a bird in the hamsa

My hand pressed deeply into cool marble. Millions of other and more earnest hands had worn deep fingerprints into the central column of the Portico de la Gloria just inside the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northernmost Galicia, and touching so many centuries of aspiration and supplication gave me a quick jolt. But, just as quickly I let go and headed back out into the plaza to grab a quick beer. As Tim at the gorge in Monty Python and The Holy Grail would have said, “Now, WHAT is your quest?”

I hadn’t walked thousands of miles, as a proper pilgrim should. In the summer of 1989, I was just another American twentysomething with a two-week Eurail pass who had impulsively opened her tattered Lonely Planet guide on the floor of Madrid’s major train station and realized that the next two days were the last two days of something called the Festival of St. James.  After twelve overnight hours sleeping upright in a third-class cabin, I was at the foot of a saint and at a big party. With yet another hand in my pocket.

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