Monday, November 3, 2014

Camino Thirty-Three – The Final Farewell

There are new people in rooms adjacent to mine.  How can they be so loud?  It sounds like they are dismantling the bed, unscrewing the sink – whoops, there goes the wrench crashing to the tiled floor.  What do they do?  I can only giggle.

Today I will pack my Opinel knife, my Aussie Barmah, nail file and scissors to post home.  I posted them to the hotel in Bilbao two weeks before leaving Glastonbury as I couldn’t take them on the flight in my backpack, cabin baggage.  The clever hat is able to squash flat, the way it arrived from Australia.  I use the walking stick as a ‘mobility aid’, it isn’t a walking pole, and I am allowed to have that with me.  Will buy final small gifts today.   
Cindy wondered if people who walk the Camino more than once are lonely in their home community,  for the Camino really is a community in motion.  When it stops in Santiago only the truest connections will continue.  I hope mine will continue, run through my small list of special encounters.  Everyone else outran me. 
At breakfast a good-looking New Zealand woman asks to sit with me.  Rhyll hasn’t a drop of Welsh in her veins but chose her name – a Far Memory moment.  She does claim Irish though, and conversations, circuitous around the yoghurt and fresh orange juice and breads and cheese and good coffee wind up in Pennant Melangell where I can tell her a 6th century Irish princess left Ireland to become a holy hermit in north Wales.  Because of her, Saint Melangell, the Prince of Powys made all hares protected when the one he was coursing ran into a thicket and his dogs refused to follow.  He dismounted, walked through, saw the trembling hare taking refuge with a woman whose sanctity he recognised and thenceforth respected.  The hare is a one of the sacred creatures of the Old Ways.   
Rhyll happens to be going to Oxford next year and will explore Powys.  She only began her walk in Sarria, with a backpack on wheels, an ordinary cabin case; so difficult, she taxi’d 35 of the 100 kms and didn’t claim a Compostela; she’d come a long way for a short walk.  Still sharing stories we walk together to my room.

I dawdle, pack my mochila, give Rhyll my hare shirt, a silk talisman printed with pale grey hares which I had found after a dream I had before leaving Glastonbury in which a hare was to accompany me; my rose scarf; it is good to pass these on, I couldn’t bring myself to burn them.  Things were different in times past when those practices were put  in place -  hostelries weren’t blessed with showers and soap  was barely invented. 

The weather is not warm even now, the end of June. I wander listlessly, admire architectural scallop shells, drift into the Parador café for a hot chocolate; it doesn’t lift my spirits. The magic has left me.  Time to go back to the Cathedral for a final farewell to Santiago.

A surprise – the great silver-cased relic of Santiago greets me in the apse, I am charmed by its very human expression, go up very close, respectfully, wonder why it is here on its bier surrounded by liveried men.  I will wait for the Mass and watch the procession. 
The bells chime the hour, but nothing happens.  I wonder why things are not quite as they should be.  Time passes.  I walk around the crowds, drawn to a focused point amongst the rows of chairs where people are gathered, hunched and murmuring around a collapsed body.  Quietly a team of paramedics swiftly appear, a blood transfusion right here as I watch.  But the body is carried out under a shroud, face covered, on a stretcher.  The solemnity of the music that follows as Mass can then begin adds gravitas to the scene.   
There is more quiet movement over there, and I walk to it, the Botafumeiro is being lowered. Entranced I find a good plinth to perch on, watch the men struggle under the weight of the bier as they process slowly along the nave, disappear into clouds of incense, bring the relic to rest. A handsome couple seem to be a focus.   
Later I learn the old King abdicated and the young Lovelies, Felipe and Letizia, have come to Santiago for a blessing.  They are as lovely a couple as our own Wills and Kate.

I meet up with Gene and Sandy who are far better adapted to leaving tomorrow than I am and we have a last meal together in the Parador bistro.  It is beyond superb.  I had two starters and no main; sea urchin au gratin, scallops in the lightest of sauces the like of which I’ve never tasted.  Gene has crisp sardines and green beans; knowing I will not eat like this in England I succumb to a small plate and can’t finish them.  A dessert of spun chocolate so rich and generous follows, but not for me.

The day’s gifts do not dispel my feeling of reluctance at returning to Chaingate Court with its mix of human difficulties.  Sleep is dreamless.  I wake on this final day, say goodbye to my pilgrim room, take my pack down with me to breakfast, thank the waiters, one of whom gives me a hug.  With a heart heavy and anchored with unshed tears I walk as if from a long dream out into the rain and down to the local bus to Lavacolla to wait for my flight to Gatwick.


I want to end here, but it isn’t quite the end.  Timing and synchronicities make the homeward journey memorable, my special connections continue, their stories enrich me. What happened to Karel when he reached Finisterre ... did the miracle he longed for occur?  And Christine, whose loss marked her whole life?  And Cindy’s feet?  What happened to these and other pilgrim encounters when each left the ultimate gift of Time and Solitude to return to their known world?  Each remained in touch, their stories contained, held, in my particular pilgrimage.

Yes, I think, I must share these Camino completions with you.  You have walked with me along this almost impossible-to-imagine pilgrimage; courtesy requires a codicil or two, they will follow. 
The Camino gifts a legacy, I feel, of wonder and courage; it comes home with us.

Zoé xx

1 comment:

  1. Zoe, Please don't end it here! Yes, Codicils! Bless you and this sublime piece of writing.