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Today is Thursday, June 13 and I am in Palas de Rei.
I have a little cold. I am sniffling and my body is sluggish. This is not surprising for me because in 4 days, I will be in Santiago. After having worked so hard to achieve this goal, my body, my mind, my spirit are all asking the question....what now? It is scary to work for one and a half years to achieve a goal and suddenly realize that goal will shortly be successfully achieved and wonder where do I go from here?
Nevertheless, it is good to know that this cold is NOT about not having washed my hands properly, picking up someone else's cold, having pushed myself too hard, not getting enough sleep, having a compromised imune system, and on and on. It is all about my fear of:
It is the realization that every experience imprints itself in our being and produces consequences.
What is helping me as I work through this cold is the fact that the closer the date got for the start of my journey, the more nervous and scared I got. I worried about:
All of those worries proved themselves wrong. I can say that almost everyone was considerate, generous, very clean. The places I stayed in were almost without exception wonderful. My body, even with the knee problem, performed beautifully. Everything I needed was provided for.
So I think, my ego is showing up with its silliness, something I have experienced throughout the journey.
Speaking about the silliness of the ego, it was amazing to see that if I came upon another pilgrim on the trail and was walking so that I wanted to pass them, they invariably sped up because they did not want to be passed. I found myself doing the same thing. What is it about our pride that to be overtaken and passed seems like a sign of weakness or failure?
I have to tell a very particular story. When I left La Portela de Valcarce on my way to O Cebreiro, there was a trail for the pilgrims and a road for the bicyclists. The trail for the pilgrims was more rocky, undulated a bit, so there was lots of up and down before the steep climb from 600 meters to 1,300 meters. As I have told you, I'm a city girl and I love pavement. I find it amazing that the cell memory in my body associates pavement with my New York growing up years and how I ate up that pavement.
In any case, when the road divided and the pilgrims went on the earthy, rocky, stony path, I chose to go on the pavement with the bicyclists, even though it meant an extra 3 kilometers.
My friend Peggie, who is a serious mountaineer, said to me that it is all about pacing oneself. So I started to climb at my turtle pace, but doing it very steadily, letting my poles support me and I felt great. Along came this German man (I guess around 60 years old) and greeted me "Guten Tag" as he passed me on his bike. Soon, I noticed his bicycle started to wobble; he could not go fast enough to really climb. So, he got off his bike and started pushing it up.
Other bicyclists came along and passed him on their bikes, which seemed okay with him. However, every time he looked back and saw that I was gaining and getting closer, he would push harder. Mind you, I was the only walking person on this road. Soon, I could hear him mumbling to himself. I just continued at my pace and I would shorten the distance between us. At one point, he was so frustrated that he yelled. This went on for maybe an hour and a half. Finally, as we were getting close to the top, there was a place where the road leveled out and he jumped on his bike and pushed himself out of distance.
I was so glad he was gone because I certainly did not need to deal with road rage between a turtle and a slow bicyclist. Sometimes, he was so red I thought, "Please Lord, don't let this man have a heart attack and keel over. What will I do?" Afterwards I thought, the silliness of the ego. It would not allow a man to be passed by a woman. Enough of that.
Galicia is breathtakingly beautiful! For the first time on my journey, I am homesick because parts of Galicia remind me of the northwest--especially Western Washington and Canada as one travels the Canadian Rockies. It is incredibly green and the rolling hills, mountains, rivers are a feast for the eyes. My friend, Maria, comes from Galicia and I understand well why she lives in Western Washington, although Galicia is 10 times more beautiful.
Yesterday, I left Sarria and walked to Marcadoiro. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have had on El Camino. Walking through the woods on beautiful paths, the trees forming an arbor and because it was a lovely sunny day, the sun dappled through the trees on the path making it look like a bridal path bedecked with sparking jewels.
It was wonderful!
In Marcadoiro, I met a farmer who took me to his cow pasture, where I saw all these cows in their own environment, really up-close and personal. Can you believe it? Me socializing with cows? I told you, I definitely am not a picture taker, but I took a couple of pictures of those cows. Navigating the cow pies was something else again. But hey, I did it!!
I want to talk about leaving Sarria. I have been trying to leave the places where I spend the night by 7:30, and certainly no later than 8:00, so that I can get an early start and arrive at my destination around 2:00. I got up at 5:45 a.m. yesterday and I have become quite efficient with my rituals in the morning and was able to speak with Hart from 7;00 - 7:35. Then, I went down to have breakfast and thought, I will be out of here by 8:00.
Well first of all, it was almost like an American breakfast. They had hard boiled eggs (and I mean hard boiled), cheeses, cold cuts, cereal, fresh squeezed orange juice, delicious bread, croissants, and even a gorgeous looking cake, coffee and hot milk for hot chocolate. When I saw that I thought, "I am going to sit down and eat and not just grab something and dash." So I sat down and had a lovely breakfast. The woman who was in charge came to me and said, "You must try some of this cake. I made it myself." So I had a nice slice of cake. Then along came a lovely French woman I had met one day, when we were all alone on the path, and we spoke and I asked how she was doing and we spoke for about 10 minutes. When I was getting ready to leave, the woman of the hotel came and said, "I want to give you a hug." I did not leave the hotel until 8:30.
I started on my way and as I was walking, I must have seemed a bit hesitant, or maybe it was part of the plan, because this couple was sitting on the sidewalk drinking coffee outside a bar and the man said to me, "You are doing El Camino. This is the best way to access where you want to pick it up." We then spoke about how long I had been walking, where I began, and we chatted. By the time we finished, it was 9:00. I was finally on my way.
About an hour and a half into the trip, I was walking in the beautiful shaded woods (I always walk on the left side so that I can see upcoming traffic since sometimes cars are on the path) when I saw these two women who looked like gypsies coming towards me. One was on the left side walking towards me and the other one was on the right side. I continued to walk and we were almost colliding and I realized she was not going to yield, so I moved to the center to pass her. She moved to the center and showed me a piece of paper and she had a pen and she wanted me to sign something. I said "no gracias" and of course, realized that I was in a vulnerable position because the other woman was on the other side. She was insisting, when suddenly two tall guys came up behind me and said "no gracias" and we all moved between these two women and continued on.
I reflected on that experience and thought about how that all played out. I left late enough that those two men were walking when I was walking. I thought that, in the future, rather than moving to pass two people who can flank me, I should have stood and waited for the woman to pass me. I also thought how many times during the day are we cared for and removed from danger, whether it is that we pause and suddenly, that bicyclist we had not seen whizzes by, or we are held up at the office and there is an accident that we would have been involved in had we left earlier, or whatever. It made me thankful for this time without the daily distractions where I can pay attention to the way I am so beautifully cared for. I believe, it is the same for all of us, when we don't try to force things and go with the flow.
Today was a tough day, first because of this cold, second because it was rainy and not much fun to walk. I walked from Marcadoiro through Portomarín and believe it or not, going downhill was so much easier.
It was a long walking day (29 km), but I had a very early start (in Marcadoiro - (A) below) and am now here in Palas de Rei (see (B) below).
Tomorrow, I go to Ribadiso (B). Saturday, I will be in A Salceda (C), Sunday in Vilamaior (D) and Monday morning, I will leave extra early so I can be in Santiago (E) for the midday Pilgrim mass.
After that, we shall see what happens. I will try to write once I am in Santiago, for the last time.
From my heart to yours,
I am in Santiago de Compostela.
I left Vilamaior around 8:15 a.m. and got over Monte do Gozo (which means Forest of Joy) and as I started descending I could see Santiago.
(Statues at the top of Monte do Gozo with
the Santiago Cathedral Spires in the distance - to the left)
Of course, once I was down and started walking into the city, it took about 40 minutes to get to the Cathedral.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
By 10:30, I had my Compostela--my certificate of accreditation (see example below) for having completed the journey.
I have to tell you that when I reached the Pilgrim's Office next to the Cathedral, where I was to get my Compostela, I was sobbing. I cried as I waited in line.
And, when I reached the woman who did the paper work, I was a basket case. I apologized and she said, "This is very normal. People's emotions surface for different reasons."
My tears were of great joy and thanksgiving for:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for being my wings, for helping me fly, for helping me get through this journey.
After getting my Compostela, I started running into all kinds of people I had met along the way. It was like a huge graduation or family reunion. I kept being hugged and kissed and we were all so happy to have completed the journey.
I, then, went to the Cathedral for 12:00 mass and cried all through the service.
Santiage de Compostela Cathedral Altar
The church is beautiful and the music--oh the music!
The organ was magnificent and the organist absolutely fabulous! I love organ music and the music in this service filled my soul.
After the service, I went to find my hotel. My daughter, Rochelle, booked me into a wonderful hotel, 3 minutes from the Cathedral.
I am in heaven. I had a lovely surprise in my room.
Someone sent me a package from Lübeck, Germany with all kinds of fabulous marzipan goodies in it. I don't know who sent it, but whoever you are....I love you.
(The idea for this surprise was initiated by Awilda's son, John and his family (see below).
(It then became a joint family gift to celebrate & document this momentous journey and achievement!
Thanks, John and family for the great idea! :-)
So I opened my gift, dropped my things and the first question at the reception was "Where is there an internet cafe where I can use a computer?" And, here I am.
There is so much to tell you. But, that can all wait. I am going to have something to eat because I'm starving. But, it was important to let you know that I am here and to let you know that I couldn't have done this without you.
If I have learned anything on this trip, it is that:
Thank you for manifesting that awareness in my life so concretely.
Tomorrow, I will go to Fisterra ("Finisterre" in Spanish).
(I don't know if I'm spelling it correctly, but my wonderful editor, Rochelle, who has taken my meagre offerings and made them into masterpieces, will certainly make sure it is all correct.)
Santiago (A) to Fisterra (B)
(click to enlarge)
(FYI - The name Fisterra comes from Latin FINIS TERRAE, meaning "Land's End".
This name stems from the fact that this area is on a remote peninsula that is
one of the westernmost points of land in Galicia, and hence in Spain.)
I have two amazingly, creative children. John is occupied, at the moment, with my grandson - an almost 2 year old (born on July 4th) who lives up to his birth date. My grandson is full of fireworks and keeps John running.
So, John's lucky if he has time to read my epistles. But, I do know that he's here with me in spirit.
And, Rochelle has done a splendid job bringing my Epistles to life. Thanks so much, Rochelle.
More, much more to come.
From my heart to yours,
It is 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, June 28th, in Seattle and as I look out of the window in my office, the sun peeks through a blue sky, promising a beautiful day.
Today, I write from my own computer and there is no exploring a new city to find an internet cafe, no monetary or time constraints and my missive will not be underlined in red because the Spanish keyboard can't understand a word I write.
Even more importantly, I will have spell-check. :-)
This post script will close my El Camino journey.
I spoke to you last from Santiago sharing:
I also told you that I would go to Finisterre.
The day after I arrived in Santiago, I did a one day guided bus tour to Finisterre. Since I originally planned to return on the 30th of June and I arrived in Santiago on the 17th, (I never thought I could do it in that time frame) I had enough time to walk the 85 miles to Finisterre, return and catch my flight out of Santiago on the 30th. But when I arrived in Santiago, my heart knew that I had completed my journey.
I met 3 other pilgrims that I had encountered along the way who because of time constraints decided that they would do a one day guided tour to Finisterre and invited me to join them. I thought this would be the perfect solution, and it was.
Our bus left at 9:00 a.m and we returned to Santiago that evening at 7:30 p.m. Our guide was wonderful. We got to see the coast which is breathtakingly beautiful, stopped in several fishing villages along the way, Muxia, a very significant town for pilgrims, being one of them.
We saw stone structures that had both the Celtic pagan symbol and the Christian symbol of the cross,
Where people stored their grain and provisions and kept them dry during the winter next to every house,
And, when we arrived at Finisterre, I got to experience what the 10th century pilgrims thought was the end of the world from their European perspective as they looked out at the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, we know that Portugal is the farthest point west from Europe. The lighthouse in Finisterre which guided the ships through very treacherous waters, is very different from the lighthouses that I know from my travels in the US.
The following day, I flew from Santiago to Paris, arriving late afternoon, spent the night in a lovely Bed & Breakfast, 3 km from the airport, that my daughter researched and booked for me.
And, on Thursday morning at 10:40 a.m. my plane in Paris brought me to Seattle. It was an 11-hour flight, which meant I sat on the plane for an entire day.
I arrived in Seattle to find my husband, Hart, my daughter, Rochelle, and my son-in-law, Geoff, waiting for me exactly as they had been waiting until I was out of sight when I left almost 7 weeks before.
I had come full circle.
It has been a difficult 9 days. In the year and a half that I spent preparing for this trip, working with my incredible trainer Sheri Goodwin (below):
who did El Camino several years ago and who was key in preparing my body for the grueling day to day encounters that I would experience, and being mentored by Dr. Barbara de Lateur (on the right) who provided invaluable information, and speaking with many people,
The one thing no one told me was how difficult it would be to return to the world I lived in.
After all of that,
It is true that I went through large cities like Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon. But I was in those cities for a few hours and then I was once again walking in silence. It was more like having grandchildren. You enjoy them for a while, but then you send them home to their parents and you have peace and quiet again.
Rochelle and Geoff who did a 4.5 month bicycle tour traversing Canada from Vancouver, B.C. to St. John's, New Foundland last summer, said it took them several months to reintegrate into their lives in Vancouver after their tour. Having them here was helpful because they understood what I was going through.
Hart has been amazing. He has been incredibly patient and kind. I would get up every day, eat something, bathe and spend the rest of the day in bed in a fog. Of course, adding to the re-entry process is the jet-lag component. My dear sister Jean swears by No Jet Lag, a homeopathic remedy that works wonders for her. It works when I go east. When I come west, neither No Jet Lag nor Melatonin seem to work and I don't do sleeping pills!
As I write this one last time, I can say the fog is beginning to lift. You may remember that a man said to me along the way, "when you arrive at Santiago, think of me and ask yourself what now?"
I set out on this journey with 4 goals.
I think I did a pretty good job of accomplishing all my goals. I did not fall once. I listened to my body, heard it and learned so much that I was able to work on during the journey and which I will continue to work on. For the most part, I was able to be present and in the moment. I kept my heart open when I wanted to shut down and run away, and I laughed a lot and had fun, even when I was alone.
This journey has deepened and enriched my relationship with God, with myself and with everything and everyone on the planet because I feel His/Her/Its energy in everything connecting me to everything, supporting me unconditionally. I was never alone. God was beside me every step of the way.
A huge takeaway for me from this journey, (and there are so, so many), is that wherever I went, wherever I was, wherever I had been, there I was--there I am.
So much changed. Nothing changed.
Every day was different, every day was the same.
There is a sameness to being in the moment that if we are able to be, is unchanging. The change comes when we abandon it and in the process abandon ourselves.
What now?! On Monday, I will return to my studio, The Compleat Voice. I will continue my work helping others on their journey to own and refine their voice in the world even as I work to do the same.
This week, the Supreme Court made a decision regarding voting rights.
Their decision directly impacts and weakens our voice as a nation, as individuals, because the right to vote is the platform where we bring our voices, individually and in community, to express what we believe. Our voice expresses our power.
I have spent my life investing in, working with and using my voice in many ways to express and share who I am, what I believe with others. I love the voice and if you go into my website, TheCompleatVoice.com, you will better understand why.
So perhaps, my work is to be open to whatever opportunities are out there to make sure that as individuals, as a nation, we stand up and say to the Supreme Court, "no one takes away my voice without my permission and you do not have my permission." "Lift every voice and sing!"
The journey continues.
From my heart to yours,