A million steps later, the journey continues.
The path began at the famous bridge in St. Jean.
33 days of walking, and 4 days of rest later, we arrived in Santiago.
We ascended the heights of the windy Pyrenees, leaving keepsakes of dear ones at the foot of the Virgén de Biakorri…
… as untold thousands had done before us.
Soon we found ourselves sharing the trail …
… with the most marvelous creatures …
… including old high school friends who suddenly appeared …
… as well as many new friends …
… we made along the way.
We traversed the legendarily long …
… flat …
… hot …
… Meseta …
… where we found the gratitude that lies on the other side of fortitude.
On our anniversary, we started in Ponferada …
… with its iconic castle …
… and set off for VillaFranca, where every detail, each falling leaf against the crisp autumn sky, the finally changing trees, amid the just-picked vineyard hillsides …
… assembled a tableau seemingly sculpted for a once-in-a-lifetime-day, like one where a couple completes its 25th year together.
As we ventured further into Galicia, the rains came.
But just past Ribadiso, a cloud break’s rays of sunlight …
… framed us in an enchanted forest …
… where we forgot whether we approached Santiago or heaven itself.
And then, on the 37th day, at the Pilgrim’s Mass …
… the priest’s words rang true:
“In this cathedral, for many pilgrims gathered here today, the physical walk of the Camino comes to an end. But for the rest of their lives, the way of St, James goes on … and on.”
Before, finally, the famous incense cistern swung above us all.
Across the nearly 800 kilometers of walking …
… we saw only one other pilgrim with a laptop.
Mine came out in the late afternoons …
… as we nursed sore feet …
… grateful that meaningful work beckons me wherever I go, even at the end of very long days
But the pace of the Camino being what it was, my laptop hours had to be dedicated to my regular work, with the one exception being the post I wrote to thank Nina for her eleven years of exemplary service.
In my absence, CharterFolk carried CharterFolk.
- David Akdemir
- Kathleen Hermsmeyer
- Lydia Hoffman
- Peter Thorp
- RaShaun Kemp
- Kirsten Carr and James Dent
- Rhonda Dillingham
- Kevin Mason
- Alex Johnston
- Hanna Skandera
All who wrote remarkable pieces.
With Kerry, of course, carrying all the carriers.
To all who carried, my deepest thanks.
A million steps later, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find words to describe the experience of completing the Camino de Santiago.
Many seem deeply resonant to our shared work together.
And to the other great challenges that have arisen while we walked.
Both in faraway places and at home.
But I’ll refrain from venturing very many so soon after.
Except the following.
The saying goes:
The Camino provides.
When you are in those moments when you don’t know where you’ll find your next meal, or a place to sleep, or respite amid the deluge, or the will to keep going when you fear there may be no more steps within you.
The Camino provides.
But also the most important things.
In Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, when the angel finally speaks, she says that what draws us all together is the fact that we want more life.
Even when flies are laying eggs in the corners of your starving children’s eyes, the angel tells us, still we want more life.
We want it in the Middle East. We want it in Lewiston. We want it everywhere.
The experience of walking the Camino is forging your way along a path where more life is found in great abundance.
Sometimes coming from the walk itself.
But most often from your fellow walkers.
The father who had lost his teenage son last year.
The widower in the months after losing his wife of 51 years.
The son who piloted an aircraft that had an accident wherein both his parents perished and wherein he was left so disfigured from burns that, every few miles, fellow pilgrims would help him dress and redress his still not fully healed wounds.
The woman whose since-high-school relationship had ended days before the Camino, finding her lost-one waiting with a proposal at the Cathedral in Leon. A proposal that was accepted.
For their own reasons, of course.
But for a shared reason as well.
A place toward which walkers have been drawn for thirteen hundred years.
Along the way, impromptu groups form, part ways, and reform.
Like braids spanning the Spanish landscape.
Some groups form where the walkers don’t even speak the same language.
But having only a few words in common, they communicate more deeply than most of us do in our daily lives, even with our closest friends and family.
Because something about the Camino opens you.
Makes permeable the walls we build up between ourselves and others.
Providing access to what we really want.
Others’ lives revealed in truer form.
And our own, shared with greater abandon.
Such that the life that is always there is finally made plain.
And can be cherished for what it should be.
This remarkable opportunity we have all been given.
Not just to live.
But to live with one another.
The Camino provides.
As it is with the way of St. James, so it is with our shared work.
Sometimes the walk itself provides.
But most often it comes from our fellow walkers.
People walking for our own individual reasons, yes.
But walking also for a shared one.
Toward a shared destination.
Our own form of Santiago.
That day when young people, all young people, are finally provided the extraordinary educations they deserve.
Along the way, something about the importance of the endeavor opens us.
Makes our walls more porous.
Such that we forge on in the presence of what we want most.
Playing our parts in a movement that …
… like the Camino itself …
And where from time to time, yes, we carry one another.
Looking back we see the braids.
The millions of steps we have already taken that have brought us together.
And together again.
And looking forward, we know that millions more steps await.
Paths that will intersect countless times for decades to come.
As we make it further along our way to Santiago.
On we go.