The track to Cape Finisterre is the only pilgrimage route away from Santiago de Compostela. The body of Saint James is said to have arrived there by boat, and his original tomb is said to have been at Finisterre. Like everything associated with Saint James, I’d have trouble proving it.
For many, the ocean is the true end of the Way. Of course, they’d have trouble proving it.
It’s a bit like “true” pilgrims. How does one establish that? On the way to Negreira, on my first day of the walk to the coast, I met an older German gentleman going the other way. He had started like many pilgrims of earlier times and simply walked out of his front door – in Germany! Now he was walking back to his front door – in Germany!
He said that he did not feel this made him in any way authentic: he was merely curious to reproduce that medieval experience. Further, he was not sure that what he was doing was Christian, being one of those who believed that the Way may well be a prehistoric Celtic tradition.
He had been asking people he met what was the true reason for the Way of Saint James, and was dissatisfied with all the answers. It was my turn to disappoint. After very little thought – I’d rather chatter than ponder – I suggested it would help if he were more Celtic and diffuse in his thinking, so the true reason would matter less, or change its signification. (The appeal to cliché Celtism was silly, but I do feel some Germans wrestle too much and too clumsily with abstraction. Their language makes it that much more strenuous.)
Of course, my babbled response was useless, a void-filler. I was simply recommending that he should be more like me, a shirker of left-brain exertion who thinks in Technicolor and talks in shorthand. If he ceased to be a puzzler, he would have no puzzle. How was that going to help?
There is no greater sincerity than that of the German, when his sincerity is unfeigned and unforced. I was only with this gentleman for a few minutes, but I’m fond of him forever. I like to think we were attracted opposites. He was trudging up a steep hill the last time I glimpsed him, something he wouldn’t mind in the least.
The track to Finisterre is through hills, then into some well-watered farm country, with an ascent to some higher ground again before the ocean comes into view. I feel like exhibiting this region without comment, not because it’s uninteresting – it’s choice – but because this phase was a wind-down for me. So let the blog wind down too.