There is an interesting set of 'mind shifts' that occur as our walk progresses over the several weeks we are on the trail. In the beginning we are excited and think we can conquer anything. For these first few days our daily walking goal (in our minds) in kilometers surpasses our collective ages but very soon we realize that those days have passed us and we must quickly adjust to the realities of this season of life and slow our pace down a bit.
This is followed by a phase of, "What were we thinking? Are we ever going to be able to finish this walk?" We daydream about luxurious cruises, travels in which every moment of every day is filled with ease and all we have to do is enjoy it. Our shoes are soft, my hair has a style, and we even have a sweater when we feel a chill.
Then we get into the challenge of our journey. Off the trail and cross country walking and the skill this poses consume our thoughts. We are feeling good about ourselves and our abilities to adapt to the ever changing course we are on. Our bodies are getting stronger. We are not novices any longer and we think even our children would be impressed with our skills and stamina.
Suddenly, we begin to feel a bit tired and start counting the days until we finish. We look for shortcuts and, I'm not ashamed to say, sometimes we take them. The goal of our arrival into Santiago takes precedence over everything else.
Another strange thing begins to happen as we draw close to our goal. We really aren't ready for this to end. We find ways to extend our days by looking for alternative routes that will take us out on the trail for a few more days as we hope to capture every last moment before we reach the end of our travels.
We are beset by a barrage of feelings as we near Santiago. How did we get here so fast? We are excited to be here, and yet... It is like receiving your diploma after a long hard course of study. Excited for the moment but also with the realization that change is inevitable. Are we ready for that change? How will we acclimate back to a life other than the one we have lived these last several weeks? It was hard and so very beautiful at the same time. The simplicity of it makes it hard to go back to the life that we left and yet, at the same time, we are so eager to be with those we love the most in the whole world.
When we walk into the Plaza Major all thoughts vanish and we are engulfed with the emotion of the moment. Each of our entries into the city have been through a different gate but there is familiarity and excitement as we begin the long walk into the Plaza and to the cathedral which marks the finish of the Via de la Plata. So many have gone before us and many will come after us but for now this moment is ours.
We concentrate on the words given to us at the pilgrim mass as we stand at the zero kilometer mark. "It is a good thing you have done pilgrim." Yes, we have to agree. We can walk through the rest of it later.
You are loved. Buen Camino.