[Note to my readers: many thanks for joining me in this journey. I am so appreciative of all the good and supportive comments you have contributed along the way. I wish I could have made individual replies, but the nature of the Camino made necessary some limitation to my online time. And if you have enjoyed these posts, know that while my Camino has ended, the Religious Imagineer will continue, with reflections and provocations concerning theology and religion, the arts, liturgy, imagination, and the beauty of the world: wherever “the fire and the rose are one.” Stay tuned.]
How do I write an ending to the Camino? Certainly with no summary remarks, for such reductions would do disservice to the complex flavors of the journey. I feel like the pianist who was asked to explain the composition he had just played. Without a word, he sat down and played it again.
On Monday afternoon, I continued on from Santiago to Finisterre (“the end of the world”), an extension of the Camino that predates the Christian shrine at Santiago. For the ancient Celts, and many pilgrims since, the natural place to make an ending is where the land is swallowed by the sea and the sun disappears over the edge of the known. Some make this journey on foot (54 miles west from Santiago), but I, alas, took a bus, needing some rest for weary legs.
Finisterre is a high headland with a charming harbor town, wild hills and dramatic shoreline. I made the obligatory walk to the lighthouse at the southern tip, where the last Camino marker reads 0.00 K, and pilgrims can leave or even burn a symbolic offering (shirts, boots, and walking poles were among the abandoned items). But the souvenir stand and tourist buses were not contemplative aids, so I took the spectacular trail along the western side, high above the sea, bright with yellow flowers, descending finally to an isolated beach. In my own act of letting go, I wrote PEREGRINO (pilgrim) in the sand, and watched the tide erase it. Then I climbed to the rocks on the cape’s highest point to watch the edge of the world erase the sun.
I still had one more walk to do, from Finisterre north to Muxia: 18 miles of pine and eucalyptus woods, pastures and crop land, remote stone villages, flowered meadows, an estuary brimming with fish, and white sand beaches. I wanted to make this final trek not only to make intimate acquaintance with a remote corner of Galicia, but also to end my Camino just as I had begun it – on foot.
It was a hot and demanding day, but when I reached the fishing village of Muxia, I didn’t stop to shower or rest, but continued the final 800 meters to the furthest point, where massive stone slabs slide into the surf, and the Santuario da Virxe da Barca (Virgin of the Boat) faces the setting sun.
Here my Camino came to an end.
Endings and beginnings… they run together, yes? Can’t wait to lay eyes on you, pilgrim Jim.
Thanks so much for writing this blog. Your shared thoughts are a blessing – especially this year, since I won’t be walking myself, and must make pilgrimage vicariously through the eyes of others.
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