On the threshold
Five years ago, I was staying on the threshold between the old and the new. On the edge of the ocean, I felt pregnant of a new life.
This is a blog post I published 24 of January 2021on my blog Daphne Drinks Tea.
Boundaries and edges
Last week, I received a Whatsapp from my mother: "I see that today is exactly five years since you reached Compostela Cathedral."
It was 13 January 2017, after a difficult Camino I had done the last hundred kilometres almost flying, I was there where I had been so looking forward to: Santiago de Compostela. But Compostela had no charm for me, the big city felt more like a stopover than the end point. The whole trip I had avoided big cities and now I was staying two nights in the most turbulent one. During the last stretch, I learned that Compostela was not actually the end point of the Camino. I had not yet reached the true zero point and so I moved on to the coast, to the Finisterre lighthouse.
After three days, I stood on the edge of the ocean and proverbially jumped into the deep: I took the plunge and decided to deal with myself and the world in a totally different way.
Only, I did not yet know how.
The Camino had been difficult. The whole journey to this zero point was a long lesson in letting go. As if the surroundings reflected my inner self, I had been 'sitting' in a kind of perpetual autumn since I left the US a few months before.
I left there as the trees turned fiery orange, to a Netherlands where autumn was silently making its appearance, and my Camino began misty with a faint autumn sunshine. It was clear: it was time to drop old leaves and make room for the new. Although it seemed a wrong choice at first, walking the Camino in the winter months ended up being exactly what I needed: the days were short, the groups of pilgrims small and sometimes I had entire hostels to myself.
And then I reached Galicia.
Galicia lies above Portugal and reaches down to the ocean, with a milder climate and many more pilgrims on the route. But Galicia also has something else: a strange time zone. People there use the time zone of Central Europe, Madrid, but it is on the same longitude as Ireland.
Consequently, mornings started late there, so I was on the road by sunrise and had longer in the evenings to arrive at hostels in daylight. Together with the particular Celtic-like culture and foreign language, it all made me feel like I was in another world. A world outside normal time.
This breaking away from the 'normal' also unwittingly gave me the chance to break free from my 'normal' self. The me that I had lived out and maintained for years was no longer holding up on the last stretch of the Camino. With every step I took in Galicia, little by little, my old self fell over more and more. When I reached Finisterre, she was completely in tatters.
They say you 'die' spiritually in Finisterre. It did indeed feel like that. In Finisterre, that 'normal' me died.
In this emptiness, I sat there on the rock, facing west, waiting for the sunset. I did not find Finisterre a pleasant place. I had so looked forward to reaching that zero point, but the zero point was polluted, ugly and the energy was harsh. 'Dying' was apparently not that pleasant. Promising myself to change, to do things differently and become more again the me I once was was apparently possible only if some illusions had to fall off the cliff.
They say you get 'reborn' spiritually in Muxia. And so I walked to Muxia. The terminus of My Camino was far more impressive than Finisterre. Not for its grandeur, but for its modesty. For its beautiful sunset over a wild blue sea and red rocky coastline. Muxia was full of an energy of splashing ideas, of possibilities, of seeds planted.
I was in Muxia in January, the month that asks you to turn inward, in search of what moves you, of what holds you back and the search for your own inner light.
"Hope smiles from the threshold of the coming year, whispering: it will be happier." - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Among the Romans, January was the 11th month, just after the winter solstice, the month when sunlight slowly returned. The name January comes from the god Janus,
This Roman god was depicted with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. He represented the beginning and the end of everything. He was the patron god of passages such as doors and places of transition from one space to another, as well as of dawn and the new day. In fact, Janus stands in the in-between time, the moment between two times. The moment when everything is in bud, the moment when everything is possible.
January stands, as it were, between two times, so I, there on the edge of the ocean, also stood between two times. Everything was possible in this in-between time. And it felt that way too: I was loose, I was free to go where I wanted and decide how I wanted. What a space!
In medieval times, people depicted Janus with a young head and an old head, which in the alchemical tradition was seen as the masculine and feminine parts of a whole. A Janus who, to my mind, looks back at the past with masculine precision, only to look to the future with feminine warmth. A Janus who remembers old wisdom and has big dreams for the future. A Janus who can stand in between, with the ability to reconcile the past and the future.
"Perhaps the big, flashy climax is not what it's all about, it's about bringing ourselves back to the reliable rhythm of life itself." - Garry Ferguson
I myself, in that elongated Now, the moment between 'dying' and 'being reborn', planned nothing for a while. I remained for a while on the threshold between then and later. I let the few ideas I had simmer for a while, as if I could be pregnant with them for a while longer. To let what wanted to be born unfold in silence, free from the power and control that lay outside me.
To find the power and strength in myself again.
And then, from my new Now, step outside again.
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