Standing at my gate in Madrid
Waiting to board a flight to Santiago de Compostela
I first spotted them
Dangling from the backpacks of pilgrims
With tears involuntarily filling my eyes
I watch these souls,
a group of girlfriends
a mother and daughter
a man all alone
a gray-haired couple
Fellow pilgrims, my soon-to-be companions
along The Way.
I know I am nearing sacred ground
I am on the brink of beautiful
I feel this beginning of a journey,
different somehow from other trails I’ve walked.
This path I will walk with my feet
But experience with my heart
I gather the anticipation in my arms like a child to be nurtured
I want to stop time for a minute and hold tight
This first glimpse of understanding a certain truth about The Way
The next ten days
until I am drunk with the knowledge of this truth.
But here in the airport
And on the streets of Santiago
before I become
Saturated with the stories of saints
I already know
This long walk
This wandering through gorgeous Spanish countryside
This pilgrimage called The Way
will be all about the people.
The people with whom I will walk
And the people who will feed me and give me shelter.
The people who will light up when I say Buen Camino
And the people who will say it to me.
The people who will laugh and the people who will cry.
The people who will take slow, labored steps and the people who will zing by on bicycles.
This walk will be full of people.
And I am ready to embrace them.