The Pilgrimage Question

Why do you walk?

It is the most common question I got before I left. It is the question the old woman asks me now. She is from Bogota, Columbia. She too is a pilgrim.

"I am on pilgrimage," I tell her.

"Yes," she smiles, "but why do you walk? What is there at Compostela?" I am not sure what she is asking. I start to explain that it is an ancient pilgrimage site. She nods and waves her hand impatiently, "Of course, yes, I know this. What is there for you? ¿Porque caminas? Why do you walk?"

This question has gotten more and more difficult for me to answer. I think I had an answer when in the planning stages. I think I had an answer after buying my ticket. But the last week before I left words abandoned me and the only ones left were, "because I need to go."

There is something terribly lonely about the path, even though there are other pilgrims on it. Perhaps because there are other pilgrims on it. Days 5 and 6 since I left home are so lonely, and the ache in my chest is so heavy that I am not sure I will make it.

My muscles and feet are fine.

And meal times are times of beautiful connection.

But there are lots of empty spaces. Some are for thoughts, some for prayers, some for just being. Some swallow me up and threaten to sadness.

So much is beautiful.

So much is wonderful.

So much is glorious.

So much is plodding in the heat, in the wind, putting one foot in front of the other up a hill while carrying a pack.

I left home six days ago, and the question is asked of me daily on the road, in the pilgrim houses, and the answer has buried itself so deep inside that all I have to offer by way of explanation is completely unsatisfactory. I walk because I am a pilgrim and I need to know what that means.