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Monday, October 22, 2018


I have fallen in love with Galicia.

I didn't intend for it to happen. It just did. 

Perhaps it is because my maternal grandmother hailed from this part of the Iberian peninsula - in Portugal. I'm sure my maternal grandfather and paternal grandparents, who immigrated to the USA from the Azores, also have roots in this part of the world as well. 

In an inexplicable and strange way, it does feel so much like "home".

I look into the faces of the people in these villages and they could be my relatives, my aunts, uncles and cousins.  The hair is dark and thick and curly. The skin, "olive" complexion. The eyes are intense and expressive. And, of course, you couldn't miss the distinctive Iberian nose.

I listen to the sounds of the language and music and smell the food and I am instantly transported to my grandmother's kitchen.  I can hear her talking and singing as she cooks. 

There is a softness to the sounds of the language my grandmother reminded me constantly that I'd better learn fluently 'lest I be unable to speak with the angels, for it is a language so beautiful that it is the chosen form of communication in heaven.. 

It is a "shuusch" sound that falls with such familiarity and tenderness  on my ears that it almost makes me weep with a sense of ... what is it? Nostalgia? Homesickness?

Ah, no. It's not that. 

Now I remember. 

It's 'soledad', an inexplicable longing, a loneliness, a wanting for something that may be right in front of you but somehow is not available, perhaps because it has changed. Or, is no longer there as you remembered. Or, wasn't what you expected.

My grandmother used to remind me that you can have 'soledad' for a person when he or she is sitting right next to you.

I thought I was coming here to Spain to walk The Camino. And, I did that. I have the swollen ankles, the spider vein that popped on the back of my left calf and the still vaguely sore muscles to prove it.

More importantly, my heart is full and my soul is content that I not only physically walked The Camino (no small feat), but did so spiritually and emotionally as well.

At least, I thought I was content. 

Until I saw more of Galicia. 

And now, I have 'soledad' for a place I have only just this one time visited. 

I know. How does that even make any sense? 

I don't know. It just does. Somehow, it makes perfect sense. 

I am reminded of that wonderful quote by Blaise Pascal, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

It is said that The Camino provides what the heart and the soul did not know that it had lost. 

I am discovering this new chapter of The Camino which, it is also said, never ends at the Cathedral de Santiago. It only just begins there. 

And so, I am leaving this place knowing that I will be returning one day. 

Yes, I want to discover Iona and make a pilgrimage there.

Yes, I hope to finish the pilgrimage of the Axis Mundi and make pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem.

Now that I know the differences between being a tourist and a pilgrim, I am longing to see what my heart and my soul and my spirit will gain from those two ancient, holy places. 

But, I also hope to return here to Galicia as a pilgrim not a tourist, to discover or recover or uncover my ancestral roots and deepen my spirituality and commitment to service which was such an integral part of the spirituality of my grandparents.

And so, I'm off to the Aeropuerto de Santiago de Compestella. I wanted to go back into the Cathedral Square for one last time - perhaps to attend early mass at the little Capilla Santa Maria Solome, the mother of Santiago - but I simply couldn't bear to say goodbye again.

My heart is filled with emotions, mostly deep, deep gratitude and boundless joy.

My soul is wide open to endless possibilities and dreams.

And yes, I have 'soledad'.

But, it's good, you know?

It means that I have experienced something so good, so wonderful, so amazing, that to leave it brings an instant sense of longing.

In its own way, 'soledad' validates and affirms what the heart has always known.

If I somehow take a sudden, unexpected leave of this life - or, if it is simply my time to go - and you wonder where it is my soul will choose to hover, look no further than Galicia.

I think most of my relatives - past, present and yet to come - are all here.

I am richly blessed and so very, very grateful.

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