I should have known better…
But I’m a hopeless old romantic, wondering if somehow a miracle would drive me to my knees on the steps of the cathedral in this city of pilgrims, where millions have walked this road, probably as long as time itself.
The mist hung damp over the city as Maggie, Jeremy and I completed the final few kilometres to the steps of the famous cathedral. This was the fifth day of rain and mist and we rubbed shoulders with day-trippers and mobile phone camera users,while standing somewhat bewildered in the huge vacuum of anti-climax.
I burst into tears on discovering that it wasn’t possible to place my hand on the statue of St James anymore… That the Catholic Church inc. had turned the experience into a money making enterprise; payment being necessary. Some reward for more than seven hundred kilometres of walking. The noise, vulgarity and crude, blatant capitalist exploitation of simple pilgrims upset me greatly, leaving me wanting to keep walking towards Finisterre immediately.
As I sat in the drizzle on the steps of the cathedral, my mind drifted back to all the memorable events and incredible folk who I have shared this Camino with. However I always knew that my heart would belong in that odd little Donativo run by the Saint David just before Astorga, ‘La Casa de Los Dioses’, where we huddled together by an open fire as the wind sung in sympathy. As we sat and quietly talked, it became apparent to me that this was my ‘Santiago’, and that nothing would come near this moment.
The mighty, male-dominating, dogmatic religions of the world will never be able to take away the simple honesty and beauty of the human heart and its personal interpretation of spirit and soul. The sacred heart of Christ belongs to us, his people… The humble, simple, bereaved and dispossessed. Even the Bible says it… ‘Turn over a stone and you will find me there’.
All along the Camino, small stone altars stand to the memory of the millions who have passed this way, and each stone a small prayer to a loved one or a lost friend. Heart shaped stones of passion litter the path that runs beneath the Milky Way, and I am glad to have shared such a legacy to purity and truth. For me, it is the wild oceans and the towering mountains that are my church…
And so it is onwards to the end of the world… Fisterra.