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Cake in the Clouds

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

We left before dawn, hoping to reach the Iron Cross by sunrise.

The hushed darkness, underlit with a rim of light, gave a feeling of ceremony. Our hiking boots crunched a processional on the dirt path.

I walked with a bunkmate from the night before. We had served as wise women to a young Spanish consultant, also sharing the room, who was considering his future.

As the dawn began to rise around us, my companion casually mentioned that the Pope had opened “the gate.” This year as well as next were special for walking El Camino. Those reaching Santiago would receive a plenary indulgence – a proverbial pass out of Purgatory and into Heaven – for making the pilgrimage.

Having received my first such indulgence in 2010, I wondered idly to myself whether this second one would apply to my next life. Or were terms limited to the one and only life allotted me by religious dogma?

We crested a rise and suddenly, ahead of us, the Iron Cross loomed. Silently we queued with a scattering of others and awaited our moment at the top. It was a solitary and sacred journey up the mountain of stones, each one placed by a pilgrim releasing a burden.