(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 27, 2005
Day 28: Santiago

Easter Sunday in Santiago. I was surprised to awaken early after a sleep that was neither hard nor long. I would have expected my body to automatically reset itself to rest mode instead of walk mode. It didn’t, and since there was a thriving city outside my window (and ond I thankfully didn’t have to lug a bag through), I sprang to my feet knowing I could discover the city as slowly as I pleased.

santiago
When you’re in Santiago on Easter Sunday, shouldn’t you attend mass? That’s what I thought, so I retraced my steps to the cathedral and slipped into the back. I bowed my head reverently and dipped my fingers into the Holy water. It was a gesture that felt foreign after so long, but I was happy to receive whatever blessings I could. I stood silently listening to the echoes of the priest, my eyes circling over the sea of parishioners. I tottered from foot to foot, bored and uneasy. I didn’t really belong. Or, perhaps more honestly, I didn’t want to belong. My only real agenda was to look for Simon in all those faces. He wasn’t there.

I sunk my hands into my pockets, and my fingers found the tiny crystal I’d carried with me across the world. I’d gotten it at the beginning of my journey in New York; it was laying on the pedestal of the St. Francis statue at St. John the Divine cathedral. I hadn’t brought it with me for any real purpose other than I found it, and I took it with me. It seemed appropriate that I leave it across the universe in St. James’ cathedral in Santiago. I looked for a good spot, one that had a chance of permanence, and my mind flashed on the water fountain outside: it was perfect. After a few more minutes of listening to the drone of the priest, I made a beeline for the exit. At the fountain, I bowed my head and dropped my crystal into it.

It felt odd not having any place to go—no destination on the map ahead of me. My journey was complete. I didn’t feel let down any more, but I also didn’t feel any sense of euphoria. Or even pride of accomplishment. Maybe I’d had so many thoughts and feelings as I walked that when the walking was finished, there was nothing left. Emptiness.
(more…)