As I See It…
FOR some reason as I am standing at the very edge of Spain, on the headland of Fisterra, I remember what my first proper boss told me once. You just don’t have the killer instinct Catherine, he said.
What did he mean? Maybe I would never flourish in life being such a wimp? Would I wither on the vine for being a shy introvert who just couldn’t compete?
Turns out he was right, I didn’t have the killer instinct and I still don’t. But today as I stand here amongst the unwashed and the foot sore, I couldn’t care less. I may be lacking in ambition and drive, but I am happy in my skin and, yes, still unwilling to hurt a fly. Out here with the pilgrims it seems I am in good company. Living life in peace and quiet, wandering a few ancient trails and looking out to sea. Not a killer instinct amongst us.
But at least I know what I like. And I like it out here at the edge of the Atlantic with Ireland 2,500 kilometres north west. I like to sleep in the fresh air with the sound of waves breaking on the beach below. I like to dream a little.
Instead of that “killer instinct” I prefer this quote from Buckminister Fuller, “The true business of people should be to think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.” It’s now more relevant than ever for me as I head into what used to be called old age.
One of those things I was thinking about, before I had to earn a living, was just hitting the road and following my curiosity. So I’m going to spend as much as I can of the rest of my life doing it. That’s a deal, I say out loud to no one in particular.
While I haven’t followed this Camino de Santiago religiously, I have walked bits of it over the years. The end of the pilgrimage is as it has been for centuries. You arrive in the square at the west side of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where emotions are high as pilgrims celebrate their last steps to the final destination. Some fling themselves on the ground and take off their boots. Many are hugging and taking selfies in groups. A few shed tears of joy and relief.
They have made it to the end.
Religious pilgrims queue here to have their Camino passport stamped and then they go into the majestic cathedral to pay their respects to St. James, the reason the whole Camino exists. The cathedral is huge, imposing, full of history. Inside, legend has it are the remains of St. James the apostle brought here after his death. At the ancient entrance there are worn finger holes on the spot where hands are placed as the pilgrims enter the sanctuary.
In the medieval old town, tourists are generally booted, sweaty and wearing anoraks. There is none of the uptight glamour of most capital cities. I feel quite at home amongst the dishevelled travellers and pilgrims. We may all be a bit short on daily showers but we have full hearts. It makes for a very relaxed and timeless experience to be amongst this intergenerational throng.
Santiago feels a bit like the end for us too. We have finally arrived in the big city after weeks traveling through Northern Spain; over the snowy mountains to Zamora, across the Douro Valley into Portugal, wandering up the Galician coast, getting lost on white sandy beaches, crisscrossing the Camino and walking tracks and trails along the way.
But there is yet another ending, as we turn for home, here in Fisterra, the Land’s End of Galicia. Here where pilgrims often go to complete their Camino by leaving their shoes on the shore. You look out to the horizon and as David Whyte the poet says, “you find a different way to tread, and… part of you would still walk on, no matter how, over the waves.” This ending has an upbeat feel. A rolling on into the future full of hope.
I have no doubt that the Camino de Santiago is on the bucket list of many of you. Maybe you imagine yourself putting on a backpack, a pair of walking boots and hitting the trail? Maybe you are moving on in your life and want to mark a transition or the end of an illness? Maybe you would see it as a holiday or an adventure?
What will you think about on the road? Well, maybe what you were thinking about before you got rudely interrupted by life? Why not follow your curiosity and find out.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com