Dear Pilgrims: I have heard you are back home now, telling everybody what a wonderful time you had on the Camino de Santiago. You are sharing your wonderful memories with your friends and families and repeating over and over again that these memories will stay with you for the rest of your lives. So will mine of you.
Dear First Day Pilgrim: Remember that soft drink bottle you carried with you nearly to the top of the Pyrenees and, after drinking it, you ‘forgot’ behind a stone? It will stay with me for up to 400 years.
Dear Bicigrino: That super-energy-multi-vitamin-mineral sachet which gave you strength when you cycled through the Meseta and ‘slipped’ your fingers when it was empty? It will stay with me for up to 40 years.
Dear Senior Pilgrim: I do understand that we all get old, and things don’t work the way they used to do. I am getting older too. And I do understand that gluing your dentures firmly into place is something that you need to do from time to time, even on the Camino. However, that empty denture cream tube will stay with me for up to 100 years. And it was only two kilometres to the next bin in Burgos.
Dear Pilgrim Couple: I am really happy for you that you found love on the Camino. Love is precious and should always be appreciated and lived out responsibly. So, I do applaud you on your use of a condom. But why did you leave it behind the hedge in the Rioja where you had your joyful encounter? That condom will remind me of the two of you for up to 5 years.
Dear Long Distance Pilgrim: I was very sorry to see that your boots caved in half way. I was very happy for you that you found new, well fitting, ones. I was far less happy that you left your old ones on that rock in the Galician forest, even if you decorated it with flowers. They will stay with me for many years to come.
Dear Hungry Pilgrim: That plastic bag that you used to carry your lunch in and that the wind ‘ripped’ out of your hand? It was found by a beautiful song bird and used to build her nest. Unfortunately, as the eggs hatched, the younglings got entangled in the half rotten plastic and choked. There will be less bird song on the Camino for at least 20 years to come – because of you.
Dear to the End of World Pilgrim: It is a myth that pilgrims have to burn their clothes when reaching Finisterre! The toxic smoke that came of the fire you caused is now coating the rocks on the beach with its sticky residue, poisoning it not only today but for many years. Not to mention the fire that you caused in the nearby shrubs, the one that killed not only a multitude of birds and insects but also made the soil more vulnerable to wind and rain erosion.
Dear Pilgrims: I cherish every single one of you, at least at the beginning. I only wish you would love me as much as I love you, and take your rubbish to the next bin instead of burdening me with it. Sometimes, when I am so weighted down that I can hardly breathe, and especially when a bird chokes to death on your plastic bag, I wish you had never come to visit me and I certainly don’t wish that you ever come back!
Dear Rubbish Pilgrims: I am always so glad to see you, with your heavy gloves, rubbish tongs and empty rubbish bags that you fill up with what other pilgrims have left behind. I bestow every blessing upon you and ask our common friend Santiago to protect you wherever you are! I hope you will come back very soon, with many like-minded rubbish pilgrim friends.
The Camino Francés
(On behalf of all the other Caminos de Santiago and Mother Earth in general)