Seagulls. Haven't seen them since we left the States. Now here they are, in Santiago. The ocean beckons.
For me, Finisterre is the true end of the Camino. The Way was a pagan route before it became a Christian one. The original pilgrimage went all the way to the ocean, into a land that was once known as the end of the world. Pre-Roman peoples walked to what they thought was the last habitable piece of land in the west to worship the sun gods and watch the fiery orb disappear into the immensity of the sea. Those Camino shells now associated with St. James were once associated with the goddess Aphrodite. As with most Christian traditions, the Camino has pagan roots, so I'd like to follow this long walk all the way to its original end.
We went back into the Cathedral today; I wanted another look at the golden coffin that supposedly holds the the remains of St. James. I didn't feel anything profound the first time around, but I had just consumed a half bottle of wine that afternoon. I had only coffee in my system this morning when we stepped into the lower chambers. The girls and I stood and looked at the holy relic for a few minutes, but I still felt less than awed. I was, however, touched by the awe of others. There were many practicing Catholics milling about, and the vision of St. James' supposed remains obviously meant something special to them.
I'll answer two more questions I recently received, then I'll wax slightly (and briefly) poetic on four personal issues.
Answer number one, regarding water - there are many fountains along the way. No need to treat or filter the agua, it's safe to drink. Every once in a while, you'll see a water source with a sign saying "non potable" or "non sanitario." If you see that sign, then don't drink from that particular source. The vast majority of the time, however, you're good to go.
Answer number two, regarding accommodations - if you can, stay in a variety of places. Don't avoid the albergues - the albergues (especially the donativos run by the local parishes) are where you'll meet and have communal dinners with wonderful pilgrims from all around the world. Stay in Granon, Tosantos, and San Bol if possible. Don't avoid the hotels, either - you'll want the privacy and sound sleep from time to time. We're happy we did a mixture of everything. Also, we never booked ahead, since at this time of year albergues are rarely full. We just showed up and wandered into wherever we wanted to stay.
On to the four personal things...since is is a blog, I'll keep it short.
One - It's important for girls to see women getting out there with their daughters. Just this morning, an Australian woman expressed surprise that I had taken the girls on the Camino by myself. Yes, Hugh was with us for half our journey, but the idea, planning, training regimine, purchase of all gear and clothing, 90 percent of the fundraising for the charities, and the start-to-finish details were done by me and the girls. We are glad Hugh was able to be with us as much as he was, but this was primarily a mother-daughters expedition, just as our highpointing and NH mountain hiking has been and continues to be a mother-daughters thang. I write this out because it has been made clear to me by countless messages and emails that our mother-daughters trip reports are providing inspiration and encouragement for other mothers and young girls. Father-son outdoor adventure tales are commonplace (as are human-canine outdoor blogs). Mother-daughter outdoor adventure blogs/stories, on the other hand, are rare (outside of trishalexsage.com, practically nonexistent?). We need more mom-young daughter hiking/mountain climbing/outdoor adventure blogs and books. I'm getting tired of people expressing surprise when I tell them I take my daughters mountain hiking in all seasons without (gasp) a man. The attitudes are a constant reminder that we still very much live in a patriarchal society. I'd like that to change...so ladies, get out there with your girls and write about your adventures.
Two - I was not a Christian when I started this journey and I am not a Christian now. I thought I might feel my childhood belief system tugging at my soul when we entered Santiago, but...no, that didn't happen. If anything, I now feel a stronger aversion to Christian paintings and relics. I've seen one too many statues of a white guy on a horse trampling Arabs, and Alex and Sage have been slightly traumatized by the vivid crucifixion paintings. Fear, prejudice, and guilt, anyone..? Not for me, thanks, and not for my daughters. I know there are Christians out there reading this blog and I know your religion means far more to you than what I've just described. I respect that. However, the paintings and statues along the Camino depicting Jesus and St. James are often bloody and horrific, and they do nothing to inspire a desire to convert.
Three - My left leg...the one with the extensive, old blood clot, the one the doctors thought was clotting up again just before we left for St. Jean Pied de Port...that leg has not bothered me at all. Not once has it swelled, not once has it ached. I have circulation issues with that leg, but it handled the Camino like a leg with normal veins. I suspect this has a lot to do with my right leg, which was probably overcompensating for the left...my right leg ached often...badly at times. Yet the right one is the healthy one and the left one has circulation issues.
Four - My perspective on life has recently changed dramatically, but not because of the Camino. I thought I had a serious and likely fatal condition just before we left the States. I spent a week thinking I was possibly in my last few months of life before a second medical test cleared me of the original diagnosis. During that time, I learned that I am not afraid of death...and that nothing really matters. Ego, fame, fortune, gossip, money problems...none of it matters. We are here for such a short amount of time. We need to make the most of that time with the other living creatures who are also here on this planet at this particular point in time before we all disappear into the night from whence we came. There is no need to worry, hurry, or fret. Just don't waste your precious time with toxic people, do the best you can with what you have, and love as best as you're able. I won't go on and on lest the reader feel she's accidentally stumbled onto some New Age mumbo-jumbo blog...the above is simply the way I see things now, and that's a radical change from the way I saw things before.
We leave Santiago tomorrow morning; four days 'til Finisterre.
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