So much to catch you up on! Well, as you already know, Claus was waiting for me at the Cathedral in Santiago. In order to meet him on the day he could arrive, I had to hang back a day and let the rest of my friends walk the final 20K into Santiago without me. I walked halfway and then found a place to stay 10K out. That left me with the whole day to sit in the garden and twiddle my thumbs and count down the minutes until I got to see Claus again!
We had also already talked about me going back to Copenhagen with him for a few days before returning home so I decided to hop in a cab and go to the mall near the airport. I was really not excited about spending another minute in these hiking clothes, plus it is cold in Copenhagen so I needed something warm to wear. And, can you believe I found this sweatshirt to buy? (Apparently, it is already written in the shirts…we need to go to Stockholm and Seol together next.)
After making it through the longest night in history it was finally a reasonable time for me to go to bed. It felt like Christmas Eve and I was a kid excited to wake up and see Santa Claus! It felt like I woke up and looked at the clock every few minutes. The night took forever. Finally, I just gave up and got up and hit the road. I figured I could always stop just outside of Santiago and wait for the sun to rise. I walked for two hours in the dark but the stars were so bright and pervasive. At one point, I was simply marveling at them and thanking God for this whole experience and a shooting star streaked right in front of me. I felt God’s romantic heart and matchmaking grin in that moment. After stopping for coffee and getting a tiny bit lost, I made my way into Santiago and I could soon see the top of the cathedral. As I began to enter the city, I came upon other pilgrims I’ve walked with along the way. It was such a happy reunion. WE DID IT!
I was walking down the narrow street when I finally saw him – and almost didn’t recognize him. He looked so cool and cute and he wasn’t wearing hiking clothes! I dropped my trekking poles and we ran toward each other and hugged for and eternity. It would have made a great scene in a movie. :) Thankfully, my friend, Leanne, was having coffee nearby and recognized my blonde hair and took pictures.
Without letting go of each other we walked to the Pilgrim’s office to get my compostela. This is the document that certifies my pilgrimage. All along the way, the peregrino collects stamps in our passport/credentials to verify that we have walked (at least, the last 100K) to receive this prized piece of paper. From there we went to the Pilgrim’s Mass. I have to admit, if felt somewhat sterile and cold and old to me. I think it would have been exciting to have attended on a day when they swing the ‘Botafumeiro, which is the famous giant thurible or censer in Santiago de Compostela cathedral, but we ended up leaving early. At that point, for me, the dead relics of Saint James and the lifeless Mass did not match the joy and aliveness in my heart.
It really felt much more celebratory to meet my friends, the Zahnd’s, for drinks outside the Parador Hotel. It was so nice to talk about our Camino experiences and the ways it had changed us and in ways we realize we may not even know for months to come as we continue to process it and let it work on us. After they left, Claus and I stayed and watched the Sunset and ate tapas and drank wine and cuddled and occasionally pinched ourselves. I can’t believe it is over. I walked 500 miles. I met a wonderful man. I learned to follow the arrows – and my heart.
We flew to Copenhagen early the next morning. It really did feel kinda weird and wonderful to be together in “real life.” We watched movies, played backgammon, went to an amusement park with his daughter, rode bikes in the countryside, walked in the forest, stood on the beach, ate fish and chips in the village, bought a puzzle, sat by the fire and talked and talked and talked – well, okay, that part was just like the Camino.
It’s been a week today since I finished the Camino. I imagine I will be unpacking that pilgrimage for years to come. So many lessons. So many experiences. I looked through all of my pictures today on the flight home. Wow. What a privilege to walk through such stunning scenery everyday. It was interesting to look at the pictures and feel what I was feeling when I took them. There were definitely waves of many different emotions along the way. I took lots of notes and I will write more in the weeks ahead and, ultimately, in the book I will begin writing in January.
In the meantime, if you feel the Camino calling you, may I encourage you to answer the call? I understand that it may feel like an impossible time and money commitment but as my friend Ney says, “it’s worth an ask.” You don’t have to walk the whole thing; many people do it in stages or, simply, the final 100 kilometers. Remember, nothing is impossible with God. I’m proof of that.
Until next time,