Wed 8th Nov., Santiago de Compostela
Today was the ultimate (penultimate??) rest day. We had nothing planned, other than to simply hang out. (There's the mundane things like cleaning and packing our gear, and maybe some of that will get done today, maybe tomorrow.)
Thank you for your various comments on Day 53. Some of them have been lost from the blog page itself due to a technical glitch, but I have copies of them via email, so I've seen them. Thank you also for the variety of other messages we received - email, messenger and the like. Your words, and the spirit behind them, are appreciated by us both.
In one comment which didn't get lost, Derek, who's walked 5 Caminos, said, inter-alia:
It's such a mixture of emotions upon arriving in Santiago and I'm really saddened and disappointed to hear about your reception when you went to collect the compostelas. At one time I'm sure it was staffed by people who themselves had completed a Camino and you could feel a definite bond with them. Unfortunately that no longer seems to be the case. I well remember on my first Camino I was in tears at the counter and the girl behind the counter was in the same state.
I had been contemplating my first Camino, and the incredibly kind man behind the counter at the time I collected my Compostela, and comparing him to the woman yesterday. My thinking turned to making an assumption that he really had the Camino spirit, whereas in yesterday’s woman it was sadly missing. Derek's words above reinforce just that. Now I'm not going to turn this post into a "get stuck in yesterday’s woman" diatribe, as J and I have both processed that event and moved on as they say. But as is my way, putting this altogether got me thinking about spirit.
We went to the midday Pilgrims' Mass at the Cathedral today. As many of you know Janet and I are not religious believers, and yet there is something very special in joining hundreds of others at this ceremony. The cathedral was full (not standing room only as we had experienced previously), but certainly several hundred people all the same. I guess that better than half were people of faith, or looked at from the other perspective, there were perhaps a couple of hundred folk present who, like us, simply wanted to enjoy the experience and the contemplative opportunity it presents. The mass was 99% in Spanish (apart from a handful of words spoken by an Irish priest) so I didn't understand a word, but no matter, it felt good to simply be there in communion with some hundreds of folk who had most likely finished their Camino yesterday (even if, as is statistically factual, of the 366 people who registered for a Compostela yesterday, only about half of those would have walked anything further than the 100 klm minimum). The whole experience really was quite spiritual and uplifting, and seems to have quietened my feelings of flatness yesterday.
And we had a bonus also (I won't go so far as calling it a reward for past situations or hardships) ...
The presence of these men, the tiraboleiros, means only one thing, that the botafumereiro was about to be swung. Depending on which forum one reads this is quite a rare event, one which now we've been fortunate enough to experience four times (one at each one of the three Pilgrims' Masses we've been to, and another at a mass we sort of dropped into in 2015).
I imagine that the swinging of the botafumereiro has some liturgical basis, and the head priest today explained something in Spanish about it, but I didn't understand what he was telling us. So I simply enjoy the spectacle within the context of where we are.
Preparing the incense. Take note of the man in the white vestments in the left pulpit. I don't know these things, but my guess is that he's a classically trained singer. His tenor voice was absolutely beautiful (in previous years we've had a soprano nun singing). The beautiful singing, combined with the equally lovely organ music, adds to the overall atmosphere. Spirit.
The tiraboleiros finishing up; the singer exiting.
After the mass we again went to visit Santiago himself. See below.
Janet was very moved by one aspect of this experience. It's her story to tell, if she wishes to do so.
That just about wraps up our time in Santiago de Compostela, and marks the end of the Camino. (I've got two more posts to do - learnings and accommodation - but they'll be a little while off yet.) As I reflect on the last 24 hours it's amazing how much has changed in that short time. Spirit, I guess.
There is one more thing. I imagine that some of you will laugh. Maybe lots. The transformation from wild walker man into, well, I'll let you judge ...