Yesterday, I picked up a rental car and drove to two of my favorite destinations in Spain – Muxia and Finistera. I find both to be profoundly spiritual- especially the former.
Either can be reached in less than 90 minutes from Santiago. Fortified by a cafe con leche and chocolate con churros, I headed out in my small, white Fiat Panda.
Muxia was overcast and windy. I had imagined returning here on most days as I walked the Camino. In my mind it would be sunny and only somewhat windy with just a handful of people in sight. What I found at first seemed disappointing, but the disappointment quickly disappeared.
I found grey skies and incredible winds, which whipped back my hair as if I we’re standing in a wind tunnel. I took my Spanish copy of the New Testament and read it in the cleft of some rocks where the wind was not so fierce.
Here I meditated on my journey and prepared for the journey home. There is the Camino that one walks to Santiago, and there is also the Camino that one begins upon returning. I thought carefully about where I feel called to place my priorities and where God has opened my eyes in new ways to see better paths forward for the Camino I will undertake upon returning home.
Over and over again on the Camino, you hear people say that they are walking the Camino to clear their head and reflect upon life. Our daily tasks clutter our lives as much as the clutter that fills our closets, attics, basements and garages. We live with far more than we need. We fill our lives with more than we can handle, and in doing so we can no longer hear the still small voice speak within us and see the things that matter most.
Walking across the rocks, feeling the fierce winds whip across my face, and watching as the sun finally burnt away the clouds and transformed this stone outcrop on the northwest corner of Spain into a stunningly beautiful seascape like a Winslow Homer painting, I felt as close to God as I have during this entire journey. No place in nature touches me more than Muxia.
If I had to choose between the mountains and the ocean, I’d choose the ocean. It’s vastness always makes me feel infinitely small and makes me think of God.
Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to Santiago here traveling on a boat to meet him and help him convert the local people to the Christian faith. The stones on this rock spit are said to be the remnants of her boat.
One large, unusual stone is said to be the sail from her boat. If you walk under it nine times, there is a legend that you will never suffer from back issues or rheumatoid arthritis and other things. I walked under it nine times just for good measure in 2013 and assume having done this once, I’m set for life.
I ate a hearty meal in Muxia and reluctantly drove away listening to a CD of Celtic music by Rioba, making my way in half an hour to Cabo de Villa – another site with a special lighthouse on a rock outcropping into the Atlantic Ocean. If the wind blew fiercely in Muxia, it was almost strong enough to blow me off my feet in Cabo de Vila.
A set of maps inside the lighthouse welcome center showed all of the boats and locations where they sank, and there were many. It felt so good to see the ocean again after walking beside or near it for three weeks and then heading inland for ten days without a sight of the ocean.
I eventually headed off to Finistera – the end of my journey. It is customary for pilgrims to burn an article of clothing or all their hiking clothes from the Camino on this rock outcropping below the lighthouse overlooking the cliffs as a symbol that the journey is over. On this evening, no one lit a fire, but one young pilgrim, whose parents and sister or girlfriend accompanied him, threw his boots over the cliff. He was done.
Girls choir singing in Finistera
Talkative Italians and Spaniards clustered along the rocks chatting loudly and breaking the sacred silence of these final moments on the Camino for me. So, I climbed down the cliff to a very remote place, where I could read my Bible quietly and listen to the waves crash against the timeless rocks, write a list of priorities inside my Bible cover to guide me on the journey home – my next Camino – and wait for the sun to set on this journey, which has been so rich, so meaningful and so spectacular.
How fortunate I am to have been given this opportunity and to have made the journey safe and sound to this powerful sight, where for centuries Europeans believed that the known world ended. But a new world and adventure is just beginning for me and for each pilgrim concluding his or her Camino, and now as always another new extraordinary journey with God is just beginning for each of us.
With love and prayers from Spain.
I am committed to Ultreya – to go up higher and to dive more deeply into the things that truly matter – as I head home and begin a new pilgrimage. Buen Camino! Ultreya!
With love and prayers from Spain,