try to help fellow pilgrims who were struggling with blisters or the heat or just exhaustion. They did not even speak the same language but givng aid knows no language. I made a list of the different countries the pilgrims I met came from and it totaled 23 countries as well as the 7 Americans I met. Four of the seven were monks from New Mexico who did the entire walk in the long black robes with US Army issued backpacks! And they were FAST! No one could keep up with them!
This journey went from the high mountains of the Pyranees in France to the valleys into Spain which were rich with vineyards and olive groves, through the Death Valley dry soil of miles and miles of cut grain fields to the old Roman roads to the untouched villages of a thousand years ago to the lush green of the Irish Spain as you walked your way into Santiago. Five hundred miles of 1,610,000 footsteps of the millions of pilgrims of the past and present who, for whatever their reason, left their own footprints in the dusty soil for others to follow.
I know I shall not pass this way again but the memories I made will stay with me the rest of my life. As Fr. Codd said in his book, "To the Field of Stars", I must remember that this time of the Camino is not my whole life but just a short period of it but my experiences will last forever and the love I felt for my fellow pilgrims will always be there.
May God bless each of you with your own personal Camino, wherever and whatever it is.