Peter Hentges (jbru) wrote,
Peter Hentges

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A good day

I was thinking over lunch today about what would be the "best day of my life." We had a reception for a co-worker and his new bride at work yesterday and, when the subject of kids came up, a different co-worker expressed his joy at first holding his new-born son. One often hears of weddings and births in this context. Since I have no foreseeable plans for either, it got me thinking.

On one level, today would have to qualify as the "best" day. After all, I'm alive, healthy, happy. Each day is a gift, right? So yeah, today is a good day and perhaps the best I'll have for a while, who knows.

I remember other good days though.

Far too long ago, I travelled to Spain. I spent about ten days travelling to all parts of the country. One of the most memorable days was near the end of my journey. I was in Santiago de Compostela in the north-west region of Spain known as Galicia. The wind comes off the Atlantic and runs, laden with water, into the high hills of this region, bathing it in frequent rain. On this day, a light drizzle fell as I boarded a bus for an excursion to Cabo Fisterra, the village near the remnants of what the Romans called Finis Terrae, the end of the Earth. It is the farthest western point on the mainland of Europe.

The bus arrived in the mid-morning. The sun peeked through a break in the clouds and I set off on a hike out to the lighthouse that guards the cape and is probably about as close to that Roman end as one can get these days. Along the way, I stopped at a Romanesque church, with its simple, barrel vault and crosses reflecting the influence of Celts that had invaded centuries before. When I emerged, the rain had begun again, a bit harder. I walked uphill and into the rain, keeping my head down so my glasses wouldn't become rain-spattered, and so didn't notice the lighthouse until I was nearly upon it. The lighthouse itself was fenced off and seemed to not be manned. I walked around a bit and settled into a spot on the hillside that looked good for photography.

As was my habit on the trip, I had purchased some cheese, fruit and water from a market that morning. I munched on it now, drawing my leather coat over my head as a canopy for the food. I looked out over the grey sea. The water was choppy, breaking into flecks of foam at long intervals and swaying to its own slow dance. The clouds rolled over it, out of step, and spit light rain across my vision. I broke out my camera and took some pictures. They didn't turn out very well, given the lack of good elements for composition in the grey on grey. Maybe Ansel Adams could have brought something out of that scene, but not I.

I was tired, cold, wet, hungry, and nearly out of money.

But I was happy. At peace.

Looking out upon that expanse of sea, knowing that there wasn't a bit of land for several hundred miles, was peaceful. I had come as far as I could. I might not make it back, but this was as far as people could go and I was here. Some Roman legionnaire stood where I sat now, rain much like this one fell on his helmet and soaked his sandals. Visigoths and Moors came after him, and then whole lines of people who would eventually make up Spain. For centuries they came and stood; saw what I saw. And they went back to their lives, simple or grand, and made their mark upon the world and upon history.

It was that feeling that most brought me joy that day. We often look at what others do and it seems impossible. But places like this one remind you that it all is possible. If one person has done it, so can you. Pioneers are not greater people than the rest of us, they just got there first. We all have greatness in us, it is born with our first breath.

It is a good day.
Tags: travel, writing

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