Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words

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Contemplation, by Sheri Lucas Rowlands.

This week’s writing challenge begins with an image (“Contemplation,” above). As it happens, today’s post was going to be about a spot on the map that seems to naturally reel in those in need of serious contemplation. I’m talking about Finisterre, on the western coast of Spain.

There are many routes a pilgrim can take to Santiago de Compostela. The most popular (and the route that I’ll be taking, at least this first time around) is the Camino Frances, which starts in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in France, and crosses the Pyrenees into the Basque region of Spain, then through the Meseta region and on to Galicia and Santiago de Compostela. It’s a little less than 800km, typically covered on foot, but also tackled on bicycle and horseback.

Even though St. Jean is one of the traditional starting points for the journey, peregrinos can start out just about anywhere. In the middle ages, the pilgrimage started from your front door, and some people still do leave their homes and walk all the way to Santiago. No matter where a person kicks off their trip, the recognized end point is Santiago, where pilgrims who have teken on the last 100k by foot, horse, or bicycle receive their Compostela, the official document signifying completion of the journey.

A simple Compostela, via www.caminosantiagocompostela.com.

Not all pilgrims end their walk at Santiago, however. A tradition dating from pre-Christian times encourages pilgrims to to keep walking about 80km further down the road, to a place called Finisterre, once thought to be the literal end of the earth. When the pilgrimage was first established in the 8th century, pilgrims visited Finisterre to pick up a scallop shell for proof that they’d completed the journey. Today, some pilgrims-turned-celebrants burn their possessions and jump naked into the sea to be cleansed and reborn. Others just sit and have a long, quiet reflection on the last month of blisters, mud, and newly established friendships.

After careful thought, I believe that once I reach Santiago, I’ll take a break for a day or two, then continue on to Finisterre. There are positives and negatives to this decision. I’m sure I’ll be bone tired. I’ll be really annoyed with wearing the same two outfits for a month. If other accounts are to be believed, my boots might be wearing out. Unless something drastic happens to help my back and hips get in better shape over the next few months, both will be screaming in agony, and possibly preventing a good night’s sleep.

Finisterre

Contemplating life at the end of the world.

On the other hand, for me, seeing the sea is always – always – a positive. I’ve heard that reaching Santiago can be somewhat of a letdown; after so many days of walking, you get to expect that the proverbial finish line will be home to a choir of angels, or at least some fireworks. Then you arrive and find that it’s just a place, like any other. A beautiful city and an imposing cathedral, yes, but still just a city. I’m pretty sure that my heart will be breaking as I say goodbye to my new friends and have to start thinking seriously about returning to the “real world.” I will need the ocean to hold me up while I put the pieces back together. Maybe I, too, will be burn my possessions and jump naked into the ocean, to be reborn in the waters off of Finisterre.

Gee, I hope they have a clothing store nearby…

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15 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words

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  5. It sounds like a journey that changes people in someway. What a unique experience.

  6. A goal of mine too, the pilgrimage. …one day. Be sure to journal. Your writing really got me hooked to read more.

    • Thanks! Sorry I missed your comment when it first posted. I’m actually hoping to be blogging throughout the pilgrimage, but if my tech dreams don’t come true then I’ll definitely do it the analog way 🙂

  7. Really enjoyed your approach, you made a set task feel totally natural. Have an amazing time!

  8. Looking at the picture of Santiago you can see why people once thought it was the literal end of the earth! Sounds like an amazing journey and I can’t wait to hear more! I wish I could go too! I hope you will carry us with you in spirit!

    • Will do 🙂 Thanks so much for reading; there’s so much to think about that I’m sure the next months on this blog are going to get pretty interesting.

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