"Heaven and earth," the Celtic saying goes, "are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter."
The Camino felt like a very thin place. The air heavy with the weight of centuries of pilgrims. The soil itself felt holy. I barely have words to explain it.
But I do have a couple stories:
One day a dear friend and I were talking about eternity. She was reading a thought-provoking book by a neuroscientist about some of his patients' experiences with near-death.
And as we talked, I turned my head to the right and my breath caught in my throat.
There was a forest in neat rows, and at the end of the center row, was another smaller, darker row of trees. And the way the trees were arranged, and the way the sun struck the trees and the shadows danced made it seem like a portal to another world.
We both stopped talking, stood and stared and quickly decided to walk into the forest.
We were so quiet, breathless. Talking felt sacrilegious.
It felt supernatural, as if God were speaking to us through the trees.
My friend had been carrying small stones with her to leave along the trail. People or circumstances she was praying about. She left one right at the entrance to the portal.
We left stunned and silent.
And as I turned back to take another photo, the portal entrance was no longer dark, but a ball of gleaming light.
A few days later I was walking with some other friends and this time I was talking. Talking and weeping.
I was struck by my own inner darkness. Junk in my soul that I mainly keep at bay by being busy and competent.
Can you relate?
But this trip, this walking, this natural beauty, this silence, this being out of my regular routine knocked a few things loose inside.
As I walked and talked and my friends listened to my angst and tears, I turned to the left and saw the deepest, darkest forest.
My friends lovingly said to me: "You need to walk in there and stand awhile."
It was immediately 20 degrees cooler and so quiet you could hear a pine needle drop.
I stood and I stared and I felt the Divine presence whisper to me, "I know your darkness, my love. And even your darkness is made light in my love."
I don't know how long I stood and contemplated my own sorry self, but I do know that when I emerged my soul felt lighter.
My friends wrapped their arms around me and we continued to walk together, toward home.
For centuries pilgrims of all sorts have walked the Camino, seeking God, searching for peace, for hope, for wholeness.
Do all those footsteps create a sacred path?
Does God choose to be more present in certain places on this good earth?
I do not know the answers.
I do know that the Camino de Santiago felt like a thin place on this earth; where heaven and earth were three feet apart.
I will never forget those brief glimpses of the eternal.