Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Longest Day of the Year at the End of the World

I drove this morning in a rented car to Finisterre, known to Galician locals as Fisterra. To the Celts before the Romans, and to James the Apostle who evangelized here, this point on the northwest Spanish coast was the end of the known world (finis terrae).

This seemed a good day to come to such a place: June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. As I drove from Noia up along the concave coast through a dozen towns with white walls and orange tile roofs, I had no regret. After yesterday's clouds and rain, today is glorious, all sun and puffy cumuli. The green landscape looked so much like the west of Ireland that I stopped to take a picture to send to Katie, who loves the west of Ireland.

The plan was to pick up Marian, who walked here from Santiago in three days, and then drive together to Ávila this evening. But when I arrived and met Marian in front of the church in Fisterra, she said we first had to drive to the lighthouse at land's end. As we drove, Marian told me that the rocky coast from Fisterra north to A Coruña is known as la costa del muerte (coast of the dead) because there have been so many shipwrecks here. At the lighthouse, we were reunited with Caro and Fabian, her two young friends, as well as with Edward, a bright, engaging father from England traveling alone and facing a crisis in his life. The others were planning to stay the night. Marian was wondering if we shouldn't do the same.

So we are. Doing the same. We're here in Fisterra until Friday morning at least. As I drove the group back to town from the lighthouse, Fabian said it was the first time he had been in a car in two months. Edward said it was the first time he had moved backward since the start of the Camino. All of us seemed to agree that it was weird traveling east, after always moving west. It was as if the sea had turned us back, like heavy surf, or maybe it was the costa del muerte, saying we couldn't go further without sailing or flying. And we don't have a boat or a plane.

Time is turning back on us now too. From today onward the days get shorter, darker. Although I return home Tuesday at the height of summer (Katie writes that it's hot, hot, hot on the North Shore), autumn will be around the corner and beyond that winter.

We had lunch in town, and during dessert the mood turned down. I could see on everyone else's face and feel in my own heart that something was coming to an end. Tonight we will have dinner together and probably watch the first half of the quarterfinal match between Portugal and the Czech Republic, since Caro is Portuguese and Fabian is a football nut (soccer to you Americans). Then we will go to the lighthouse or maybe to the beach for a sunset bonfire. I'm not too old for such foolishness.

Tomorrow, probably, it will be off to the home of St. Teresa, maybe with Caro hitching a ride in the backseat of our SEAT León. Then to Madrid on Sunday and home Tuesday.

There I'm sure it will hit me that the Camino has ended, and another Camino already has begun.

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