Camino de Compostela

How My Shadow Became Famous
(my first time walking the Camino)

reflections upon walking the camino

by Austin Repath

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 childhood

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. 

Current reflections on pilgrimage of life

Austin Repath

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