ADDING TO THE CAIRN
I paused to say prayer
for those in my mind and heart,
stones and feathers placed.
"Dear Lord, may this stone, as a symbol of my efforts on pilgrimage, that I lay at the foot at the cross of the Savior, one day weigh the balance in favor of my good deeds, when the deeds of my life are judged. Let it be so. Amen."
This is the prayer said by many at Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) when compelled to stop and place on the existing mound, a stone carried from home. Cruz de Ferro consists of a wooden pole surmounted by an iron cross. There are a plethora of pebbles and stones left behind by those from all over the world through thousands of years. Stones can represent weight or burden carried and symbolize the letting go of what one doesn't need or who one is not.
A legend says that when the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was being built, pilgrims were asked to contribute by bringing a stone. The tradition is to throw a stone, brought from the place of origin of the pilgrim, with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey.
There are several theories as to the origin of the cross. It may have been erected to mark the road when it snows, as it becomes frequently hidden from view. Or, perhaps it is just a pile of stones, erected in the early eleventh century to mark strategic locations on the roads and then Christianized by a cross.
I arrived here on Mother's Day, the first time in several decades that I hadn't placed flowers at my mom's doorstep. She was on my mind. On the climb to the highest point on the Camino, something stopped me and I went over to the side of the road to pick a flower. I smiled almost hearing the words of mom saying, "Get me some of that". She was the consummate flower stealer...a trait passed down to her daughter. Once there, I placed rocks I'd carried for those needing healing and also feathers for each member of my family. It was not particularly emotional until experiencing it through the eyes of another. Camino magic was at work, it was game changing and I won't forget it.
The decline down was difficult and I again thought of mom and her "bad knee days". Although difficult physically, emotionally and spiritually, it was indeed a "red letter day"... remarkable in both simplicity and symbolism. I walked away finally believing no burden too great had ever existed, choices made along the way, good, bad, right or wrong...connected one experience to another and somehow today, good deeds tipped the scale.