I am not sure exactly when the desire to pilgrimage was planted in me. I don't know how long it incubated and then grew. I do know that it hasn't disappeared. There are things I hear on pilgrimage that I cannot hear any other way, any other time, or anywhere else. Pilgrimage is a great metaphor for Life. However, it is not Life. That means that I require the actual living of Life after a pilgrimage to begin to understand what I learned while walking.
It has been about 10 months since I left for Portugal to begin walking The Camino. I wanted the first stamp in my pilgrim passport/credential to be in Lisbon. The geography matched the landscape in my heart. I wanted to see the broken pieces, I wanted to witness the renewal.
Lisbon is a city built of rubble.
The three biggest natural disasters to hit the city happened all on the same day in 1755. First, there was an earthquake that brought down many of the main structures. Scientists estimate that quake was between 8.5 and 9 and that it lasted for 3 minutes, collapsing stone walls, demolishing filled churches and opening up 2 meter-wide gaps in the streets. The shaking ground caused candles to fall over and fires tore through Lisbon and surrounding areas burning wooden structures. It took 5 days to get the fires under control.
The epicenter of the quake was in the Atlantic Ocean. Townspeople trying to escape falling debris and fire ran to the docks. Within 45 minutes of the earthquake the first of 3 tsunami waves hit those docks. The wall of water was 9 meters high when it reached the city, the worst recorded tsunami to hit Europe. 90% of the buildings were destroyed. 75,000 people in Lisbon died as a result of the 1755 earthquake.
How do you recover from something like that? Everything was broken. Everyone was broken. Every single person left alive was grieving someone, grieving home, grieving.
The mayor surveyed the rubble and said,
Bury the dead.
Heal the living.
Gather the pieces and start again."
The roads in Lisbon are cobblestone streets, but they are not made of big stones like in other cities. The stone streets are made of smaller rocks. The sidewalks are also built of bits of stones. The buildings went up quickly too. Providing dwellings kept the remaining population from illness. There was no time for decorative carving or for painting these new buildings. Lisbon was known for tiles and many of them were still whole. In fact, they had piles of them, so as buildings went up the exteriors were covered with those stacks of tiles.
Lisbon is a city built of rubble. There are bits of pieces everywhere. And it is beautiful.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when a pilgrimage begins. Is it the day we start walking from a specific point? Is it when we start packing? Or when we first realize we have the idea? I'm not sure it's possible to clearly identify the beginning, however, once we get started, each day is a decision to start anew.
Every day is a pilgrimage.
Every day we get up again, no matter how sore or broken.
Every day we begin again.
We gather the broken pieces and make a way.
We build atop the rubble.
And Life is Beautiful.