“On all the peaks lies peace” – Goethe. I learned this to be true a few days ago. It is a Camino tradition for pilgrims to bring and carry a rock from home during their journey. This rock can symbolize a part of the traveler’s life that they want to leave behind on the Camino, what or who they are praying for, or it can represent why someone is walking the Camino.
We all have one rock with one thousand thoughts along with it.
Pilgrims typically place their rocks under the cross that stands on Puerto Irago. This spot is 1,504 meters above sea level and is the highest point on the Camino. This small iron cross that stands atop of a wooden pole has become an iconic symbol of the Camino. The rocks below the cross unifies all those who have traveled along the Way of Saint James.
To me, the rocks below the cross represent the thousands of trials that we have all faced, the difficulties that we have each endured not necessarily together, but instead collectively as human beings. The rocks represent the tribulations that each of us have decided to let go of, to leave at the foot of the cross.
A few days ago, we came upon the point in our journey where we were to leave our rocks at the foot of the cross.
I found my stone on the beach, washed up by the ocean. The ocean is extremely meaningful to me, as it is the only place where I feel whole, at home, in harmony with the earth and in the presence of God. So, it was only natural that my Camino stone came from the ocean.
The Camino has been more than simply a cultural and historical walk, it has been a walk of growth, a walk of healing, a walk of renewal.
The rock represents the pain that I once went through, the heartache of loss, the many things I once believed I was fully healed from. But one thing I have learned on the Camino is that it is impossible for one to stop healing and stop growing, there is always room for more healing and more growth. Leaving my tock at the foot of the cross enabled me to experience a deeper sense of healing and growth. I realized, when I reached the peak and saw the cross, that all along I have been doing this walk in honor of my two dear friends, Brenda and Thalia, whose lives were taken from them at the young age of 16. The Camino is said by many to be equivalent to a lifetime compressed into five weeks. This walk, this journey is for my two beautiful friends, it’s the journey, the life, they had hardly started and the one they never got a chance to finish.
To say that the letting go of my rock was easy would be far from the truth. The day I laid my rock below the cross was my worst day on the Camino yet, mentally and spiritually. The five mile walk up the mountain to the cross seemed never ending. I lingered in the back and walked alone, thinking. I stopped to write about half way up the mountain. As I looked out on the world below me, on the surrounding mountains and rolling hills, I felt numb. Not feeling pain necessarily, but hurting and feeling sick in remembering the pain I once felt and all the suffering that exists throughout the world.
Though the day was difficult and placing my rock below the cross was not easy for me emotionally, that day was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. A new chapter, a new beginning, a blank slate. My rock now sits amongst the thousands of others, insignificant though it may seem. To God, I hope that my seemingly simple stone has a deep significance.
I felt an enormous amount of peace after letting go of my rock. As I sat, my eyes were set on the cross above me, the stresses of the world behind me, and only the hope of the future ahead.
Moving forward felt amazing.
The day, although rough mentally, was rewarding.
After a long day that was filled with many thoughts and tears, my friend Liz and I made it to our destination, Moliaseca. On arriving we noticed a crystal clear river that was crowded with people. As we entered the city we began to run, we quickly took off our shoes and packs and jumped into the water. After hiking for over five hours in 104 degree weather, a swim in the cold river was just what we both needed.
My journey to the refreshing, cleansing river was difficult, but the destination, amazing. I felt as if my soul was being cleansed as I swam, it was like a new baptism, a fresh start. Afterwards we walked into town discovering that many of the albergues were already filled. We found a darling, eclectic, low priced bed and breakfast and decided to stay there. I was surprised at how quickly a challenging and difficult day was made better. It was nice sleeping on a comfortable bed in peace and quiet. The day may have been mentally and spiritually difficult, but the renewal and peace I felt afterwards, made everything worth it.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.