Finisterre: Beyond Our Imagining

The day after we finished walking the 500-mile Camino, Steve and I opted to go see another significant and historical part of the Camino—Finisterre, Latin for the “end of the world.” The Romans named this far west point of Spain thus because at that time, it was believed that there was no more earth beyond this shore. 

In Camino history, this is believed to be the spot where the patron saint of the Camino, St. James, first stepped onshore in Spain. Gradually this became the place where pilgrims went after reaching Santiago to watch the sunset and burn their clothes, believing they were forgiven and reborn by the pilgrimage. It is about 90 km. from Santiago to Finisterre, or a three to four day walk. We opted to join other pilgrim friends on taking the one-hour bus ride to this seaside village; our bodies needed rest.

I remember standing on the rock at the edge of cliff, above a sea illuminated by the low sun. Surrounded by remnants of burned hiking shoes and sooty pieces of clothing, I felt the presence of the other pilgrims who were like me, yearning to return home to themselves. Wanting to burn away old patterns that no longer served. Wanting to simply be. 

As I stood there, I tried to imagine being in a world where understanding of our earth as a sphere was unknown. And even though I know this from a scientific standpoint, as I looked out, it did seem as if the firma terra had ended and all else beyond was deep ocean and an endless horizon.

As I continue this blog, I’ve felt drawn to move from calling it the Little Camino to framing it around the word, Finisterre. What lies beyond this world had always intrigued me, from the time I craned my head back as a child to look at the world through the stained-glass windows of church. Seeing the world through these pattens and colors softened my usual view and opened my heart to something more than my eyes could see. That first urging of the Spirit has guided me to keep seeking, knowing that I will be found as I am finding. 

 “We are in this world, but not of it.” This is one of the tenants of the Diamond Approach path which I follow. As well as the Way of Jesus, who spoke these same words when asked about who he was. What does that actually mean in my life? How do I walk on earth, yet live knowing there is so much more above and within that is my true home?

I thought again of this as I received a cross of ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday and heard the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” When I was a pastor administering this rite, my colleague and I changed it to, “Remember you are stardust and to stardust you shall return.” It’s true. The earth is made from stardust and our physical bodies will return to that same dust. But saying “stardust” implies that we belong to a huge universe of possibility. 

I watched that possibility last night as the skies above my house flew, soared, danced and pulsed in the wonders of the northern lights. Just when I thought there could be nothing more dazzling, the skies lifted their skirts and do the flamenco. Seeing red in the northern lights with the naked eye is so so rare, but not only did the edges of the rivers of light glow red, a huge red cloud appeared and stayed at the end of the valley. I kept blinking to be sure I wasn’t imagining it. The sky pulsed with energy, as if was breathing–urgent puffs and then long sighs. After an hour or more, I had to retreat inside to watch as the temperature dropped to one degree. And it was then that I noticed my soul. It was full of color. It was dancing. It was of exuding joy. I couldn’t go to sleep. I was AWAKE and ALIVE. My feet were on the earth, but soul had left to “trip the light fantastic.”

I am not sure what will frame the coming blog posts—and in a way, not knowing is so freeing. Yet I wonder—was this generous experience of light a glimpse into the answer to my question–when I am awake and alive, I am touching the beyond? 

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