CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DEL COMPOSTELLA The Way to the Field of the Stars of St James
Today we walked through light misty rain. The air was fresh, the landscape more vivid and above us the trees were luminescent against the cloudy sky. We have been walking for three days and are now 64 kilometres, two blisters, one sore knee and five delicious baguettes into the journey.
In reading the history of the way of St James we have discovered an interesting backstory to this highly regarded pilgrimage. It involves the fall of the Roman Empire in Spain, the invitation of Moors (Moroccan Muslims) to help Spain recover from the chaos of the Barbarian invasions, the freedom of religious and artistic expression encouraged by the Moors, Charlemagne who came to slay the Moors and promoted St James to become patron saint of Spain, and a shepherd in 813 who was drawn to a field by a bright light or star. Thus we get the name Sant-Iago (St James) de Compostella (the field of the stars). It seems that recently there has been an exponential increase of pilgrims seeking genuine spiritual experience and many do this by walking ‘the way’ or Camino.
The question asked by many fellow ‘pilgrims’ on the journey is ‘What made you decide to walk the Camino?’ and we have been spending the last three days figuring out our answer. I read in a guide book yesterday, which encouraged pilgrims to focus as much on the inner journey as the outer journey, that ‘we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey’ and I that has shaped my thoughts these last few days. So often, we do things as an attempt to ‘find God’ but if God dwells around us and in us, God is not hard to find. Rather, the journey of life seems to be more about us figuring out how we each uniquely express God’s spirit through our humanity in this world. So, we are enjoying walking, talking, meeting fellow walkers, dealing with grumpy days, buying fresh bread each day and drinking one euro bottles of red wine, delighting over century old cathedrals and beautiful red and white villages, all the while allowing our thoughts to subconsciously work through some of those deeper questions we don’t have time to get to in day-to-day busyness. My challenge is not to make completing the Camino the end goal (and always trying to overtake the pilgrims ahead – how unspiritual) but to be present in each day, enjoying conversations along the way and being open to what the day may bring.