Shell motif Camino de Santiago

The pilgrimage routes to
Santiago de Compostela
in pictures

Shell motif
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The Camino

The Camino

When we started, we did not know - exactly - why we were doing it
We had lives which were - more or less - satisfactory
We had friends known much of our lives
We had children - changed from chrysalis to butterflies
We had things:
                      things like machines
                      things like music
                      things like pictures
                      things like shelves full of books
                      things like money and pensions and security
We did not have one thing - and maybe that was why we started

When we started, we put one foot in front of the other
We still did not know - precisely - why we were doing it
The miles passed - many of them pleasantly
Our feet blistered and were slow to heal
Our ankles turned on loose stones
The rain beat its way through our clothes
The cold chilled the marrow of our bones
Some nights, refuge was hard to find
Some days, miles of hot dust had no fountains

When the first few of many long days had passed
We found - without words - that we no longer walked together
That together we spoke in our own tongues -
                      and often of things we had left behind where we began
That together we shut out new experience with the wall of our togetherness
That alone we spoke in other tongues and of our common experience
That alone we were open - open with interest and curiosity.
Often we met - with gladness - at the end of the day
To know our paths went on together was enough

When we got to the cathedral we sat down
We saw - through the eyes of those long before us
The blinding faith, the crucial thirst for salvation
The tower slowly closing off the sky
And we counted our blessings - several hundred of them
Starting with the kindness of ordinary people on the way
And with the warmth of other travellers on the road
Travellers not at all like us - not in age, not in origin, not in interests
But warm across all these distancings
And ending with the friendship and love
We had left behind where we began.

When we got to the sea at the end of the world
We sat down on the beach at sunset
We knew why we had done it
To know our lives less important than just one grain of sand
To know that we did not need the things we had left behind us
To know the we would nevertheless return to them
To know that we needed to be where we belonged
To know that kindness and friendship and love is all one needs
To know that we did not - after all - have to make this long journey to find this out
To know that - for us - it certainly helped

                                            written near Sanguesa, Navarra, September 2003
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