To make living itself an art, that is the goal. – Henry Miller
Now I know why many men have stopped and wept/ Halfway between the loves they leave and seek/ And wondered if travel leads them anywhere… -Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music
Early on while walking the camino I worried about returning home and feeling as if nothing had changed. After living back in sweet San Diego for four months, I can see that my dear friend Nicole was right: if you have changed, then so has everything else. I think about the camino and subsequent 10 day vipassana retreat I did almost immediately upon my return stateside nearly every day. As cheesy as it sounds, after a rough year in Brooklyn I think they somehow managed to restore my soul back to a more primitive state. If I carry anything from these experiences with me, it’s the importance of embracing each day- its pleasure and its challenges, while making others feel welcome and appreciating the company of those you’re with now.
After resting for a day in Santiago the rest of my pilgrim pals returned home to their normal lives, while I continued walking, wanting to officially end my pilgrimage in Finisterre. The end of the known world until the discovery of the Americas, Finisterre was also a former pagan pilgrimage destination, believed to be the site the sun went to die each night. I was unsure what these final days walking would mean, but ultimately decided to view them as a chance to reflect on what I’d learned, and as preparation to let go of my life as a pilgrim.
Quite possibly the sweetest town of the whole camino, Ponte Maceira
I was told early on that the Camino de Santiago has three stages: physical, mental and spiritual. When I last wrote I was squarely in the middle of the mental- no longer under bodily duress but tired of the routine, of Spanish food, of the nightly snoring and farting keeping me awake every night. I began walking the Primitivo route from Oviedo on the first day back to school, a chill of autumn in the morning air, and it was from there on that strange things began happening. I would cruise for hours in a state of euphoria, totally blissed out. Changing the lyrics from Enrique Iglesias’ summer jam ‘Bailando’ to ‘Santiago,’ I convinced anyone I could to sing with me, and when alone serenaded the birds at full volume. I found myself crying at the sunrises, overwhelmed by the beauty found in every direction. Sometimes the wind would blow through the eucalyptus or pines just so, making them appear to bow as I was passing by… and I would bow back.
Oh, well hello! I really did have grand plans to write about all of the wonderful things that happened in August: my friend´s magical wedding in a little town straight out of Beauty and the Beast, wine tasting in Bordeaux, climbing the Dune du Pilat in Arcachon, revisiting my old study abroad haunts in Paris, and discovering that bohemia still exists in Berlin. Hopefully at some point I still will. However, even with ample time to relax in Toulouse, the hours somehow slipped away and I now have been walking as a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago for 21 days.