My journey ends where it began. My journey begins where it ended.
I say that because my camino journey ended where it started, in Madrid. These extra days were helpful, not only as padding in case I didn't complete my trip in the time I expected, but also as a way to transition back into the "real world". And, with a major city like Madrid, you definitely have a big city, big world experience.
Oddly, I started my Madrid stay by visiting an ancient site: The Temple of Debod. It was going to be flooded by the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, so it was moved stone by stone over to Spain in the 1960s. Here it's actually open free to the public who can get close to real hieroglyphics. The temple itself was as impressive in quality as those I found along the Nile, if much smaller;
The irony to me was that I had made a journey to a cathedral to make my camino. Here, I visit the temple itself made a journey for me to enjoy at the end of my camino. It made me think about journeys and anyone and anything can make a journey.
I then visited the Cathedral of Almudena, adjacent to the Royal Palace. I caught the mass and enjoyed stunning contemporary stained glass and artwork. The ceiling was a remarkable series of rectangles that contrasted with the soaring arches and curves of the cathedral.
And, in a reminder of how religion is so often a double edged sword for many, I noticed a prominent statue of Josemaria Escriva who was canonized very quickly this past century for founding the Opus Dei group. For many, he was a source of inspiration; for others, he represented a repressive figure. It was like my day trip to Avila where I saw good and bad in one place.
My next day in Madrid I visited the Royal Palace. The grounds were large and expansive, and one could imagine military brigades flexing ostentatiously in the square. The interior was lavish and laden with gold, as expected.
Most importantly for me during my two full days in Madrid was the visit to the Prado Museum. I actually went to the museum twice during those two days because there was so much to see and soak in. I caught a marvelous exhibition on El Greco, an artist who had always seemed to be far ahead of his time. I found the Hieronymus Bosch paintings, especially the Garden of Earthly Delights, to be enthralling.
Thematically, I couldn't help but notice the number of Madonna of the Milk paintings. The following was particularly surprising, as the baby Jesus coaxed Mary to feed Saint Bernard of Cluny.
The other consistent artistic style I saw was that the Prado's collection was decidedly melodramatic. It was as though the statues and paintings were in perpetual Lent mode, with beating of chests, tele-novelo level intensity, and obvious heart on the sleeve emotions (literally, many hearts right on those sleeves, as well as tables, and in mouths).
It made me wonder about the Spanish culture in general, whether as a people they found greater satisfaction with overt emotional affectation. It was sort of the polar opposite to the cool, detached British Museum.
I ended my stay in Madrid with walks through the city and Retiro Park. I saw beauty, families, sunset, and majestic architecture.
As I prepared to go home, I gave thanks for the time, resources, and generosity of all who supported me. I prayed for those who contributed to the Episcopal Relief and Development organization, a group for whom I sought to raise funds and make a donation during this pilgrimage. I had lit candles for my parents who inspired me to find God and growth throughout the world. I gave thanks for my new husband who supported me on this journey with such tremendous love that I get tearful thinking about it.
And I praised our Creator, who gave us vision, desire, and courage to find our way, our road, our journey, no matter who difficult. In such a journey, I discovered light and relationships and values that might not have appreciated as fully before.
Let all who are thirsty come
Let all who wish receive the water of life freely
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Amen
I return to a journey's end, a journey's birth, a journey's sunset, a journey's renewed life. I returned, I return, I will return.