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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Praza do Obradoiro: Santiago de Compostela

It is 6 am; the sky is gunmetal gray trying to make up its mind whether to rain or not.  There is a slight chill in the air, but no breeze moves through the plaza. The square and building are mostly made of gray stone, which seems to match the sky today. The well-worn stones have been given a shiny wet sheen from last night’s rain along with puddles here and there. There are a few people wandering about careful not to step into puddles while others are seated on the damp stones looking up at the Cathedral seemly deep in thought. It is very quiet at this time of the day no birds, no loud voices, no sirens in the background, no bagpipes or toots from the stupid make-believe train that takes pilgrims and tourists on a short ride around the city.

It seems now as if the Praza is starting to wake up taking a deep inhaling breath of the morning air. The inhale seems to draw pilgrims into the Praza through the tunnel opening where the Camion de Santiago has led them.  This space has been the end of the Camion de Santiago for 100’s of years. I imagine that today Pilgrims act no different from the ones who have traveled to this place for centuries and looked upon the Cathedral.  As they enter and look up, many are overwhelmed with tears, others with joyous laughter. They look around for familiar faces of fellow pilgrims they have met on the walk. If found arms wide, they rush to each other hugging with tears streaming while huge smiles crease their faces.  Then it exhales, and the pilgrims are sent on their way. Some hold strong not wanting to leave just yet. 

Another inhale and new Pilgrim’s enter some forming groups hugging and laughing while reliving their travels.  Some drop their backpacks to the ground, falling to their knee’s tears streaming as they glaze at the Cathedral.  Many sit alone or lie down using backpacks as pillows deep staring at the Cathedral in contemplation.  Some stand with backpacks above their heads, their faces beam with wide smiles as pictures are taken. Those who have ridden bicycles raise them high over their heads yelling triumphally. There is no such thing as race, gender, or nationality in this place.  Yes, some wave their countries flags, but no offense is taken. Another exhale, and the process begins again over and over, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.  The Pilgrims arriving here today, as in the past, may feel a deep loss at the end. Their Camion is over, or so it feels.

It is time to return to their families, friends, and maybe jobs. Albergues with communal meals filled with laughter and new friends will only be memories. The ability to walk slowly in contemplation not having to rush hither and yond slowly fade as day to day life returns.  Sitting outside a café on the side of the road enjoying Café Con Leche while wishing those waking by Bueno Camino will bring a smile to your face and the thought of returning. As a Pilgrim, you may have traveled at least 500 miles on foot, bicycle, and sometimes other means with nothing but their backpack. Upon returning home, one may look around at all the accumulated stuff in their lives and wonder why?  Walking the Camino change some for a short time, others permanently. 

Bueno Camino

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