My reason for walking was to make peace with the ocean for stealing the last breaths of my best friend Jimmy. There was a strong urge within me to reach Monasterio de Zenarruza. I’m not a religious person by any means and my pilgrimage was one of immense healing, but in the walls of the Monastery I was able to find a kind of peace I didn’t think I would find.
I saw you today.
As I climbed over the hill
of another stage along the Camino
and caught my first glimpse of the sun
hitting the sea.
It blinded me and I winced,
because I wasn’t ready to face her yet.
I wasn’t ready to make amends,
but I knew I needed to.
I knew I needed to make peace
with the ocean for taking your last breaths.
Walking was the only way I knew how
to be within my body
and strip my emotions raw enough
to rebuild everything broken open
by your being gone.
I saw you today.
In every shifting leaf dancing in the wind
after rain poured over the steep cliffs;
drips still falling from the branches of trees
stained with moss
growing the direction of forward.
I was distracted by their beauty
instead of wondering
if walking was the right way
to move through my mourning.
It was the first time
I found majesty in a moment
instead of only noticing the pain my body was in.
I saw you.
In every reflection
of every window,
standing over my shoulder
as I finished my cafe con leche,
somehow thinking it would be enough
energy to move my bruised body and bones.
You were smiling as you always did,
reminding me to keep going.
I saw you in a little boy
with his hood pulled over his head,
squatting in the dirt
the same way we would sit
in corners of bars
but performing even later
trying to make something of ourselves.
I saw you in the man
aiding his wife with her bags
allowing her weight to be carried
in the crook of his bent arm
the way we would walk together
through streets filled with darkness
in silence after another night
of using laughter
to never acknowledge
the heaviness in both of our hearts.
I looked for signs from you
instead of little yellow arrows
because I knew you would lead me
to everything I was needing to find.
When I finally arrived at a church.
Which is hard for me to accept
because the last time
I allowed religion into my life
I stood in a room
with a hundred souls who loved you
and watched your mother mourn
for her sweet boy
and your father holding her
to keep her from crumbling further.
I crossed the threshold of this monestary in Spain
with the same hesitancy as the day we laid you to rest.
It felt as though you were reaching for my hand
guiding me inside the church, together.
I took a seat in the second to last pew
among all of the other pilgrims
who felt compelled to reside
at the monastery that night.
Wanting to believe in something greater.
To make sense of our wandering
and breaking our bodies
in pursuit of answers or some kind of healing.
The stones held in the cold
and I curled my hands in the pockets of
a jacket that barely held in the warmth.
The thing about the stones is
they kept in the sounds too.
So when the monks began to sing
every molecule in the room
reverberated with an energy
I can only describe
as thousands of years
and the energy of previous pilgrims
coming to life again through their words.
I could feel the love
pour from every heart
that ever stepped inside these walls
to find their version of heaven.
I closed my eyes and tears flowed
like a dam finally breaking from the storm
releasing everything being held back
long enough to learn to survive without you.
And then I saw you.
It wasn’t you as I knew you
in physical form in this life
but it was you.
There was this unmistakable warmth
that embraced me in a way
I only remember feeling in your touch.
It consumed the deepest parts of me.
The parts I never thought could feel alive again.
and in my mind I reached for you
and you reached back
and we were finally together.
I held you
never wanting to let go again.
I said, I don’t know how to do this
I don’t know how to let you go.
With the clearest voice I’ve heard
Since the last goodbye
I didn’t realize would be our last,
you said to me,
“Letting go isn’t forgetting.
Letting go is allowing.”
So I let go.
Of the space in my heart held only for you.
Of the regrets I had been carrying
and the weight of constantly wondering
and wanting to wake up to a different reality.
One where you are still alive.
I let go of the anger at myself for being gone again.
For not flying home one week sooner
because maybe I could have seen you one last time like we planned.
Maybe we would have been somewhere else that night.
Maybe I could have saved you
before you went into the water.
I let go
but I clung to you.
So afraid of never feeling you with the same intensity.
I didn’t want to open my eyes.
I was afraid of what I wouldn’t be able to see
or if this was a fragment of my imagination
from constantly searching for you
or if the world would look the same
knowing how close I felt to you in this moment.
I asked you where I could find you
when I needed to find you again.
You told me you were in everything.
In the shade of the trees
and in the songs of the birds.
You told me I could feel you in the sun
on the days I feel most cold.
You said I could find you in the ocean
and it was okay to find beauty there again
because the ocean would always bring me closer to you.
With those words
said in the energy that is your voice
my crying seized but the singing continued
and light danced behind my eyes.
My legs trembled
because my hands were cupped on my knees
and they were trembling too.
My entire body absorbing the energy of you.
To give me the strength.
To remind me to keep going.
To remember it’s okay to move forward.
To put one foot in front of the other.
To not being afraid to love again.
To accept the forgiveness
and welcome the opportunities
you always wanted me to have.
This was me finally allowing.
When the singing stopped
and the people began to shift
my cheeks appeared to be stained with sadness
but it was the most alive I had ever felt.
A short while later,
at the Pilgrim dinner
prepared and provided by the monks,
served at a table
surrounded by metal bunks
with pieces of every pilgrim present
sprawled across their beds
I learned the monks sang
about how god is within us
and that God is in everything.
We broke bread
and shared our origins
sharing this moment on our pilgrimage.
I ate my dinner silently but smiling.
It’s the closest to God I have ever come,
but I wasn’t here to find god.
I found something even better.
On this day
in the stone church
of the monastery at Zenarruza or of Ziortza
between Markina and Gernika
on the seventh day of walking
the Camino del Norte
I learned how to find you.
It took me until January to write this poem. I woke up before the sunrise in a devastated state, paced for three hours as the words poured from me, and then shared it immediately to FB + IG Live. I know some people experienced it then, but I hope within the full context of the Camino, it carries a different weight for you now. You can watch the video below of me reading below (though I apologize for the quality).