walked with at various stages of the Camino and had arrived in Finisterre with us. We ate at a café overlooking a beautiful harbor, just sitting and talking, waiting for the sun to set.
There is a tradition among pilgrims who walk all the way to Finisterre: walk to the lighthouse in the early evening and watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean. I suppose a purist would have walked out to the lighthouse, about three kilometers distance from the albergue, but the purist also walks in sack cloth and ashes, barefoot, carrying only a gourd for water and begs for food and lodging along the way. I had eschewed the purist pilgrimage before I even started, so taking a cab was an easy next step. I didn't have to twist Maria's arm to get her to agree to a cab, and we arrived at the lighthouse about an hour before sunset. The sky was partly cloudy, but I thought that
just gave the sun something to light up as it descended over the horizon and made the scene that much more resplendent. There were others making the ritual funeral pyre for a piece of clothing or pair of boots; another pilgrim tradition. I had already left two shirts along the way that I didn’t need and had sent back to the States a pair of shoes that I had outgrown during the first half of the Camino, so I had nothing left to burn. I enjoyed their offerings to the Camino vicariously.
Maria had already found a place to sit on the rocks to watch the sunset and was looking at the sea as I was enjoying the fire and talking with some other people. I went to the lighthouse café (naturally, with all those people there every night of the Spring, Summer, and Fall months, there’s going to be someone to sell food and drink) and got a couple of cups of white wine (Styrofoam, unfortunately – no glass allowed
And now I arrive at the point where words fail me. Today, as I write this, is June 29th, 2013, almost a year after I was sitting on the rocks at the coast of Spain; the culmination of an 850-mile pilgrimage. My fingers are on the keyboard of my laptop, but they refuse to move except to say I don’t know what to write. But I can’t bring you this far and then leave you with such a lousy ending. It would be like that symphony without the coda or leaving off the denouement of the murder mystery. Or, do I flatter myself? Does anyone, other than I, really care how it all ended? I’ll have to take that on faith and hope so.
So many thoughts vied for attention as I sat staring at the setting sun that they all became like white noise. There was the memory of my sore feet, of perfect peace walking across the Meseta, of standing in the cool shower of the irrigation sprayers in the desert of Aragon, of constant snoring in the albergues every night since Logroño in parallel with the memory of having quiet albergues all to myself through Catalunya and Aragon, of frustration with not being able to communicate as well as I’d like but being happy with the progress I’d made in my grasp of Spanish, of elation when remembering Maria saying her heart skipped a beat when she saw me in the cathedral after the feeling of loss as she walked away in Sarria. I thought of Debussy and the sea of wheat and then the music came to me again as I looked at the sea of water before me. I thought of my past, before the Camino, and my future, after the Camino and tried to ignore all that and concentrate on the present, the setting sun in front of me and Maria beside me. My life appeared before me as a blackboard filled with calculus equations—I know nothing of calculus. I’d come to the Camino to find God, but I’d lost myself.
The sun descended though the clouds. The sky turned imperceptibly from light blue to orange to red, dark blue and purple following after, the colors of everything around me washing out as the sun descended farther into the ocean, all around me turning gray while the sky turned a deep violet blue of night.
Clambering over rocks a hundred feet above the Atlantic Ocean in daylight seemed like a much better idea than trying to climb back over them in the dark. At least we didn’t have to be concerned with spilling our wine. We made it safely back to the lighthouse and walked, flashlight in hand, back to the albergue, mostly in silence.
The next day brought rain and cool air. We took the first bus back to Santiago from where Maria caught a flight to Barcelona. A quick, barely perceptible hug and she was on the bus. She said she didn’t like long goodbyes. I guess not.
I waited a few hours at the bus station, then caught an overnight bus to Granada, the next etapa of my life’s Camino.