September 10, 2017
I decided to walk some of the highlights I missed last year and Cruz de Ferro was number one on my list.
Today was the day to climb the highest mountain on the Camino de Francés, 1504 meters (4,934 ft.) above sea level, a steady hike to Cruz de Ferro, the replica iron cross that sits on a five meter high wooden pole. It’s surrounded by a pile of stones and rocks that Pilgrims leave for different reasons. It’s very personal; some people are quiet and reverent, while others love the idea and a photo. According to Leslie Gilmore’s guidebook, this Iron Cross was part of a pagan ritual and predates Christianity. So I felt comfortable participating in this cultural tradition.
My last year’s Camino walking partner, Craig Simpson, dedicated his 2016 Camino walk to his brother, who had passed away. He carried a rock from home to place at the base of Cruz de Ferro and later wrote an article “The Spiritual Quest” for the Spring 2017 newsletter for P.E.A.C.E. Peace Educators Allied for Children Everywhere. It’s been recently reprinted in “The Catholic Radical.”
Some people carry a rock that represents sorrow, burdens, guilt, gratitude, hope, requests for health or healing. And more, of course, as it’s an individual gesture.
I carried rocks to place for my own reasons and a few for friends.
But as I walked the trail to the cross. I experienced an emotional change, more serious, almost fragile. I began to cry. I felt a spiritual presence that is beyond religion. The sky darkened, a breeze blew softly and the air was quiet. Clouds moved and created shadows in the path.
The iron cross seemed to appear, a vision on the Way. And I was surprised at its simplicity. I decided to leave the two stones for friends who had loved ones pass away recently. I knew that I was already blessed, 71 trips around the sun and here on the Camino. I didn’t want to use my one wish for myself. I found a beautiful crystal and placed it as a prayer for healing the world. In the Jewish religion there is a practice of kindness and helping others called, “Tikkun Olam” Repair of the World. I wanted to reach Beyond the Borders of my own sorrows and hopes and dreams to a place that creates love and hope for humanity, for our planet.
I handed my phone to a Pilgrim who was below the cross area and asked him to take a photo. There were several people placing stones, but rather than waiting for the mound to clear, I felt a comfort in being in this spiritual and ancient place of healing with others.
I placed my stones and said a prayer, looked around the park area, checked out the unique sundial and then walked on many more kilometers of the rocky, steep downhill path to El Acebo to find a bed for the night. I felt lighter and at peace within myself, and I chanced to be hopeful for our world, Beyond Borders on the Camino.