When taking the first of A Million Steps on the Camino, arrival in Santiago does not even cross the mind. Without notice, two or three weeks pass and half a million steps are history. A child rarely contemplates mortality for the same reason. The days of life evaporate in a similar fashion. One minute we are in high school and moments later……getting out of bed is difficult due to a middle aged body that no longer cooperates with the mind.
108KM from Santiago, I had the good fortune to cross paths with John Pierre from France. In 2011 at the age of 73, he began his Camino in Le Puy, France. That route is an astounding 900 miles from Santiago. In Estella (425 miles from Santiago) he received two pieces of bad news. His mother was deathly ill and his girlfriend was involved in a car crash. He returned to France to care for his ladies. Eventually, his mom died after 102 years and 58 days on this planet. I laughed without control when he told me she had a pretty good life until 101 when her hearing started to go south. When I asked him how he was doing a tear formed without cresting in his aging eye. He was so sad to be so near the end of this multi-year epic journey. His spirits quickly improved as he shared a story about hand building and curing his impressive walking stick.
Three or four days later, I arrived in Santiago. Walking into the magnificent cathedral reminded me of reuniting with a former lover. Familiar but very different. Unlike my first Camino, Santiago was a pit stop en route to the ocean-side cities of Finisterre and Muxia. The walk to these two destinations was very calming and filled with solitude. Many pilgrims speak of walking to the ocean but the majority drop out in Santiago. Tears did crest uncontrollably when I saw the ocean for the first time. Such a feeling of contentment to have walked from the Pyrenees that separate two countries to the medieval end of the world in Finisterre.
My first Camino was a life bending experience. It led to the book, hundreds of speaking engagements, and a severe push down a spiritual path without ending. I honestly feel like I never left the trail as I am very fortunate to keep meeting so many interesting people. The main lessons from round one were to give up worry, let go of EVERYTHING, and live in the moment. None of these are natural, but so worth the effort! The second trip did not provide any new life changing events, but the lessons from the first trip grew substantial and sustainable roots within my soul. On round two, I was gone for 42 days yet my mind did not visit Boise, ID for more than three hours.
I recently came across a Facebook post with a lovely picture of a tree. The caption read, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” My first arrival in Santiago feels like yesterday but it was over 1,000 days ago. My second was more than 60 days ago.
What are you waiting for?