camino de santiago, grief, period, pilgrim, suffering, Walking

Santiago de Compostela

We knew it was going to be a hot day — close to 90 F near noon, so we tried to get an early start. However, I must have turned off my alarm in my sleep and we woke up a little late. We were still out of the door by 7 am. It didn’t take long before I was dripping with sweat. Normally we have something to eat before we leave then take our second breakfast around mile 5. Instead we had nothing to eat before we left but we were eager to get moving. We came up on some restaurants a couple miles in but we weren’t ready to stop so we kept walking. Thankfully while we were walking through a wooded spot a guy was setting up a fruit stand, so we each got a banana. We finally stopped around mile 7 to eat.

Although we were hot and tired and had sore feet, we moved pretty quickly. We got to our meeting spot in Santiago at 11:45 am (12ish mile day). The group wanted to walk to the Cathedral together, so we waited at a cafe for everyone to arrive. One woman in our group had serious foot pain for most of the trip and it took her a long time to walk, which was a double whammy because the longer you walk the hotter it gets. We celebrated when she and her husband arrived. We were together. We were ready.

In addition to our group of 15, Lena (our Australian friend) was with us as well. So, the 16 of us walked around each bend waiting expectantly to see the Cathedral. As Jeremiah, our leader, said, for 1200 years people have walked hundreds of miles to reach this spot and now we have too.

I stood there in the heat looking around at everyone — some pensive, some elated, some in awe, some tearful. The Cathedral towered over us. The Cathedral pulled all of us up those challenging hills and pulled all of us down those excruciating descents. What is it about this Cathedral?

I’m not sure it’s about the Cathedral at all. I suspect it’s the tool we need to draw us closer to something else — God, Universe, Spirit, Self.

We arrived at our hotel after pictures and getting our certificates. We walked into this beautiful building with beds and showers and towels — heavenly. We walked in and within moments I felt the cramps come on. Sigh. The journey doesn’t end at the Cathedral. The journey never ends. Perhaps that’s the point of this.

We just keep taking steps.

This morning I woke up and got out of bed without thinking about my feet. Perhaps that’s partly because I didn’t have to use a metal ladder to get down out of bed! It’s also because my feet don’t hurt. This is not the same experience as my friends — some of them still have really sore feet. Our journeys are different. We all walked the same paths, we all reached the same Cathedral, but that might be where the similarities end.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to have reached this destination. I just really wish my period wasn’t starting as I reached it. I wish I could have a little more time. I wish I didn’t have to be confronted with this so soon, in the midst of such a joyous event. But maybe that’s what I need. To continually hold the tension, to constantly be reminded that this is the journey, that this is the Way.

We’re spending today in Santiago before going to Madrid tomorrow. We’ll spend a day there before heading to the airport and making the journey back home. We still have meals to share and stories to recount. We still have pilgrim’s mass in the Cathedral at noon today. We still have steps to take. We may have stopped walking that path, but we’ll never stop walking the one in front of us. It keeps going… and so I keep walking knowing the lessons of this Camino will stay with me forever.


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