November 5, 16km
Arriving in this lovely city amidst flurries of pilgrims drifting in all directions, but tending to clump together in the nooks and crannies of the Cathedral, is quite something. Santiago de Compostela has scallop shells in every conceivable location: in the design of the manhole covers, etched above doorways, in brass on people’s gates and of course in the signage of every establishment wishing to get a piece of the pilgrim pie. Hoorah! The city! I suppose it has always been this way, God bless it. The arrivals and departures and meetings and surprises around the corner. In such a city everyone and everything is rubbing shoulders and it makes fine sparks and a good blaze, given a bit of kindling.
For my part, and I’m sort of a bit sorry to say, really, it’s
been more of a going through the motions to complete the pilgrim necessities of arriving in Santiago. Obtaining the Compostela, going to the pilgrim mass at the cathedral, hugging the saint… for me the moments which signal the fullness and completion of this pilgrimage have happened without the fanfare I imagine should be present in the ‘arrival’. They were hugging Grandfather oak yesterday or the day before, and Letizia and I getting a tear in the eye as we saw the cathedral spires this morning from a few kms away, and being brushed by the trees which for me was like the way pilgrims would be washed in preparation for arriving at the holy place.
Tomorrow we walk on to Finisterre, another three days north and west. This feels like the real end. Santiago is the end of being a pilgrim and the journey to Finisterre is the beginning of the walk onwards, new and renewed, smaller and with a budding sense of having no idea who we are.
Apparently for pilgrims of the middle ages, when Finisterre really was the end of the world and out there was the edge that one could fall off, the arrival at land’s end gave not a ghastly and frightening vista of the unknown, but rather a reaffirmation of the world, the known and the tangible things of life. As if the Camino was a time of renunciation of the deepest kind, most especially of one’s treasured beliefs and ideas of how it should all be, but that in order to make the journey back to home and spouse and life and work, one can – and must – pick up again those things one has temporarily put down.
I find this fascinating indeed.
But for now, it’s time to meet our dear Michael again and go for a glass of wine in the Parador, another pilgrim tradition, before dinner at Casa Manolo.
Buen Camino ragazzi!