Despite what I was told i felt compelled to bring it with me in my rucksack. I didn't know why but I did. I put it safely in the leather draw string bag that my husband made me for the camino.
When I started the camino I didnt know anything about the iron cross, 'cruz de ferro' which stands at the highest point along the camino. It is a very humble cross. It's base is made up of stones that previous pilgrims have left behind. It is perhaps the most significant part of the camino, bar the destination itself.
I found out along the way that pilgrims tend to carry a stone with them or some other symbolic object and they leave it at the cross to mark that which they would like to leave behind or that which they pray for in their life, or both.
As soon as I found out about this I thought about my little sculpture but dismissed it automatically as I had to return it to natalie. But as I got closer and closer to the cruz it felt more and more right for me to leave it there. I sent a tiptoeing email to Natalie a few days ago assuring her that if she really wanted it back I wouldn't leave it and that if I did leave it I would find a way of replacing it. Her response: "I am happy that you know what to leave there.Go right ahead with my blessing'. It's almost as if she knew about the cross all along.
I left foncebadon in a dark fog that threatened rain but as I ascended to the cruz de ferro the sun rose and painted the once dark mountains golden. they seemed to be radiating a pink aura that opened out into an impossibly blue sky. Above me a huge wispy cloud spread its wings wide open like some kind of angel blessing the day.
All the walk up to the cross I was silently readying myself. I was devastated when I got there to find that the pilgrims already there seemed to see it as simply a kodak moment. They were shouting at their friends; directing them on how to take the photograph. It didn't feel like a place of contemplation at all. What to do? I waited for a while, hoping the more boisterous pilgrims would leave but even more boisterous pilgrims arrived to replace them. I circled the rocky mound, went to the nearby hermitage, felt the sculpture in my hand, waited. And then I remembered life isn't about waiting for the perfect moment and my feet started taking me up the rocks to the wooden base of the cross. As soon as I got to the top the tears started flowing and miraculously there was silence. absolute pin dropping silence. I don't know how it happened.
I took my time. I gently lay my sculpture down amongst all the other hopes and dreams, heartaches and tragedies and I thought it is all of this that makes us human. It's our very essence. It's what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, maybe. To hope, to dream, to wish for... To long for... to miss, to love.
I left my dreams and wishes at the cross. I left them in God's hands. No more grasping. No more holding on with a clenched hand that can't receive anything. I left behind my being small my feeling so responsible for others and not feeling responsible for myself. I left it all behind. No longer will I grasp for that which I already am. It was hard to let it all go but it was time and I was ready. I descended the rocks, taking as much of their messages in as my soggy face would allow. Two cyclists shoved a camera in my hands as I reached the ground. Crashing unawares into the humble, gentle, sacredness of the site, they wanted a photo at the summit with their bike and trailer in some kind of victory pose. Like merchants in the temple they were missing it all.
The descent through this Templar world was hard and I felt drained and fragile like a snake that's just shed it's old skin. Soon the mountain's energy was rejuvenating my spirit and I marched on, down and down passing deserted villages, green fairy tale like forests smelling of pine, that were sure to be full of duendes. I stopped in at Molinoseco. Liz, who seems to jump into every river she finds went for a swim and emerged to join me for lunch. We toyed with the idea of staying put and not doing the extra 8k into Ponferrada but we continued. Accounting for the sharp inclines/declines we did about 35k today. I was feeling physically and emotionally exhausted as we crawled into a hotel opposite the magnificent Templar castle.
Tomorrow is a new day. I have less than 200km to go. I have walked 600km. In one week's time I'll be in Santiago. Me but different. Whatever your intentions, expectations, hopes and dreams (maybe even if it's just a sport) the camino gets to you, offers you a chance to grow, if you want to take it.
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Location:Foncebadon to ponferrada