I’m on a bus to Finisterre. The finish of the world. Land’s End. From there it is just the Campos Stellae over the Atlantic. The continuation of the Walk of Saint James of the Field of Stars, across the Milky Way to forever. Or more specifically to ‘murica but we’ll pretend we don’t know that yet. Here be dragons.
Sunset tonight is at 18.17. High tide is at 18.15. Then it’ll start to suck back out into the ocean. The coastline at Finisterre is affectionately nicknamed the “Death Coast”. Not as attractive sounding as the white, sun or brave coasts that they advertise elsewhere in Spain. Plus I’m hungover to all hell. Last night we tried to fit as many pilgrims as possible into a tiny bar filled with every possible form of alcohol. Then we gleefully shouted at each other for hours while spending our money and losing our motor skills.
At around 18.00 this evening, in this hungover state, I intend to be deftly scrambling down rocks past any signs saying “Don’t go here you idiot, you’ll drown.” I will be armed with romantic notions, incense, palo-santo, two of my mum’s silk scarves, a gong, a rosary, some stones and my mum’s flask of holy water. The intention of the exercise is to give myself some closure by improvising a ritual. Hopefully it won’t involve drowning, but I can’t rule it out. Hopefully it will involve some fire and smoke. Definitely it’ll involve floating my mother’s tin flask out into the ebbing tide as the sun sets over forever. All very romantic until I get hit in the face with a wave and smashed on the rocks like a ragdoll.
We all end up with dead parents. Some of us get it early, some of us late. But the only other option is to die first or never know them. I caught the dead in my twenties and it shaped my adulthood to a large extent. Grief is a process and I took my time going through it. I do love a process. (It’s why I enjoy process driven theatre – both watching it and indulging in it.) I’ll always hold my parents happy in my mind but it’s time to leave the negative bits behind – the bits I had attached to my mum’s preventable early exit. The blame. The deprioritising of myself. Time to drop that shit. That’s been a big part of this walk, recalibrating my sense of value. I’m finishing it with a wet dangerous ritual and a floating tin bottle. But first I have to take this bus.
Life is mounting up in London and it’s swiftly coming to a time where I have no choice but to stick my arms into it again. This has been a necessary journey and I’ll carry it with me. But walking to Finisterre would’ve been a bit too time indulgent. Nice to let the bus wheels do the rolling instead of my hooves. Time to let them recover before I put Scrooge’s stinky slippers back on…
Done. Ritual completed. It was extraordinary and worth every blister. Mel and I hacked down the slope ignoring the inevitable warning signs. We got to within throwing distance of the surf. The waves were crashing on the rocks. I burnt some palo santo shavings in my gong, and I lit a lot of “Saint Thérèse” incense from Lourdes. Mixing Christian, Buddhist and pagan I eventually smoked and chanted until, with Mel gonging behind me, I hurled the tin torpedo into the roaring waves, as the sun set. It had her name inside, the amethyst pendant I’ve worn throughout this walk, and my uncle’s rosary.
Closure. This is what I walked for and it’s done. I’m lighter, literally and figuratively. These emotional weights get heavier the longer we carry them. Useful to find a way to slough them off, even if it involves a month and a half of walking and then a cliffside scramble.