Thanksgiving in Trim

It was my very first day on the Camino and the spiteful Pyrenees had introduced me to a downhill slope. My legs strained to keep their strength. The sound of steps followed behind me for quite a while before I turned around and noticed a father and daughter duo, arm in arm, walking my pace. Jess and Tomas had to have been the sweetest pair I had encountered yet. You could feel the care they had for each other and it was so special seeing it between a teenage daughter and her father, someone who a lot of eighteen year olds wouldn’t dare be seen with. I related immediately to their connection. I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful this trail would be if I was able to experienced it with my own father some day. We talked the whole way down and all the way up into Roncesvalles and I learned that Jess was planning to study Irish in school, a language I wasn’t at all familiar with. They taught me a few phrases on the way down and the usual conversation topics flowed. After we were assigned rooms, the fates placed us together again in the same little nook made of four beds. Jess and I were roomies for the night and after meeting the two of them that day, I continued to run into Jess and Tomas several times throughout the Camino. They unfortunately were only walking for a week and I had hoped to spend more time with them, especially as their departure date neared and I knew they wouldn’t be around the trail much longer. I remember the very last morning before they planned to head to the airport and back to Ireland. It so happened that we stopped for coffee in the same cafe at the same time and said a teary goodbye. “If you ever need a place to stay, our house is open”, Jess told me. “You can sleep in our treehouse”, piped Tomas. He was kidding of course but I seriously would have taken him up on that offer! For the record: the treehouse is awesome (and I slept in a bed…just to keep things straight). 

 
Before I knew it, I was heading out of Dublin and into a tiny town called Trim in County Meath. I never would have found Trim had it not been for this visit. The little village had so much charm and its surrounding area held some absolutely beautiful sights and scenery. As soon as I walked through the door of their cozy home, Jess’s mother Judy greeted me with a huge smile and warm welcome. Their son, Adam, is such a cool kid and together this family couldn’t have been more down to earth, hospitable and truly, genuinely good. I felt safe and comfortable from the second I sat down at the dinner table with all of them as we ate Chinese. I was lucky to have arrived on a Saturday where their family tradition included an evening mass, a Chinese food dinner and Baileys coffee by the fire. The mass was such a great experience. All the hymns were sung by a man on his acoustic guitar in a gorgeous and pure Irish voice. The church itself was stunning and intricately designed, covered in golds, blues and whites on the inside and beautiful stone on the outer walls. I was excited to eat a type of food that I had been without for a few months. Switching things up felt great and it was nice just being included in something they do together as a family. I shared the stories of my Camino as Jess and her Dad listened with bright eyes. The two of them are going to split up the trail over five years and I’m so excited to continue to hear about their journey.

I don’t even know where to start when I think about how much I appreciated that fireplace. After the shock of a new season and a slightly “roughin’ it” mentality over the past few months, a warm and cozy fire was exactly what I needed. With my Baileys coffee in hand, wild horses couldn’t drag me away. It was the perfect homey feel that filled my body until the nights end.

 
Jess and I became really close over the few days I was visiting. The family let me know I could stay as long as I needed which I was eternally grateful for. Every night I would look forward to what we called “half two chats” by the fire which lasted until at least 2:30am and sometimes later. Jess has such a kind heart and is a thoughtful and beautiful person inside and out. She’s dedicated and loving towards her family and friends. It was a joy getting to know her and I am sure that we’ll be in each others lives for many years to come. We laughed our hearts out and shared stories about the past, trying to grasp the layers of who we’ve been and who we are. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect in so many ways. Not only was this weekend the celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving but Jess had recently made a huge decision that I could relate to more than anyone she knew. She wasn’t really happy studying Irish in school. Although she has a passion for the language, she was forced to take classes she wasn’t interested in alongside her major and it wasn’t how she wanted to pursue it nor was that her number one dream. What she really wanted to do was become a P.E Teacher due to her love of the athletics. So, after many nights of deliberation, she decided to de-register from the program and is now working out her next steps. I’m so proud that she chose to listen to herself and create goals in order to achieve what she truly wants to do with her life. We had some great discussion about it and I assured her that everything was going to be better than okay. It was going to be great. She’s got some perfect goals ahead of her and is taking on just the right attitude to make her dreams come true. I’m thankful that we were able to be together just days before she walked into that office and made it official. I know that I would have loved just the same kind of example during my times of uncertainty. Go at it with all your heart my girl. I know you’ll make it happen. Image
 
The next day was spent driving around the County and seeing what it had to offer. Tomas, Jess and I piled into the car and set off for a little tour of their homeland. On our first stop, we wandered into a field called Bohermeen Bog where you could find something called turf. It’s a very common substance used as kindle for the fire and is exactly what has kept me warm over the past few nights. As a fun fact that you’d probably rather not hear…occasionally a dead body is found in a bog dating hundreds of years back. They call them bog bodies and some are displayed at the National Museum in Dublin. An interesting thought but if you saw the photos I’m certain you would be disgusted. Sorry I don’t have any of those to show you…Image
 When I visited Dublin, I was able to see the book of Kells which is placed in a glass case and preserved at Trinity College. The Book of Kells is a latin manuscript depicting the four gospels of the New Testament.  Its scripture is beautiful and the colours jump right off the pages. There’s a little town in County Meath which is called Kells and is where the book originated. We payed a visit there and were able to see the statue of Maureen O’Hara placed in the centre of town in honour of her visit to the city which represents her Irish heritage.
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The Spire of Lloyd is a mock lighthouse created in memory of the first Earl of Bective Sir Thomas Taylor and was my first real taste of the Ireland scenery I had imagined all this time. As we walked up the hill and looked out over the fields, I could feel that spirit Ireland often holds sweep over me. The tower stood with its spiral staircase and wooden door proudly beside me and a few dogs ran up and down the green slope. I was anxious to continue through the back roads and see more history and landscape like the sights that stood before me. It always amazes me how these castles and landmarks were once built by hand long before the release of technology, machinery and architectural advancements. What a story they all seem to hold. Image
Image On the way to my favourite stop, we pulled over to look at the High Cross of Kells and Slane Castle which holds an event known as Slane Concert featuring artists such as David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen and The Rolling Stones. The Conyngham family have lived there for centuries but it’s still frequently used to host concerts and events. On this particular day, they were holding an auction (hence the cars obstructing the view) and we had to hoist ourselves onto a ledge and peak over the fence in order to see it. All very secretive and completely worth it. These castles never cease to amaze and capture me. 
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Newgrange still stands as one of my favourite sights so far. This old passage tomb sits in County Meath where tours are lead through each day. It’s known to be a place of spiritual and ceremonial energy and practice as well as a burial site for those of worship. The tour guide is actually necessary in this case because in order to get inside, you need to turn your body sideways and squeeze through a tiny, rocky passageway. If you’re claustrophobic I definitely don’t recommend a trip here. Only 10 people are allowed in at a time because although this tomb looks massive on the outside, there’s only a small portion of open space on the inside. Not even archeologists can figure out why it was built to cover so much land. Once I made my way into the tiny circle, I could immediately see the carved writing in the walls. Our guide told us that this graffiti dates back to the 1700’s and this tomb was built over 5,000 years ago. I wondered what it meant to them back then. Did they do it in order to be rebellious or were they trying to communicate a message to the future? I studied it for quite a while and ran my fingers along the lines they created. What drew me into Newgrange the most was its connection to the Winter Solstice. On December 18th-23rd, the sun aligns perfectly with the front entrance of the tomb. Keep in mind that as you walk inside, you begin climbing uphill so as the sun rises, it’s slightly beneath you. Somehow, someway, the people who built this creation were able to design it around the sun’s rise during that time of year so the golden rays would shine in such a way that they’d creep through the entrance and cast a line of light that would eventually illuminate the entire space with a bright, orange glow. Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t it almost hard to believe? There’s a lottery held every year and thousands of people enter their name hoping to get a spot inside on one of the six days. Even then, the sun may not shine that day and you would be out of luck. I entered my name, just for good measure and an excuse to come back. Regardless, I got the next best thing. Our guide turned off all the lights and we were in complete darkness. She used a special flashlight so we would be able to experience this magic as best as we could and even without the natural glow of the sun, it was incredible and I had goosebumps the entire time. 
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ImageImageThe Hill of Tara was our next destination, a place I had been highly recommended by several locals and had heard plenty about through talk of Ireland’s greatest attractions. I didn’t realize quite how large this was going to be. I guess I just expected a single hill instead of a whole field. I couldn’t believe this was an open and free space that the public could take advantage of whenever they pleased. We arrived just as the sun was setting slightly over the town. Jess told me that her friends like to have picnics around here in the summer. There were kids and their families with dogs and others who were just out for a stroll and some thought. I could imagine myself lying with a good book in hand, sitting in a space like this. You could see for miles in every direction and there was no way you could miss a very special tree that stood on the hill proudly. This tree was covered in memories and special keepsakes from thousands of visitors. It was yet another place for offering and release to go along with the many I’d come across already. A lot of children leave their childhood soothers there to symbolize a new step. I didn’t have anything to leave which was fine by me. I had done what I needed in that department. I just enjoyed looking at what everyone else had thought special enough to tie to the tree’s branches. It was really something else from afar. A real sight to see and full of stories. I wanted more than anything to bring certain people back to this hill so we could sit and talk and enjoy the open space together. I know so many who would love it just as much as I did. ImageImageBefore driving back, we made a surprise stop at Bective Abbey, an old but charismatic Cistercian Abbey that held scenes from the movie Braveheart. The three of us ran from the car and spent a quick time exploring the inside that was open freely to anyone that wanted to spend time there. That being said, there wasn’t much of an inside at all. The walls were crumbled in several places and the staircases had deteriorated. I personally felt like that was what gave the Abbey its charm. We hopped up on the various levels and poked our heads through the windows until it was time to head back to the humble abode. Image
Image When we arrived home, Judy had a huge dinner all prepared and ready for us as we walked in. I was overwhelmed with how generous they had been already and this was more than I could ever ask for. In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, we had on our table mashed potatoes, croquettes, yorkshire pudding, chicken, homemade stuffing that was truly to die for, vegetables and gravy. A beautiful meal with all the fixings. It was absolutely delicious and even more enjoyable sharing it with such a remarkable family. I had been wondering how I would be spending that day and had hoped I could find a place where I felt surrounded by love and good company. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting at a table in an Irish home with all that and more.
 
 We piled into the family room once again and shared warm apple pie with custard by the fire. As if that wasn’t enough, Tomas came in about an hour later and popped open a bottle of sparkling white wine, pouring it into four champagne flutes with a strawberry garnishing the bottom. They’ve now been inspired to celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving themselves every year. Hopefully I’ll be able to join them once or twice  again along the way. We sat chatting together for a while until Jess handed me a tiny pin holding a beaded Canadian flag that dangled down. “Happy Canadian Thanksgiving”, she told me and handed over the pin. I was so touched by their respect for this celebration. The Irish have something very similar that takes place on our boxing day and celebrates St. Stephen (the first martyr of Christianity) but this was still somewhat of a new concept. She told me that while attending an event full of cultures and countries, each person was told to exchange a gift that symbolized where they came from. Jess had received this pin from a Canadian girl. “It’s for you. To take back to Canada again.” I will treasure it forever. Another half two chat ended the perfect night and lead into our final day together.
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We spent the last afternoon exploring the town. It was just Jess and I while her parents were at work for the day. I love the tiny town of Trim with its tea rooms, cozy shops and brightly coloured doors. In the middle of the town lies a beautiful castle that they are so lucky to have. The sunshine decided to poke out for us that day and cast its rays on the gorgeous stone and vibrant green grass. Wouldn’t it be beautiful having a castle to sit by and enjoy every day? It seemed like such a gift placed in the middle of such life and civilization. We spent some time sitting on the grass in the sunshine taking photos. Seeing where Jess had grown up and where she lived really allowed me to get to know her on another level. You can tell  a lot about a person by walking through their hometown. She even took me to a spot by the river where her and her best friend sit and have chats. It was like a special inside view to her world and I am thankful she let me in to see it. 
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ImageImageImageSaying goodbye to this bunch was difficult. They welcomed me in like I had been a part of their family for years. The only thing that helped me walk away without aching deeply was my certainty of returning here very, very soon. I know that their doors are open for me and I will always have family in Ireland. Thank you for being angels on Earth and I’m so lucky we crossed paths. Image
 
 
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Beneath Beautiful Dublin Lies a Story or Two

Dublin didn’t even need to try to win me over. When I stepped off the bus at Trinity College the connection with this city hit me like a speeding freight train. I noticed right away what made it appealing and different from any other city I had been in. There is a very distinct culture that lingers in every shop, street corner and little cafe. It seems so deeply rooted in the art of being comfortable, healthy, down to earth and happy. I stayed in a hostel right beside the famous Temple Bar. This area is flocked to by not just young travellers looking to drink Guinness but the locals as well. When the sun goes down, this part of the city is given breath and life. Every second shop is vintage and you can be sure to find “Whisky in the Jar” being played on a different instrument in each classic pub. I felt at home walking these streets, almost like I already lived there to be honest. After a long day of travel, I took it easy and decided to explore the town. The smiling lady at the tourist office greeted me with a “what can I do for yeah love” and I nearly jumped over the counter to give her a huge hug. These were my people.  Just like I knew they would be. The friendly Irish stereotype was entirely real. She kindly circled all the key squares and streets on my map and I was off.

ImageImageIt was strange being alone to tell you the truth. I had just spent such a long time being surrounded by people and almost forgot what it felt like to navigate my way around a new country by myself. I’ve been getting pretty good at using these big maps (which are usually mangled and ripped in half by the time I’m done with them). Luckily, Dame street ran right through the centre as a clear landmark. Most of my evening was spent peeking into shops and drinking tea in Temple Bar. I was so content on those cobblestone roads. The sound of live music and passion filled the streets with warmth. Warmth was something I needed…did I mention a whole season had come and gone? I know, I barely noticed it myself. Dressedin my sandals, kapri’s and a tank top, I clearly wasn’t prepared for the bone cold Autumn weather that had thrown itself on the Earth.  I ignored it as long as I could until I ducked into a little fish and chip shop to eat. Man did they ever know how to make a mean meal. As I waddled out (yes, waddled), I noticed a cute little coffee shop down the street that read “Brick Cafe”. The man working at the counter was the happiest barista I had ever seen and taught me how to mix Turkish Apple and Peppermint tea to create the perfect combination of cozy with a refreshing twist. I’ve since been in eight times. Leave it to me to become a regular in a Dublin cafe after only four days in the city. ImageImageI was up bright and early Tuesday morning with many plans. There’s so much you can do in Dublin but only select attractions really interested me. The best thing about this city is there is plenty you can see and experience without a tour. There are a ton of famous streets, buildings and homes of iconic writers. Just walking down Grafton street made me feel like I was a part of something important. I think Ireland is a country that needs to be experienced in a local way. I didn’t feel like I needed to visit every museum to get a true impression. Actually, I was the most excited to visit the famous Grafton stretch. A movie that speaks to me in such an exceptional way is called Once. I’ve talked about it and shared it millions of times so if you know me, you’re aware of my deep love for this film. This entire musical film takes place in Dublin and a lot of the main busking scenes are performed on Grafton. Walking down this street had me smiling like a love sick puppy with my tongue hanging out and it wasn’t just my inner fangirl freaking, I was in awe of this entire atmosphere. The vibe of that street was out of this world. The most amazing musicians played every two steps you took and all the sounds they made mixed together into an addictive melody themselves. Everyone seemed happy to be there. I certainly was. I stood where Glen Hansard poured out his soul singing “Say it to me Now” at the top of his lungs. I ate a berry tart from Brewleys and took a stroll through Stephens Green. All very simple things but oh so pleasurable. I ended up taking my own Once walking tour since I’m shocked they don’t have an official one in place. I wandered around inside Walton’s Music Store where the two actors played Falling Slowly and sipped a hot tea in Simon’s Cafe in the exact window seat they sat. Maybe it doesn’t seem as grand to anyone else but for me, it was a dream come true. Image
The opening scene of Once with Glen HansardImageImageGrafton Street, Dublin
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St. Stephens Green 
The Guinness Storehouse couldn’t be missed. I took a local bus down to the famous Thomas street, one of the oldest in Dublin and explored the unique people and markets before heading in for a tour. Each person is lead through a mock brewery and shown through photos, videos and big white phrases written on the walls how the beer is created and the story of Arthur Guinness. They treat “the black stuff” like God and don’t let you forget its significance in Irish culture. It was a really cool experience seeing how this beer I had in my hand 90 per cent of my time there was made and produced. I met a great girl  named Sarah there from Vancouver who kept me company through the walk. Towards the end, we were able to pour our own pint and received a certificate when we achieved the perfect pour. I keep saying I’m going to place it right next to the certificate saying I walked across a country…which one I’m more proud of, I couldn’t tell ya.Image
My pint lies right in the middle
There’s a beautiful one woman show I’ve been blessed to see called Myra’s Story by Brian Foster. The plot features a witty and eccentric homeless woman from Dublin, Ireland as she so soulfully tells the story of how she found herself on the street, bottle in hand. The role of Myra was originated by Carmel McCafferty. I had the pleasure of seeing this role performed to its fullest so beautifully by Jennifer Cornish and this production has taken off successfully, winning awards and traveling from my community of K-W to the London Fringe and beyond. I remember sitting front row during one of the early performances and even sitting in a rehearsal where Jen began mastering Myra. I was moved by the way it dug beneath the surface view of somebody living on the street and showed in such a raw and real way that they all have a story to tell and a wicked journey behind and ahead of them. A lot of the time, they need love more than anything else. There’s often a stigma behind the homeless. We’re so quick to judge a book by its cover. I was so inspired by Jen’s flawless interpretation of the role and the ride that it took me on that I wanted to dig behind the surface too. The story had touched me. I wanted to open up the minds of others to a new point of view with my writing and photography. Image
As I walked down Grafton searching for inspiration, a woman reached out and touched my shoulder gently. “Please love, please”, she pleaded. “Please buy me some food. I have four babies at home, one is desperate for an operation and welfare won’t give me what I need. Please.” I hesitated at first. The story could have been a ploy and the baby carriage she had beside her could have been filled with balloons for all I knew. But there was something about her. She even looked like Myra. Her hair was tattered and her teeth were worn. I decided to open my heart and mind and give her a chance. “What is your name?” I asked her. “My name is Miranice”, she replied. I just about fell over. Whether or not this woman was telling the truth I didn’t know. All I knew was there was at least a chance that she could truly need someone to care about her for just a moment. I wanted to be someone that believed in her story.  I lead her into the nearest store and told her to pick out the food she needed. She proceeded to buy four sandwiches and gratefully thanked me as the line dwindled in front of us. I assured Miranice that it wasn’t a problem at all and asked if I was able to chat with her for a little longer and take her photograph. She suddenly put a guard up, refused my offer and seemed eager to rush away. She thanked me several times again and rounded the corner with speed. I know little about her life aside from her children and desperate need for food. I didn’t end up walking away with a photo but her thanks was genuine and real and I needed to respect her nervousness towards interaction. Perhaps there was a story behind that too.
I was luckier the day I met Keith. He approached me on Chatham in between the ladies selling flowers and asked for two Euro’s in order to take a bus and see his son. This time, I decided to get to know him right away. He assured me that I could ask the flower ladies behind us if he was someone who could be trusted and quickly called them over. The two of them had obviously gotten to know this man over the years and patted him on the back while telling me he had lived quite the life and yes, was roaming the streets without a home. “Although he shouldn’t be”, the white haired lady said. “You’re a good looking man.” Keith leaned in and whispered to me, “did you hear what she said? She said I was a good looking man and I shouldn’t be homeless. Everybody says that. My Mother tells me this all the time and I want to believe her but I don’t know what in the world I should be living for.” Keith told me about his wife and son and how they were ripped away from him as he spiralled deeper into drugs and alcohol. Most of his family, aside from his Mother, had given up on him long ago and he was sick over it. “I’ve walked in these shoes and they keep telling me that I’m doing something wrong. I know there is a reason I am here but I can’t for the life of me figure out what that is. There are people in my life who would walk to the ends of the Earth for me but I don’t think they know where to walk to.” What I saw while speaking to this man was someone who was very lost. He seemed helpless and spoke to me with such a hope that I would give him the answers that he had been searching for. I couldn’t. All I could tell him was I had faith he would find his way if that’s what he truly wanted. “If you’re going to quote me or post this in your writing, go wild. Maybe someone will find an announcer that can tell me what it is I need to do.” Several times he told me that he hadn’t opened up like this in front of anyone else before and tears filled his eyes, afraid to fall. He was angry with God. Confused as to why it was him that was chosen to lead this life. I listened and nodded and continued to confirm my belief in him as he expressed his deepest feelings. As we parted, I asked him what he would want to say to a large group of people if he had the chance.
“Be happy. If you’re happy in this world, everyone else follows.” 
I wished the same for him and made sure he had what he needed for bus fare. Just keep him in your thoughts. He’ll most definitely be in mine. I plan to continue to uncover the stories behind people like Keith more and more as I travel through this country. Image
 The people of Ireland didn’t stop showing themselves in the most unexpected ways. Neil was sitting at his tiny desk in the George’s Street Arcade concentrating on a very detailed drawing of a tree. He was surrounded by sketches and photographs. I told him that his drawing was phenomenal and he said to me, “Oh this? Just a doodle. Something to keep my brain going on a Tuesday.” If you had seen this drawing you would have gawked at his modesty. I looked over at the framed sketches. “Oh those aren’t mine”, he said. “I take the photographs over there.” His photos expressed the exact style I have been striving for. He captured the candid moments of human interaction so perfectly and put such a unique spin on what the city had to offer. Even with his photographs he was still a modest man and shrugged off most of my praise as I flipped through each of the matted prints. I was shocked to hear that all of these were taken with an old film camera. He was very much against the modern digital world and refused to even create a website for his work. He thought that the images on a digital camera were too crisp and had him focusing on the wrinkles in a ladies dress rather than the picture as a whole. “If you’re on a photographers website and you see one image that you don’t like, what do you do? You click away. You don’t really get a chance to know their work that way.” Neil then pulled out his well loved camera and showed me a special, rubber device that he created in order to produce a unique blur technique in some of his photos. You could tell that he really saw people through a different light than the rest of us and captured moments in time that were so full of life and colour. I was inspired by his work. He so kindly told me I could pick out my favourite print to take home free of charge and he even wrote a few key must-see’s in Ireland on the back of it. I was so lucky that he took the time out of his day for a chat about something we both love.Image
I walked through the George’s Street Arcade and marvelled at the shops and stands in this cute permanent marketplace. Pat was the next crazy human to cross my path. Or perhaps I crossed his. A series of poetry books leaned against a mucky wall on College Green. Pat Ingoldsby sat on an upside-down milk crate with a funny brown hat on his head writing on several old bus stubs. I stopped for a second to catch a glimpse of the covers.  He yelled at me over the roaring traffic, “hey! Girl with the camera. Do you want to hear something I’ve written today? I didn’t have paper so I had to write them on these bus tickets.” He then read to me the simplest poem I had ever heard about a spider and his web. It intrigued me to discover more. “When did you start writing?”, I asked. He shook his head and told me that was such an American question to ask and how everyone seems to start off with that one. “How long have I been writing? I don’t know…since ten minutes ago?” He had made quite the name for himself with at least 7 books published and features on several popular radio stations and television programs.  He pointed to the stack of them and said, “All just as weird, wacky and bizarre.” Except he used even crazier words to describe his work, I just can’t remember them. Pat made a point of telling me that he lives without access to a lot of the modern world. He doesn’t have a cellphone or a computer with internet. He doesn’t even know how to internet. He doesn’t use credit cards, “just the money I make off of my book sales each day.” I liked his personality. He was blunt and honest but very confident in himself in a way that you just respect because he has a reason to be. We talked for quite a while and he flipped through some of his favourite creations and read to me a few of his favourite wild poems. Yes, they were weird but all of them outlined an aspect of the world that we usually don’t focus on. The littlest of thoughts and moments. Very much like what I try to achieve in my photography, actually. Here’s a little sample just to give you an idea:
BLIND COWS CAN’T HEAR: 
In the land
behind the wardrobe
in your bedroom
all the cows moo
at one another
with speech balloons
so that you won’t know
they are there.
He even told me about the love of his life and how she lives in an entirely different country with her husband but comes to visit every so often. “We’ve been having a wild and passionate affair for 8 months now and I’m just smitten by her.”  I couldn’t even argue with the man about morals. He looked so happy just telling me about this woman.
Every stop he travels to he carries with him a book and gets each of his customers to sign it with a message. He has sentiments from people all over the world and I was really happy to add to his collection. I asked if I could take his photograph after several minutes of chatting. He looked at me and said,
 “I would prefer it if you bought a book to be honest.” I hesitated. “Well, I’m just a photographer and…”
“And I’m a writer”, he interrupted.
Touche Pat. Touche.
I did buy a book and he was right when he said it was going to be my traveling companion.
Before I left, he signed the inside cover and told me to crouch in as he read me something important. “This is a poem that I don’t think you need to read at all. So skip it, okay?”
VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY FEW PEOPLE WILL EVER TELL YOU THIS
You don’t need permission to be free
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As I walked away he called out to me,
 “You’ve got the freshness of youth on your side. Surf it.”
 That night was spent at a recommended vegetarian restaurant where I met Aly. I usually eat alone which I seriously don’t mind doing at this point (it’s all about owning your choice. Anyone familiar with the scene from the movie Hope Floats? You totally planned this). Aly was just finishing her meal and since the empty tables were scarce, she told me I could sit there while she packed up. We started talking and sharing by candle light and before I knew it, I had made yet another friend. Aly is finally following her dreams after much struggle wondering what following her heart really felt like. She traveled a lot in the past too but has since become busy with marriage and school and thought that her backpacking days were over. Our conversation inspired her to give that a second look and continue to check in with herself to make sure she’s always doing what makes her truly happy. I received an email from Aly last week saying that if I ever needed anything at all, she has a car, a house and a family in Ireland and she’ll always be there if I need her. Seriously, this Irish hospitality is overwhelming. Oh and it’s worth mentioning that I ate at this Veggie restaurant called Cornucopia about four times…so….every day. I love changing it up but when you have a good thing going….
A night out in Temple Bar ended every evening with a bang. My hostel wasn’t overly social this time so it was up to me to find the party. It’s never a problem and I’ve gotten so used to just sitting at the bar sipping a beer or mingling around alone until someone pops into my life. It happens every time without fail. There’s a series of lines that I stringed together in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love which says:
“I can make friends with anybody. I can make friends with the dead. If there isn’t anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot tall pile of sheetrock.” 
Yes, I am confident in my ability to meet someone anywhere I go, and I did. Temple Bar brought me friends from Germany, Colorado and Texas. The Auld Dubliner brought me three beautiful people from Germany and Switzerland who I ended up meeting up with twice and we partied hard at a three floor gay bar called The Dragon. Those friends are the best kind because there’s no better place to know someone as they are than in an Irish Pub while the music plays.
I spent one of my days taking a tour of Trinity College which is a classic landmark in Dublin and holds the Book of Kells as well as a monumental library. The Library is what I went to see but the tour (which was only a euro extra) taught me some interesting facts about its growth and development over the years. Plus, the tour guide was hot and you can’t get enough of those Irish accents, am I right ladies? I payed a visit to the New York Library last April and was blown away by its size, elegance and grandeur. I was sure that would be the most stunning library I would ever lay eyes on. This one took the cake. My favourite part was the smell of old and musty books that blew toward me as I entered the doorway. The gorgeous wood kept the tattered books safe within their shelves and created a curved ceiling way up above. Original music scores from composers and copies of novels from late authors sat in little glass cases lining the walkway. I stayed in there for as long as I could just studying every inch of the place and going wild with my camera. There was nothing like it. How lucky these students were to have such a piece of history right in the middle of an even bigger piece of history beyond that.ImageImageImage
Each morning I awoke and tried out a new pub’s Irish Breakfast. The full Irish is where it’s at! I couldn’t even tell you which one was better because they all had their flare. Pair that with a Bailey’s coffee and my mornings were sweet. On Wednesday I got a chance to see Olivia who is a friend of mine from home. We met through Theatre and ended up attending Windsor together. She’s now Aupairing for a family in Leixlip and took a train to see me in Dublin. It was so nice seeing a familiar face and meeting these adorable little boys she had the pleasure of looking after. We all shared coffee and dessert while Finn, the older of the two, was eagerly wanting to snap pictures of his own with my camera. I loved hearing about her Irish experience and sharing a bit about mine. A friend from home was just what I needed as the three month mark slipped on by. ImageImageImage
 My final day was busy and far different than I expected. I’d spent my time here experiencing a lot of things I didn’t think I would before I started. The no-plan plan really leaves opportunities wide open. I took a look at a small photo gallery and walked to the old stomping grounds and home of Oscar Wilde. The house is now a section of the University of Dublin where you can study Liberal and Performing Arts. To think that those steps could have been sat upon as he wrote…
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I was even able to squeeze in both a Tarot card reading and a night at the Theatre. The Dublin Theatre Festival was on over the next month and I chose a new play called The Hanging Gardens. It was a clever mix of humorous and absolutely depressing content about a man with alzheimer’s struggling over the battle with his family. It was enough just to be sitting in a Theatre again. That smell was just as cherished as the old books in Trinity.
I have always wanted a Tarot card reading. I came across an independent shop called Black Rabbit on Crow Street in Temple Bar and the lady who owned it talked my ear off about Thin Lizzie, Paul Linen and Jameson whisky for hours. Amanda was my card reader and was just as sweet as this shop lady had described her. We only had a half hour session but it shocked me how much she was able to guess about my current life right off the bat. I didn’t ask about anything specific but the cards chose a few topics for me. Career, love and my life when I return home. I’m quite happy with what they told me and am prepared for a few things I didn’t expect. I don’t believe that anything or anyone can predict what will happen to you in the future. These cards can only speculate options based on your energy and of course these are potential events relevant to that exact moment you’re being read. The course of your actions can change anything. It was just a really exciting experience and if what they told me ends up becoming a reality, my life is heading in all the right directions.
There’s no question that I will be back in Dublin a lot sooner than I planned. It stole my heart and won me over in so many ways. Everyone has that place where they feel connected. Ireland is definitely mine. Incredible people entered my path wherever I stepped. I felt safe and at home in each coffee shop and pub I sat and enjoyed music in (and trust me, the amount of places I ate and drank here was ridiculous). I seemed to have packed in all of that and more in just four days and there is still so much waiting to be seen and experienced. Take me away, up and around to the North.

Thank You For Giving Me The World

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite celebrations of the year. I get a tingle in my heart being surrounded by family on any occasion but there’s something special about gathering together in the spirit of thankfulness for all that you have and gratefulness for one another. Every moment I experience in life, I know I am privileged to be a part of. There are countless moments where I close my eyes and say to myself, “Remember this. You are so lucky to be here.” It’s moments like those where I smile and know that I live a life that I have every reason to feel exceptionally blessed about. As I sit here and write this post at Simon’s Cafe in the George’s Street Arcade in Dublin, Ireland, those words are on repeat.

Much like the pieces of a puzzle, there are many different aspects that contribute to the bigger picture. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am if it weren’t for my parents, my friends, my family, my health or the country I live in. Each of these people and things shape my undying thanks every single day.
To the people who are there for me through every stage of my life, my amazing parents…thank you. You just might be the number one thing I feel grateful to have in my world. You have both given me more support than I ever could have dreamed. Through my struggles you provide laughter and relief.  I can count on each of you to give me the perfect advice and help me to uncover the answers I already knew deep down. Through my moments of great achievement, you’re both sitting front row. There isn’t an accomplishment or performance of mine that you both haven’t been there for with proud smiles. There’s never been a moment where I’ve felt like I can’t call you in tears for a shoulder to lean on, ask an opinion without feeling judged or talk to you about taking on a new life adventure. I know that you’ll always show me support and love with whatever I decide to do and wherever I decide to go. In fact, you’re often encouraging me to live large, take risks and discover through success and failure. It’s a gift I know a lot of people don’t have and I don’t know where I would be without it. You’ve been selfless and giving and I know that you want me to be the happiest I can be. You’re the two people who have raised me to be the woman I am and continue to teach me by leading such a flawless example of the people I want to live up to. Through both of you I’ve learned to work hard for what I want and even harder to get to where I want to be. I’ve learned to be self-aware and kind to everyone around me. I know that it’s okay to fall down and experience high’s and lows because that’s truly what life is all about. You learn and grow from every end of the spectrum. Thank you for knowing me, for taking the time to know me. I am grateful that as I get older, my relationship with each of you becomes deeper and even more wonderful. Thank you for letting me be independent and for letting me soar and for giving me the world. Really. It’s been one year now since I decided to leave school, move back home and then jet off for a trip around the world and not once have you lead me away from these choices. You’ve only pushed me to keep making them. When people ask me how my parents are taking all this, I honestly can’t stop talking about how amazing they’ve been through it all and how much that means to me. Of course I could write pages but I’ll spare them the tears. I just want to say that I love you and thank you for everything.
I’m thankful for my friends and family. Coming from divorced parents, I have a family tree with many branches. I’ve always loved holidays and family functions because they’re only ten times richer when I have four sides to visit! I feel lucky to have aunts, uncles and cousins that I feel so close and connected to. I love that I can be the baby of the family on my Dad’s side and the older role model on the other. They’re people I feel loved and supported by and I’m so lucky to have them.
My friends could be classified under family too. There’s no question. Friends are the family you choose. I feel like the people I surround myself with have played such a huge role in who I am today, especially over the past few years. I’m lucky to feel so deeply connected to such a large group of people and know that every one of them would pick up their phone at 3am if I ever needed their help. I’m so happy to have friends who support my every move, who I can laugh with until I’m in stitches and act like a complete goon around at all times without feeling judged. I have friends who can so lovingly put me in my place when I need a kick in the butt because they really care and I thank them for that. They know that I do which is why they don’t hesitate. I’m thankful that everyone I’m close to is smart, beautiful, driven and passionate. I am grateful to have some pretty fantastic and powerhouse woman role models to look up to in the Artistic community. They’ve been there as mentors and friends as I’ve taken each step toward loving and practicing a new art and having them has been a dream. Having examples like them in my life only helps me to reach for even higher heights and goals. I made some pretty strong choices last year and I would be lying if I said they were all made alone. I would run out of fingers and toes if I had to count the friends who chatted with me on the phone or over Skype for hours while I cried and debated about where to take my life next. Yes, I knew in my heart what was right and when it was time to leave that chapter behind, I was the one took the steps. But it was their guidance, love and soothing words that held my hand as I did so. I am grateful for every one of you that continues to leave their handprint on my heart. You’re all rock stars to me.
My country has become a part of my identity while I travel. “How’s it going Canada?” is something I hear so often from my  backpacking friends. When you meet people from all over the world, names slip from your mind the second you hear them. I’m not kidding. I’ve hung out with people for a whole day and still don’t know their name by the end of it. Whoops. But I do know where they come from and that’s often how we identify each other. My eyes have been opened lately to how little I know about where I’m from because I haven’t traveled outside of Ontario. I know, it’s embarrassing and every time someone asks me where they should go when visiting I just smile and say, “well…I’ve heard the West Coast is nice…” My next trip is definitely going to involve traveling West to East. It needs to be done. I have, however, realized even more than I already did how lucky I am to live in a place like our home and native land. As a Canadian, I’m able to travel to all of these countries for at least 30 days without having to purchase a travel Visa which has been a blessing. If anyone is having trouble finding work, I wouldn’t complain too much. In Spain, restaurants and shops can’t afford to hire more than one or two people at a time right now. We had waiters serving and cooking for an entire restaurant on their own many times. We can live safely and freely amongst some pretty rad people. I’ve always loved our stereotype. How can you not be proud of a place where the people who live there are known for being nice and saying sorry a lot? Mostly though, I feel grateful for the roof over my head and the opportunities available to me because of where I am proud to live.
Which leads me to my appreciation for this entire planet. I have an opportunity that I haven’t taken for granted once. I know that traveling the world is something we all feel a strong pull to do at different stages of our lives. When I felt mine pulling, things just fell into place at the right time and I was able to take that dream and run full speed ahead while it wrapped itself around me. Seeing four countries so far in the past three months has been an unbelievable experience. There is so much exquisite beauty out there showing itself in big and small ways. I’ve been immersed in it and a part of it and man, it’s always just as breathtaking every time I come across a new gift of the culture. This is an education that you can’t get anywhere else and the lessons I learn here will do great things for me and for my career. I just want to scream at the sky every second, “Thank you! Thank you so much for your diversity and grace and colour and deep beauty! What can I possibly do to repay you?” The world answers back, “nothing at all. Just live it.” And I am. I can. That makes the thankfulness pour out of my soul at a rapid pace.
I’d like to send a thank you up there to my Great Grandfather Donald Stark who without, I would never be at this cafe in Ireland. I wouldn’t have gotten lost in Venice, scuba dived in the Greek Mediterranean or walked across a country. Thank you for your gift and I’ll only continue to send love as I head to Scotland where your soul probably floats around happily.
As I finish the last of this post, I sit happily in front of a fireplace in an Irish family home. Jessica and her father Tomas are two amazing people I met on the Camino. They live in a little town called Trim in Co. Meath, Ireland and have allowed me to stay for as long as I need, wash my clothes, drink tea and showed me around the whole county this afternoon. Tonight we cozied up by a gorgeous homemade Thanksgiving dinner cooked by her amazing Mother and they so generously celebrated with me. There are no words for an experience such as this. They make me thankful for something very important. The present. There’s nothing more beautiful than right now.
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Walking Forward

The thought of my anticipated last moment walking the Camino has been lingering in my mind since day one. Naturally, we all looked ahead now and again when we realized what we were traveling towards. Or better put, what we thought we were traveling towards. In the beginning, it was just a cathedral in our minds. A historic building that has been walked upon by pilgrims for centuries. As we developed friendships and experienced breakthroughs, it became a new beginning. The end of the Camino de Santiago began representing a lot more than any of us believed from the start. Still, the questions circled. Who would we be linking arms with as we took those final steps? What thoughts would be repeating in our brains? Would the moment live up to all we had dreamed? None of these could truly be answered nor should they. I wanted to keep all those doors wide open for possibility. Having expectations never seemed like the way to go.Image

 The evening before the last 15km was just as exciting as the night before Christmas has ever been. I found myself lying awake far longer than I should with the early morning rise ahead. It all seemed to have sped up over the last few days. I can’t explain how time works when you’re walking for weeks on end. The moments are savoured with more depth and you don’t have the real world to distract you. Things seem to pass by slower in a beautiful way, in a way life should be lived. Every week had me feeling like I had been walking for years.  Looking back on it now, I couldn’t tell you where the time went. Didn’t I take my first steps only yesterday? ImageMy very first early morning steps of this incredible Way
My mind sifted through the people I met and the lessons I had learned. These were things I never wanted to let go of. They had shaped me. I didn’t realize the extent of it all until I let my mind take me back through the days. All thirty-three of them took me further physically and let me soar forward mentally. I had a new way of looking at things now. I appreciated the smaller moments even more than I believed I did when I started. My mind seemed permanently stuck on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. This whole journey has you focusing on the basic human needs your body craves to keep you going. Will it feed me? Eat it. Do I need rest? Sleep. Bandage your feet, drink at least 2 litres of water per day, strap on your life in a pack and walk. It keeps you grounded to say the least. I hope more than anything I can take back the lesson of necessity.
The things I thought I needed to let go of the most took care of themselves within the first three days. Whatever followed was unexpected and conquered with a full heart and good friends. The ways in which the Camino shaped me into who I am now cannot be explained, only shown. I couldn’t be more excited to share them with the people I love back home.
I found myself waiting at 5am for three lovely ladies from Germany that wanted to make it to Santiago in time for the famous mass. I really, truly thought that I had learned all that I could but the lessons kept on showing themselves up until the very last second. Here I was, walking on the final day with people I didn’t expect to share it with. I guess you can say I learned one of the most important lessons of all.
Always follow your own path.ImageIt’s easy to get caught up in the desires of others. When you’ve spent so long around a group of people, you begin to sway yourself in the direction of what they want to do and forget that this is your journey and no one else’s. Thinking back to my very first day, I remembered somebody telling me, “it’s not your Camino if you follow somebody else’s rules.” Up until then, it hadn’t hindered me. I walked at my own pace and we all happened to match up. Suddenly I was placed at a crossroad and the tables had turned. The mass honouring the pilgrims, the swinging of the Botafumeiro…those were all important to me and I was so close to sacrificing my final moments to do what I was comfortable with and lead out the ending I counted on. I don’t know where the initial instinct came from but I was glad that the attitude I know I normally embody took over. This was going to be a special moment no matter who I was walking it with. These three girls were just as excited as I was to be reaching the end. The moment was going to be mine regardless of the circumstances. Looking back years, days or weeks from now, I knew I would feel wonderful about making that decision. Camino, you never fail to provide insight at just the right moment.
Don’t let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace – Dalai Lama
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We all experienced the jitters while we walked. The butterflies didn’t stop flapping their wings the entire way. I talked with Lena most of the trip there and we shared our favourite moments of discovery. Simultaniously, we agreed that “the Camino provides” never stopped showing itself. Didn’t the people you meet always come back exactly when you needed them to? Didn’t cheesecake show up at the precise moment you were craving it? Maybe that’s something we need to take back into our everyday lives. We need to be able to count on the world a little bit more. It takes a lot of strength but sending things out to the Universe works if you believe in it hard enough. Maybe it’s just about having a sense of hope that things are going to work out in the way they’re supposed to. That way of thinking really keeps you going.
We powered through 10km with only a quick stop here and there to get our pilgrim passports stamped for the last few times. When we saw the 4.7km sign to the cathedral, my heart rate picked up and we all skipped down the hill. It had rained pretty hard over the last few days and as we looked out on the distant city of Santiago, a rainbow was shining down to welcome us in. It seemed to take ages to walk through that city but before we knew it, we were just mere steps away. The four of us linked arms and Sarah played the final countdown on her phone a few minutes before arriving. A stone tunnel led us in and the cathedral that seemed so far away at first became bigger and brighter as we took steps closer.
All of a sudden, there it was. The intricate and ancient beauty of this building towered over us all. A lump formed in my throat and tears filled my eyes. We screamed and hugged and took it all in. This was it. This is what we had been walking towards for over a month. The feeling overwhelmed me as I looked around and saw other pilgrims experiencing the same sense of pure joy and accomplishment. There were tears, big hugs and heartfelt phone calls surrounding me. I felt pride and emotion take over as I watched the moments unfold. I don’t think there was a happier place we could be. Out of nowhere, people from the beginning of my journey came to greet me. I saw two amazing ladies from Canada who I hadn’t run into for weeks. We hugged and celebrated the success. Michelle, the photographer and documentary maker who I had been searching for since the second day greeted me unexpectedly. I was shocked and extremely excited to see her again as we sceamed hellos and hugged tightly. Her brother and Brittany followed and I could see the pride in their eyes even days after finishing.
For some reason, I was gung-ho on getting a photo of me jumping outside of the cathedral. I don’t know how I mustered up enough energy to jump several times in order to get the shot but as I took the first leap, something really amazing happened. Nicola had given me a bracelet during one of my down days. It was a series of amethyst stones that were said to represent a cleansing of the aura and become a bringer of new energy. As I jumped high, the bracelet flew off my wrist and sailed across the square, shattering into a million pieces. Perhaps I’m digging into it too deeply but it was as if I didn’t need them anymore. My energy had been restored, my spirits lifted and my aura cleansed. I felt free and completely at peace. It was unforgettable and almost indescribable, that feeling. It will sit with me as a constant reminder for years to come.Image
 With tears still stinging my cheeks and my heart racing, I walked the route to pick up my certificate and receive the last stamp. I continued to see people from all different legs of my journey. They greeted me with hugs and high fives the whole way. I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t think my final day would actually be like this. Maybe I had daydreamed some unfathomable scenario in my head but even though this whole experience has been almost unreal, I had no idea it would come full circle. I wouldn’t really be walking the end alone or saying goodbye to the people I loved at all! Each of them would be there to meet me at the finish line and we would all celebrate this accomplishment together as these people we had helped each other grow into.
When I rounded the corner, Nicola and Michelle were there to meet me. The two of them ran at me with full speed and Nicola wrapped me in a hug that filled my whole body with happiness and love. I giggled the whole way to mass and as we took our seats, I spotted Gustavo waving with a smile spread across his face. I ran at him and screeched a congratulations. It was endearing to see someone from my initial crew who I had chatted with about my final moments in Santiago. It was even more endearing when he leaned over and whispered to me, “you and I spent the first and the last Camino mass together.” That’s what this Way is all about. It’s about the community of people that surround you and never stop being a part of your path. It’s incredible.A gentle and sweet nun stood at the alter which was covered in gold and taught us how to sing a Spanish hymn in harmony. Several faces amongst the crowded seats sent waves and blew kisses my way. Silent congratulations escaped their lips causing me to break out into an even bigger smile. Gustavo translated what he could and I beamed as they read out the number of Canadians who had walked from St. Jean. That was me they were talking about. I had done it…
I was so lucky to have come on a day where they were swinging the Botafumeiro. The Botafumeiro is a beautiful thurible (a fancy word for metal container) that incloses incense and hangs on a rope high above in the cathedral ceiling. It takes eight Tiraboleiros (men of the service in red robes) to lift the thurible up and swing it back and forth over the heads of the attenders. Long ago it was said to cleanse the air caused by unwashed pilgrims who had just finished their journey. I was at a loss for words when it began swinging and the soft soprano voice of the nun filled the room. Back and forth it went and the little hairs on my arm stood on end. I was caught in a trance of amazement and absolute gratitude. I was thankful that this mass happened every single day. I was thankful that the Camino is a part of our world. There’s a trail that leads through a country and guides people with a common ground. We’re all searching for ourselves and together we become a part of each others journey because we help to influence one another. There’s a place in this world where people find peace, self love and eternal friendship and it’s been walked and celebrated for hundreds of years. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard? All of these thoughts circled my mind as I watched this beautiful piece of history swing high and low.
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Before leaving, I lit a few candles in honour of loved ones and lined up to hug the statue of St. James which had been so worn down from the embracing he’s felt over the years. Walking away from that service left me feeling complete about my Camino. I realized right then that I didn’t need to walk anymore. I had no reason to. Although my original plan was to continue on to Finisterre, the end of the known world, I didn’t feel like I truly needed the physical and mental experience it would continue to take me through. I had trampled through walls and barriers and discovered direction. I developed opinions and an unbreakable confidence in my art. I had let go, embraced and learned. My time on the Camino had no need to continue on here in Spain. I was ready to put it into action in my life outside of all this.
The relaxing, drinking and eating didn’t stop in Santiago. The community didn’t disappear either. A lot of my fellow pilgrims decided to spend a few days in this buzzing and lively city. What I loved the most about my time here was being able to walk down the street and wave to people I knew. I felt like I had lived there all my life with each hello to a passing friend. It touched me to watch pilgrims I didn’t know but felt like I still had such a connection with as they walked with pride down the street that lead them to the cathedral. You could see the smiles on their faces as they linked arms or tightly squeezed the hands of their friends. I knew how they were feeling and I almost relived it all over again whenever I was there to see it happen. Santiago was a city of vibrant energy and celebration. I could have stayed there much longer but before leaving, I needed to see Finisterre. I still wanted to experience its magic so we hopped on a bus and took the three hour drive out to the end of the Earth.
I carried with me a piece of my walking stick, the stones from my amethyst bracelet and a lined piece of paper filled with the last stragglers of thoughts I needed to let fly in the breeze. Nicola had joined me and the second we walked off of that bus, each of us ran into somebody we had met on the very first day of the trail and had barely seen since. Actually, the entire city was filled with people we knew. I should have expected it. I was running into friends left right and centre who I hadn’t seen since the first few days. The beauty of the Camino continued on and on.  I was excited to see the ocean after being away from it for such a long time. The rain fell down around us and there was a dark sky above but I kind of liked the grey light it cast. This was a harbour town and it added to the feeling of it all. It was one of those rain days that doesn’t upset you because it inspires hot tea and cake in a cosy room. We enjoyed exactly that before heading up the hill for the 3km walk to the lighthouse.
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We each took our time alone and headed as far to the edge of the cliff as possible. I discovered an empty patch at the bottom of a very rocky hill and made my way down with careful steps. Buried amongst the rocks I could see the articles of clothing, shoes and sentimental items that others had left here over the years. Some of them had letters attached in small, plastic bags and a few had burnt to charcoal following the symbolic tradition. It reminded me of Cruce de Ferro in so many ways as a place of love and release at the true end of the journey.  I noticed a man standing at the edge of the cliff, his hair blowing in the wind and deep in thought. I wondered what he was thinking just then and if he had found what he was looking for. When I reached the edge, I too stared out onto the horizon that was barely visible in the distance. It looked like someone had smudged the skies line into the pale ocean.ImageImageImage
 I took off my shoes and sat cross legged on the rock, holding onto my paper and items tightly. The wind was strong and the waves below me crashed rapidly and with purpose. I don’t know how long I stayed sitting there just letting my mind relax. I thought about how beautiful this moment was and how lucky I was to be a part of it. I thought about the last month and how much had been reached and accomplished. Then, seconds before I let go of my items, I thought about what they meant to me and why they belonged in the ocean instead.
One…two…three…
I let my paper fly. It flew from my unclutched hand and blew away until I couldn’t see it anymore. My rocks and walking stick followed behind and landed with the crashing waves. With a sigh and a smile I stood up and walked back up the hill.
The Camino de Frances was finished. The walking was completed and my mind was where it needed to be. I knew that this was the end of my time here but the future holds so many possibilities. I’m still taking steps forward but there won’t be any yellow arrows to guide me this time. I’ll be in charge of that.
My Camino adventure was over but the real journey…that’s just beginning.Image