Finisterre is a peninsula located in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. For the past two summers, my father and I have backpacked the Camino de Santiago. On our first journey, I avoided seeing pictures of the glorious city, wanting my first time exploring its cobblestone streets and magnificent cathedral to be real, surprising, and unspoiled. I could go in depth about the journey in itself – what it taught me, how it’s changed me – but today I will focus on the destination.
Both times I’ve found myself walking the Camino in Spain, the highlight has been ending my long journey at this location: Finisterre. It was believed in the Middle Ages to be the literal end of the Earth. Just over the horizon, you’d find the dramatic edge of the planet. It was so easy for me to roll my eyes at the prospect of a flat Earth until I came here; then, I understood.
If you look closely, you can’t even see the line where sky and Earth meet. They bleed together, forming one, miraculous blue abyss. This spot has a huge spiritual significance in my life, and I’ll tell you why:
At the end of my first walk, I had prayed, journaled, and contemplated life’s “purpose”… very cliché, yes, I know. I had just finished my first year of college, and though I found I learned a lot about my faith, I also found it difficult to hold onto the ideologies I had clung to for so long. I was challenged, and for this I am now thankful, but at the time, I was confused.
While on the Camino, things began making sense. I broke up all the pieces and starting sorting through them over again, wrestling with the absurdity of human existence, my existence, and trying to figure out why it is I am here. I reached the beautiful, wondrous Santiago, and upon hearing the church bells at the city’s entrance, I understood. I understood what it meant to be a wanderer in Christ, to be walking (sometimes quite literally) His path, knowing, hoping, praying that one day, we will all meet again at that glorious city.
I had it all figured out, and then, I came here. Finisterre.
After having thought that I understood everything, I realized I understand nothing. And to my surprise, this was calming knowledge. Existence, God, purpose… It’s all one blue mystery. It’s nothing and everything in one. It’s abstract and concrete at the same time. It’s blurred lines and fine lines and shadows and clarity all embracing each other. We are just wanderers. We are only meant to walk the path. Some day, we will meet the horizon, and only then will it all be clear. But for now, we walk, and we trust, and we believe.
I am embarking on a new journey soon. My wanderlust has me traveling northward. I’ll be alone. I’ll be starting afresh. I am incredibly terrified and invigorated at the same time. My expectations are muddy simply because I know very little about what I’m getting myself into. I’ll be uprooting myself from my comfortable college campus in the States and studying abroad, and I knew full and well going into this that I’d likely be the only one from my school doing this particular program, but this only made the opportunity more enticing. I’m aware that very seldom do we get opportunities in life to try something new on our own volition. In life changes such as these, those who wait for our arrival are still strangers and not yet friends. We don’t have the luxury of confining ourselves to the comfort of background knowledge, because the territory remains uncharted. We are walking into the blue abyss, all alone, trusting ourselves and trusting God. It’s scary, but beautiful, and as I begin packing up my dorm, I blissfully think of this picture.
I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
When I was little, I dreamt of entering snow-dusted forests and discovering a hidden lamppost through fluttering flakes. I imagined what it would be like to ride a flying lion, or become acquainted with the hospitality of a beaver’s dam. I wrote letters to fairies. I fantasized every detail about my very own trip to Neverland, running alongside the Lost Boys, and grimacing as I breathed in the rum and danger that plagued the breath of Hook. I played, I sang, I danced, and my God, I dreamt.
Books have brought me farther in my journey to adulthood than any class I’ve taken, research I’ve conducted, or paper I have turned in. Books have constructed the soul that resides underneath my freckled skin; they have given me courage, wit, and adventure. I learned how to be a better friend by falling in love with the tales of Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. I have learned how to be a better daughter through the female-driven March family so wonderfully sculpted by Louisa May Alcott.
There is no braver way to go about the world than standing tall, chin held high, with your thumb tracing the binding of a book at your right side.
But lately, I’ve realized:
I can be brave. I can be loud. I can be strong. But I am always hungry.
I can vicariously live through the whimsical tales of pirates and flying boys and white witches, and I can try to write my own story, tasting every raindrop, feeling each eroded cobblestone .
But I’m hungry. And no adventure, in or out of a book, can satiate this craving I have.
You know when you finish a book, or even a part of a book, or perhaps an incredible poem, film, song, you name it, and you release yourself back out into the world with an electricity that penetrates your thoughts and infuses your blood and you briefly have a newfound desire to live and then
—you find that you’re incredibly disappointed.
Nothing out there can match up to whatever it was that you just put down.
It’s that high that we all get when we put down a novel that moves us that comes crashing down when we realize nothing other than that book can move you the same way. It’s already been felt, experienced, and now it’s back to sitting on your bedside table. All you can do is think about it over and over and over and reread it till the pages become brittle and then
But you see, these moments of artful ecstasy–where we find ourselves so inspired and the world for a flicker of a moment can be seen in colors unknown to the sleepy mind–we are simply tasting the sweet adventure of Creation. We are only feeling the warmth of a nearby flame.
These books that change us–they are only exclamation points in a novel we are currently living.
I am still the little girl who dreams of joining the Lost Boy brigade and leaving footprints behind as I enter a magical wardrobe–only now, I’m dreaming of a different Narnia. A different Neverland. I am only a larger child.
And there’s a reason why, when I look up from the book, the joy vanishes in a whisper.
It taunts. It leaves me searching this troubled world over for a source of love and light that lasts longer than a fraction of a second. I cannot find it here within my pages.
But I am not sad.
Someday, when my book is done,
I will get to look up
And not be disappointed.
Atlases that sit in your car pocket and are seldom opened, seen, examined. Road markings. Interstates. Route numbers. Highways. Little black dots with fine-print names and within those black dots names that go unprinted. Names with lives. Names with jobs and families and brittle hearts and full hearts and favorite radio stations preprogrammed in their cars. And in their side pockets–
Blue blobs, green blobs, streaks of blue that bleed across the page and into each other. Creation simplified. Creation obscured. Creation beckoning:
Come, see the eyes of our flowers, the bulbs of the dewdrops clinging to our heavy leafs, the morning vigil of the birds, the sanctity of our silence, the roaring of our waters. Come, and look up from your
Large words, small words, too many words. Makes you not want to look at it. Makes you confused. Makes you lost. Complication. Intimidation. Motivation?
No. Not now. Too many things. Large things. Little things. Job, family, brittle heart, full heart, favorite radio stations preprogrammed in your car.
All creation, all names–printed and unprinted–little blue veins and black veins and orange veins and green veins purposefully woven for your exploration
Back in your pocket. Seldom open, seen, examined.