Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 44 Camino de Santiago Aug. 18 Finisterre

I’m 56 years old.  I’ve had lots of days that were flooded with magic.  The kind of magic that makes growing old enjoyable. The kind of a day that years from now, when my bones are brittle, my memory a bit foggy, I will have a slight smile on my face.  Little children will look and say, “That old man is so crazy.  He just sits there and smiles like he knows what he’s doing!”  and the truth is, “I may not know what I am doing at that moment... but I know what I did on August 18th, 2012!   I made magic for people!!
     It started like most every other day on the Camino.  Get up.  Get dressed...start walking. Don’t think....just walk.  I thought about a wall on an albergue that I wrote on 100 years ago, or so it seems.  People had written some fairly “deep” thoughts, or tried.  It was a moment on the trail when I had just started to walk on my own, to reflect, to recover and to redirect.  I read that wall and thought,” What a crock of crapola!”  I read a few more.... I wanted to say, “Just shut up and walk!” but I said to myself, “Happy thoughts,  Steve!  Happy thoughts!”  so I tried again... “Shut the hell up and just walk!”  STEVE!!! HAPPY THOUGHTS!  and I tried again... “Stop thinking... and just walk!”  Today was one of those days.  
     Yes, I would walk to Muxia the next day, and that would be my last day of walking, but today, was the real last day of walking, and it was sad.  I didn’t know what to expect when I started out, but I knew that I couldn’t be with Nudia and Anastasia.  Nicer people you’ll never meet on a trail, but finishing this could only be done alone or with one of the original crew.  It could be done with Kevin, TIna, Gunther, Raj, or Sonnie.  But not with just anyone.  Unfortunately, Raj and Kevin were long gone.  Sonnie, Guther and Tina had disappeared.
     I told Nudia and Anastasia that I felt the need to walk alone and to their credit, they knew it.  Off I went.  Alone... and happy to be alone.  That’s new to me.  As I topped a mountain, I knew it would be the last time I saw Corcubion.  The finality of the trip was starting to wear on me.  My last albergue.  (Won’t miss that!) My last hike (will miss that).  Last planned day (don’t know if I’ll miss that!)

     As with all great journeys they begin with a healthy meal of bacon, eggs, toast, chocolate croissants, and coffee.  Okay, all of my great journeys begin that way.  Most other pilgrims have coffee and bread or just get up and walk.  Walk where??? Where are they going in such a rush??  I stopped at a very nice restaurant right on the beach.  I was the only one there for awhile and then a family came.  They looked at me as if I had a space suit on.  Hhhhhmm  must not be peligrinos!  I shot them all with my photon phaser gun!

    I’m always amazed at how much people tolerate with some pets.  How can you love a dog that yaps non stop!?  Or pees on the rug constantly?  or bites??  Finally, I met a dog that was happy to see peligrinos.  He sat there so sweetly, that I couldn’t help but photograph him.  Actually, I’ve met quite a few wonderful dogs.  Makes me miss ol’ Bucky!  Everyone should have a dog like Bucky.  I’d send him to that nut case that runs Iran if I could be sure he’d treat Bucky like he should be treated.  If he didn’t, the least of his worries would be the US nuclear arsenal.

    I love to see families working in a family business.  I grew up in a grocery store. I also remember shelling Lima beans, purple hull peas, and crowder peas under a single bulb in front of my grandfather’s barn.  Mom, Dad, my brothers, and I would sit with my Grandfather and Grandmother on upside down pecks.  Funny though.... this may have only happened once for all I know, but it seems like it happened hundreds of times.  Such is the memory of a childhood.  I was walking through one of many unnamed villages... oh I’m sure it had a name, but so many of them don’t have welcoming signs.  Heck, they don’t have street signs!!!  I know if I asked someone in town, “Why don’t you have a city name on the outskirts of town?”, the answer would be, “Why?  We all know where we live.”  Oh...Good point!  How stupid of me!!
      On this unnamed street in an unnamed town, lived three brothers that were working on octopus traps.  I walked by and they were busy at work.  When I said, “Con permiso...” (excuse me), they all looked up and it was like I was in a house of mirrors.  They all looked exactly the same.  I laughed and said, “Con permiso un segundo vec... pero son ustedes hermanos?”  (Excuse me a second time, but are you guys brothers?)  and of course they were.  
     After the pulpo hermanos (octopus brothers) encounter, the trail wound up into woodlands and it began to rain off and on.  I couldn’t have cared less.  My pack was covered. I had a poncho and an umbrella.  Someone had taken my umbrella at the albergue and someone else had left another umbrella so the lady gave it to me.  It was a Cadillac of umbrellas, and weighed about as much as one, but it kept me dry.  Did I care that I looked like a Mary Poppins’ transvestite traipsing through the forest??  Nope. Not even a little bit.  Deal with it!
      At one point, I turned a corner and saw blackberries.  I started to pick them and caught sight of a blue windbreaker that I recognized as Tina coming around a corner.  Having Tina there eased the day enough that it would still be emotional and meaningful, but it would not be like the empty feeling of walking into Santiago alone on a dreary, rainy day.
    And then it happened.  We saw Finisterre across the bay.  In times past, when we saw a village and knew that was our stopping point for the day, it always took forever to reach it.  But somehow, it seemed like Finisterre and us were moving closer to one another.  
    I took a deep breath and held my arms out to try and take it all in.  “All” is 40+ days of walking... about to come to an end.  There is such a feeling of... of... release, is the only word to describe it.  I understand why people put their hands up in the air.  It’s a feeling of submission... a feeling of humility, and acceptance that you are a vehicle for a different voice.  It felt like the thing to do at that moment.  I had many such moments when I would walk and hold my hands outstretched and frankly didn’t care who saw or heard.  There is great power in freedom of worrying about what others think.  Freedom..
     Then another miracle happened... we turned a corner and saw Gunther and his latest German frau coming down the road, on their way back from the lighthouse.  
     me - Gunther!!!
     Gunther - blahkenzie blahkenzie blahkenzie
     Me - once again Guther, I... do... not... sprechenzie Deutch!
     Gunther - blahkenzie blahkenzie blahkenzie
     Me - Das ist goot?
     Gunther - Ya Ya!!  blahkenzie blahkenzie blahkenzie
     Me - Well.... Aufweidersahn!  Chuis!
       The conversation wasn’t exactly like this... but close.  Still, Gunther was another piece of the closing of the Camino for me.  He walked down the hill, still talking to me in German, as if I had eaten a Berlitz tape or inhaled a “You too can learn German!” manual.  
   They have erected a huge cross at the top of the mountain, near the  lighthouse.  The hike to the top was a bit odd in that it was the first time on a trail of 900k that there was no trail.  We had to walk in the road and not just any road, but a road with many cars.  Felt strange to be so close to big mean cars!!  I could see the headlines now... "Apparently "7" wasn't a lucky number for an American pilgrim as he was only seven feet from finish line when a Smart Car ran him over.!"  There were enough cars to fill up parking lots at Disneyland AND Mount Rushmore.  
      Finally, the first step in the end of the Camino came into close proximation - the 0.0 kilometer marker.  No more hiking!  No more Camino.  At least not the actual camino.  There was still one more thing to do.  But before doing that, we stood at the 0.0 marker and at the same time said, "Remember the 790 marker way back in Ronceville, France?"  It seemed an eternity.  When talking to people on the Camino, no one could remember where they were the day before or the albergue.  Hard to explain.  That's why I'm glad have you (the blog/journal)!  Thanks for being here!
   Reaching the lighthouse provided enough of a distraction that it helped diffuse the emotions a bit.  I say that because it was, (not to sound haughty) but a bunch of non peligrinos who were running around, throwing rocks off the edge, even though people were walking below.  It was real world folks who were screaming at kids who didn't want to be there.  It was a circus only animals would have been acting more quietly.  

   The lighthouse did have an interesting exhibit.  Pictures and stories of ships that had crashed on or around the area.  The Great Liverpool sunk and had a tragic end for it's captain, who survived the crash... He cut his throat in Cee.  
atta boy... that'll really help those victims that you blame yourself for.  How about you really do something, like help their families?


      On one hill was a stick that is called the Peace Pole, I guess because there is a message written in several languages that says, "Can't we all just get along?"  okay, I'm joking.  You can read the pole yourself.

   This was my favorite sign of the year... well close, anyway... This antenna is at least 75 - 100 feet high with a wire running from the top to the lighthouse.  Imagine scaling that beast!  The sign says, "No hanging clothes from the antenna wire!"  Wow!  That takes guts.  The wind is always blowing 30 mph and it's 100 feet in the air, so were the Zambini Flying Brothers in town??


    When we reached the back of the lighthouse the terrain sloped steeply over large rocks to the water below.  From there, the view was non-stop to North America.  It looked like ... well the end of the world - Finisterre.  Awesome thought to think of the guts it took to hop in a boat that was only 60 feet long and sail into the unknown abyss of water.  60 Feet!!!  That's the distance from home plate to first base in softball.

   Then the magic began.  As mentioned before, one of the rituals of reaching Finisterre is that pilgrims burn an article of clothing.  Mercy!  I could have burned every piece of clothing and been justified.  In fact, I'm sure people were begging me to burn it all!  However, I had brought a pair of holy socks to burn.

    I expected there to be a fire but there wasn't.  There was evidence of previous fires, some built against a monument to a fallen peligrino.

That was not okay.  I had stopped at the Chinese store and brought a lighter and some incense.  I had started the Camino in St. Jean by spending a few minutes in the albergue's meditation garden house burning a stick of incense.  There was a girl there, don't remember her name, that had walked from Finisterre to St. Jean.  She looked like she needed some incense so I gave her a cone and told her to burn one when she got to her stopping point in England and I would burn incense when I reached Finisterre.  I lit about six sticks and set them so that the wind would blow the aroma across the fire, which wasn't so aromatic, considering what it was about to burn!

  There were non-peligrinos milling about and I could see where fires had been lit before, so I gathered some rocks, made a fire pit, stuffed some kleenex into my socks and some paper that Tina had, and started a fire.  Surprisingly, it lit quickly.  I turned on my iTunes to Dean Martin's "Return to Me!'  It was my father's favorite song and oh so mood setting.  A biker sat above the fire and watched as did several other non peligrinos.  Several laughed at first but then the magic began.

    I was lost in the moment and they could see that it wasn't a comedy routine.  It was a solemn moment.  Everyone got real quiet as the flames grew and Dean crooned.  The Spanish biker asked if he could burn a sock, and he gave it to me and I put it on the fire.  Then another person gave a t shirt, and someone else gave a hair ribbon.  And so it went.  No one saying a word and several tears falling.  It was ... magic.
   I played the song twice and then let it go to the next song alphabetically which was, "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash!  How appropriate.  The clothes burned to a vapor and I thought of the people, living and dead, who have helped me so much.
                                                   Thank you all!  Bien Camino!
        Reflect Recover Redirect                   Forgive, Forget, Forge on           Marvel in the Mundane

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