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Articles Tagged ‘Finisterre’

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Portugal Restored

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

I feel like I´m back in Portugal. Of course I haven´t left yet, but for a couple of days I felt I had landed in a slightly run-down theme park with no particular language or culture. This morning the smoke had cleared away, the day was gorgeous, hot, and clear, and I boarded the first bus for Cabo da Roca, the geographically western-most point in Europe, and therefore in some sense the real European End of the World. The bus headed down the hill to a little community of apartment blocks and picked up a number of women who must have been the maids to people living between Sintra and Cascais. Surrounded by these women, chatting laughing and nibbling bread and sweetcakes on their way to work, I knew I was in Portugal again. They got off the bus in ones and twos before the bus reached Cabo da Roca, and there was nobody left on the bus but me and a few hardy early-morning tourists. Cabo da Roca is NOTHING like Finisterre. [read on]

Santiago de Compostela

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

This incredibly beautiful city is altogether too much to take in. Even if I had a week, a month, a year, I would still be taking it in. I bought a book about it to take home, and I am not even trying to take pictures. The most surprising thing so far is that when I got to the Cathedral, I staggered around for a few minutes, and then I began to cry. I didn´t mean to cry. Nobody else I saw, of all the hordes of people, was crying. In fact they were shooting pictures and videos, talking, chewing gum, whistling, cajoling their kids into paying attention, lining up to touch the Tree of Jesse or to see the relics, kissing, holding hands, helping their aged mothers and grannies, and doing all the things that people do. I was shocked at myself, sobbing. I couldn´t help it. My sense of privilege was overwhelming. My awe was overwhelming. My sense of history is overwhelming: I feel the energies of the many people who have come here on foot, on their knees, as penance or as praise, hundreds of thousands of people for more years than I can imagine, many of whom must have died on the way. This is where they were trying to get to. And here I am. Not even a Christian. Did not follow the golden arrows. Sobbing. I found myself gazing into the eyes of a beautiful little figure of Santa Nossa Señora Salome. Salome was made into a saint? Wasn´t she the one who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter? The one Oscar Wilde wrote about? They made her a saint? Well, no matter. Obviously it is not her legend that moved me, since I don´t really know what her legend is. It is her stillness. The statue has a great stillness and presence to it that moves me. I did take a picture of her. I could wrap my spirit around her. She was the one presence in that vast and unimaginably complex cathedral that I could wrap my spirit around, and I put my hand on one of her little feet for a while, till I felt grounded enough to move again. If anybody knows anything about how she became a saint or what her story is, do tell me. But more about Finisterre, and more about this place. [read on]

At the End of the World!

Friday, August 4th, 2006

After trains and buses from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m. yesterday, including a two-hour layover in Santiago de Compostela, where the action at the bus station is better than an erotic movie (more on that another time, but let me say now that Chaucer was not wrong about the Camino and its affect on the lusts of the pilgrims)–after all that long schlep, I finally got to the End of the Earth, Finisterre. Fisterre. Finis Terra. I am here with the warm sun, a blasting fierce wind, more seagulls than I thought possible in one place, and many young pilgrims with shaggy heads, walking sticks, hiking boots, and wild joy. As I was walking the 6 km road up to the lighthouse at the end of the world just before sunset yesterday, a young man with a lean face, glasses, and blonde curly hair was walking down the road barefoot, carrying his shoes, smiling. I beamed a great smile at him, and he burst into English (so much for my thinking I am not instantly recognizable as an English-speaker): “I am enjoy life this moment. Everything is beautiful. I am beautiful this moment!” I opened my arms to him and shouted, “Yes, you are beautiful!” He rushed into my arms, gave me a long hug, and then backed off, his eyes full of tears, and kissed my hand. It was that kind of afternoon. [read on]