“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’
“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”
Tomorrow I reach my destination: Santiago de Compostella. I will have walked almost 500 miles in the very footsteps of thousands of pilgrims before me and the path the Apostle St. James trod several hundred of years beforehand. And yes. The journey has tested me and my fellow peregrinos–otherwise we would be tourist and not pilgrims. It has been hard and challenging and defining and empowering.
The scalloped shell has been the waymarker throughout the entire journey.
The shell is on the backpacks of every pilgrim. It is the symbol of the Camino.
The shell acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim: As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up onto the shores of Galicia, God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.
As the symbol of the Camino de Santiago, the shell is the waymarker on posts and signs along the Camino that guide us in the right direction along the way.
And school groups doing the last 5 days of the Camino bring a different feel to these last few days. Those of us who started out in St. Jean have to realize that the Camino is not all ours alone. To qualify for a Compostello ( certificate of completion of pilgrimage), the minimum distance is 100km (60 miles), so many individuals and groups just joined the Camino a few days ago.
Proof of authenticity is kept by a passport that you get stamped in towns you stay in and at churches along the way.
Here’s part of mine:
So the walk into Santiago will bring with it all the days that have gone before: up and over the incomparable Pyrenees, down the hated hills into Zubiri, the big sky plains of the Meseta, the thought-it’d-never end days of walking next to highways, the steep up and down and up again in the hills and mountains–Spain has no flat land.
All this and more has gone into the struggle of being a peregrino. People along the way that I’ve shared stories and laughter with have each become part of the Camino mosaic. The landscape, the people, the villages and churches, the locals, the loneliness, the blisters, the food, the weather–everything has been an ingredient in making the experience, well, an experiencia…
Tomorrow the river that is the Camino will deposit me and my fellow peregrinos at the doorstep of the 900 year-old Cathedral of St. James in Santiago.
It took more than 200 years for the Cathedral to be built. It will have taken me 34 days to complete my pilgrimage.
Each day, in itself, brings within it an Eternity.
Man of La Mancha Pilgrimage
Grandfather of the Camino