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December 9, 2017

Santiago

By Maryanna Gabriel

"...and if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it is a heightened state of awareness, 
in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.
That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end." – Pico Iyer





     Coming in past the Mount Of Joy, as it is called because the gleaming towers of the cathedral are visible, I was persevering
. I was not exactly experiencing joy as I was negotiating the will of The Way, feeling much like
Mount Of Joy
a pull toy following a magnetic track. Now the road is curving this way, I say to myself, now we are going up, now we are on pavement, here the road could have been shortened but the city wants us to go on this long round about curve and into nasty traffic, no bridges or crossings for safety, as the heat cinches the deal. I had booked near the cathedral and walking into the city seemed to go on and on. I longed to stop at an Italian Restaurant and five star hotels I was passing but I had promises to keep. It was a 
surprisingly dull suburban approach, no fancy shells, no hallelujah chorus's from welcoming choirs, no maps to understand the layout of the city, no brass bands of congratulations. I was exhausted to the bone. I got lost. Tears of frustration spilled over as I tried to negotiate the old city. How could I have come so far and be going through this now? I was impatient and frustrated. I was given reluctant help. My room was really pretty and I started to feel better.  So now, t'is the end. I was so very tired.

     There was a carnival atmosphere in the square below. A man was singing Italian opera. Vendors were selling crafts. The entrance to the famous cathedral was blocked off for renovations. I mostly needed to eat and to rest. I couldn't though. I needed the Compostela. This is the famous certificate of completion. It was almost the end of me waiting in
Compostela
the line up that wended through hallways and rooms. I knew that once I lay down that would be it. In the line up I heard there was to be a pilgrim's mass that evening. Tough day on the pilgrimage. That attendance was a must. No rest for the wicked. I must be very wicked. Hey wait a minute, I have been granted reprieve from such thoughts. 


    These special pilgrim masses have the butofumeiro - an enormous incense holder that is not at every service and so I wanted to be present. I sought the entrance and ended up in another church. My first clue was the low number of attendees. I rushed to another doorway for I was
Pilgrims Mass 
worried I was not going to get a seat. Security was tight. I was in and hundreds were present. I went to the very back and the altar seemed so small, I was so far away from it. A nun was singing in Spanish. My German friend, Tim, tweaked my side and we gave each other big grins, happy to seeing each other and to be doing this with a fellow peregrino. As we watched the proceedings he was making me laugh. The service acknowledged the countries of the world that were represented and it seemed to me that the clergy had gone to huge effort with acknowledging the accomplishment of many of us present. It took many men in long purple gowns to pull the butofumeiro and make it swing. It was brilliant to see and I appreciated being able to experience this Camino rite de passage.

     After it was over I said goodbye to Tim as he threatened to come and see me one day. I really, really, really needed to lie down. Rested I did. I had deliberately arranged the time so that I would have some flexibility but I was not interested in doing too much. I don't think I understood how deeply exhausted I was. I know the lady in the hotel cut me toast that was about three inches thick. Maybe I looked to her like I needed it.