Let’s begin by being completely
honest. It was a hard trip. Heat, blisters, colds, muscle fatigue. worries
about having enough time to complete the journey and the nagging feeling
of being plagued by forces beyond our control.
Our every attempt to achieve
a little continuity - even three days of continuous walking - to develop
a little momentum sabotaged by yet another ailment. Only a mutual stubborn
refusal to be taken down by some unknown Gollum that stalked us day and
night, and a determination to fight back, kept us going, and out of this
grew a fierce adamantine strength of will, unspoken between us, that we
would go the distance.
Also let it be said that there
were happy moments: drinking wine in the late afternoon sun, unexpectedly
coming upon enchanting villages, looking around us at breathtaking vistas
of mountains and seeing below us deep valleys. Knowing pridefully that
we had scaled heights far beyond anything we had ever imagined. Such times
were intoxicating, awesome, delightful, joyful as any we could recall from
And there was the honest work
of a day’s walking with a pack on one’s back, and in front of us a seemingly
endless uphill path as far as the eye could see. Not to mention the felling
heat of midday, the chilling rains of fall, the why-am-I-doing-this angst
of a midnight waking. Have I left anything out?
That final never-thought-it-would-arrive
moment of entering Santiago 44 days after starting out, with that unexpected
feeling of sadness that it was coming to an end. The pilgrims’ mass in
the cathedral, our names being read out, the unexpected swinging of the
incenser, the exalting chords from the full-throated, wide-open pipes of
the organ, tears of joy as we embraced one another, full in the knowledge
that we had overcome. We had won through to the journey’s end.
Returning home washed in remembrance
of a pilgrimage beyond time and place, as unspeakable and private and special
as a night of passion between lovers who would if they could, but unable
to find words or means to convey the painful ecstasy of their tryst, simply
smile knowingly at each other and tell them we’d had a good time.
reflections on pilgrimage of life