Pilgrimage

view of cathedral from street below

Ok, this is getting a little out of order. As previously stated, I had planned to write about the fabulous week I spent in Alicante. But in a desire to complete the arc of theft story, I am going to reflect on the week I've just spent in potentially the most appropriate place I can think of, on the heels of my ordeal in Madrid.

I'll start with an extremely brief history of Santiago de Compostela. It is said that in the early 800s, a shepard was lead by a star to a place that had the remains of the apostle St. James. A cathedral was built on the spot, and the town grew around the cathedral. It as become a major pilgrimage within Christendom, especially for Catholics.


The train from Madrid arrived well after 11pm, and after a three hour ride where all I did was replay the incident, I hardly paid attention as I trudged uphill to my hostel.

I will stop now to effuse my love for this hostel. First off, they stop check-in at 10pm, but they waited till well after 11:30 for my arrival and greeted me with a smile. When asked for my passport for check-in, they didn't fuss at all when I handed them the police report and the copy of my passport. Victor was very kind and empathetic to my current situation. My original reservation had me checking out on Friday, but when it became clear it was going to be best to wait till Monday, they found a way to rearrange their booking to accommodate me for an additional three nights. And every day, when I first greeted them, they asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Honestly, just the kindest people.


As the town is the terminus of the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, its filled with people from all over the world completing their pilgrimage. And that energy is palpable. You can see the struggle on the bodies, but you FEEL the passion, happiness and sense of accomplishment. Couple that with the strong religious overtones of the town, and the energy of this place is off the charts.

Most will know I'm not religious. I was raised Catholic, but don't practice (sorry Grandma B). But this place is a veritable vortex of energy, flowing from the pilgrims and the streets and cathedrals of the town. It's almost overwhelming ... almost.


Now to the reflection and healing.

I slept in till almost noon that first morning, not wanting to face the uncertain reality of my situation. Once arisen, I did the only thing I could think of ... find coffee.

Things started looking up when I made my way inside Ratiños Coffee Shop. Third-wave nirvana ensued. A Chemex of single origin Ethiopian was exactly what my heart needed in that moment. From the first sip to the last, I grinned from ear to ear. I had found my coffee spot for as long as I'd be in town.

After a little research I decided I needed a good walk to try to shake the cobwebs free and adjust my perspective. I wandered just out of town and up a hill to The City of Culture. In stark contrast to the centuries of history in the old town, this was a haven of modern architecture. I perched myself just below the top and watched the world go by for several hours, finally starting to process what had happened and what I needed to do to move forward.

I capped off the night by "treating myself" to a nice meal out. I use quotation marks here, because the bill came to about $15 in the end. But the seafood and local vermouth were all outstanding and worthy of a higher price.

I went to bed that night not entirely renewed, but well on my way.


The rest of my time here has been spent walking the narrow, cobbled streets, relaxing in the inexhaustible number of parks, researching and planning how to practically move forward, and ultimately healing my bruised soul.

That healing has come from many directions. I've met some wonderful people in my hostel, fresh from their Camino, so full of accomplishment and ready to share stories of struggle and ultimately triumph.

One afternoon, I made my way inside Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, where St. James is said to rest. To say it was overwhelming would be quite the understatement. I found myself compelled to kneel and say a prayer. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks ... all the pent up anxiety, indecision, dispare and mixed emotions collected over the last few months and I tried to prepare for this journey.

My eyes opened like a firehose and the tears rushed forward. Tears of fear, sadness and anxiety, as well as those of happiness and joy, mixed in a flood of emotion I could not contain or control. I wept openly in this grand house where millions of people have made pilgrimage for over a 1000 years.

I walked out of the cathedral a different person. The same me that entered, but with a weight lifted and a new sense of perspective.

Its all so fitting in the place of pilgrimage, to realize I too am a pilgrim on a journey. As I recalled the stories of those at the hostel, I was reminded of a message I've said so many times, but now took on new context ... the journey is the prize.


Just relax, you're doing fine ... Swimming in this real thing I call life
Phish, Strange Design

And now I'm ready to claim that prize, to reach for it with both hands, to pull it close, to treasure it. It's always interesting, when you know something to be true, but you need to struggle to unlock your full understanding of it.

So tomorrow I will awake at 4:30am to take a train back to Madrid, back to the scene of the crime, to get a new passport ... and a new lease on this life.

Buen Camino!