Sunday, 24 August 2008

Endings and beginnings

Some say the end of a pilgrimage is really a new beginning. But when is the end? Is it when you arrive in Santiago? When you get your Compostela? After the pilgrim mass? When you get on the plane, bus, train or car home? And what is it the beginning of? Going home? Getting back to reality? Living with new attitude? Forging a new way of living? A personal revolution?

Who knows? I find it hard to make sense of these experiences in the moment. But I know each of the journeys we’ve done as a family has changed us in ways little, large and unpredictable. And that crashing quickly back into the reality of work, school, washing, hoovering, shopping, bills, friends and family doesn’t allow much time for figuring out what the journey was about and what, if anything, you want to end or begin.

With their journey ‘finished’ most people seem focused on getting home. Our travel plans are already made but our ferry home doesn’t leave Bilbao for five days. We could just focus our efforts now on the logistical nightmare of getting ourselves, tandems, trailers and souvenir pilgrim sticks to Bilbao, but I don’t think we’ve reached the ‘end’ yet. Or maybe I just don’t want it to end quite yet.

The ancient pilgrim route continues beyond Santiago to what was considered the very end of the medieval world, Finisterre. What better place to contemplate what ending and beginning means than a place where nothing lies beyond. We’ll figure out how to get back once we get there. Let’s just hope it isn't too much of a problem to get from the end of the world to Bilbao.

Traditionally, pilgrims who made the effort to get to Finisterre would burn their boots or something equally smelly. That's something I know we'll have no problem with.