Recyclus

I had been attracted to El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) from the first time I heard about it, and recently I had received many “signs� that perhaps it was time to make the pilgrimage. At least once a day during the last three months someone had mentioned El Camino, I had received several postcards sent by friends visiting Santiago de Compostela, and my best friend had named her first son Santiago (James); these and countless other “connections� helped me to decide to make the pilgrimage. There are no gratuitous connections – the universe coalesces to help us arrive to the place we should be. We only need to be attentive to its language.

I purchased some clothes appropriate for the occasion, and put them inside my favorite backpack together with my old Reeboks. I threw in sunscreen, ointment for muscular pains, slippers, a map that included the stages and the pilgrim hostels, and a small first aid kit.

I picked up my pilgrim's passport at the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago. I was looking forward to filling it with stamps during my walk. A week later, I took the train to St. Jean Pied de Port. There, I started my pilgrimage at the Church of Notre Dame; I crossed the Nive River and connected with my ancestral ego. After walking for seven days, I arrived in Logroño. I stayed at the pilgrim's hostel, which is very close to the stone bridge from where you can see the Ebro River flow. Manolo, a dour man around 50 years old, with a dark complexion and vacant eyes, brought me to a room with 20 beds. After assigning me a bed, he left as calmly and silently as he had received me a few minutes before when I had arrived visibly exhausted. I took a hot shower and ate an enormous dish of tasty caparrones (stew prepared with beans, vegetables, and spicy sausage chorizo), which revived me and yet reminded me of how exhausted I was.

I went out and sat down on a rock close to the riverbank. I had spent seven days walking in total introspection, surrounded by beautiful forests, encountering fellow pilgrims hungry for spirituality, authenticity, and knowledge of themselves. And the same hunger has awakened in me.... a hunger for truth of myself, a wish to become closer to my most authentic I.

After 173 kilometers, I was overcome with an awareness that I needed to recycle myself as a person...to recycle my principles, my ideas, and even my dreams. I needed to grow and improve my life by making a constant effort to become a better person. I needed to learn that to forgive and to love are the two keys to personal equilibrium; to understand that both the questions and the answers are already inside of me and that at the moment that I want to perceive them, they will become visible and comprehensible.

After Logroño, the landscape changed; it became flat, and gradually changed colors from the green of the forest to the yellow of the wheat fields. I was in the land of El Cid...tired but fulfilled. The burning sun, the unvaried countryside "of the wide fields of Castille", and my monotonous walk allowed my thoughts to wander...they flew unconsciously to my office. How would I be able to transform the experience I was living as a pilgrim into a line of shoes? I closed my eyes - concentrating on that thought - and suddenly I heard myself say in my silence:

"We live in the age of recycling, and what better represents our philosophy than this concept... being truly respectful of nature and moving away from marketing and fashion. Our company, which already is a family, only uses eco -friendly leather that respects the environment and that is processed avoiding toxic materials. Also, in our production process we don't try to produce quantity, but quality. All our products, from shoes to packing materials, are recycled and recyclable."

I was coming close to a new idea, but I especially wanted to capture what we really represent - the Frog Family, that amphibious creature that in fairy tales changes into a prince.

After almost 550 kilometers, I arrived at O Cebreiro. In El Bierzo the landscape had become green and hilly. My skin was tanned...by the sun, the wind, and the cold of the early dawn hours when I started my pilgrimage every day. That night I slept at the Celtic Inn. When I had arrived at the public pilgrim's hostel it was full. Truthfully, I was happy about it, a little privacy at the end of the walk gave me the opportunity to reflect on my internal and external journey.

Only 6 more stages before I would climb the last mountain, from where I would see the towers of the cathedral and arrive at last to Santiago de Compostela. These stages went by as quickly as a sigh, as I walked between canyons and trees, forests of dreams, and encounters with pilgrims with whom to exchange words and silence. Six days later, I entered the cathedral through the Pórtico de la Gloria, a masterpiece from the 12th century. I don't know what happened to me, but at that moment I felt different. The apocalyptic sculptures of Master Mateo filled me with an indescribable tranquility. I looked at the statue of Master Mateo, know by the people of this land as the Santo dos Croques, and following the custom of a thousand years, I touched my forehead to his, asking for wisdom.

The intense smoke and penetrating smell of incense produced by the Botafumeiro made me a little nauseous. A person close to me, as if reading my thoughts, commented, "The thousands of pilgrims in the Middle Ages would not view this smoke and smell as pollution after sleeping together inside of the cathedral."

Going out of the cathedral, I overheard a group of pilgrims, whom I had encountered previously on the pilgrimage say, "tomorrow the last stage." I had thought that my pilgrimage was completed; they informed me that the end of El Camino is Finisterre. The following day I arrived at "the end of the earth." History often recounts the fascination this place has awakened in all who have visited the "End of the World". For example, the Celts worshiped the King Star on an altar at the Mt. Fachi. Centuries later, General Décimo Junio Bruto "El Galaico", the first Roman to step on this part of the world, became terrified when he observed that the sea devoured the sun.

After reaching Finisterre, I met an old French man who told me that since the discovery of the sepulcher of St. James in the Middle Ages, the visit to Finisterre had become the end of the pilgrims' route to Santiago de Compostela. After visiting the Sepulcher of the Apostle, the pilgrims continue to the "End of the World" to venerate the image of Christ and the relics of St. Guillerme.

Finisterre is a typical fisherman's village with narrow streets winding down to the sea. Thousands of years ago they believed it was the edge of the world. But even if today we know that this is not the case, the trip to Finisterre remains a spiritual walk. The villagers relate with pride how the pilgrims pick up a vieira (scallop shell) on the beach, which they later show to prove that they have walked to the end. Now the route goes to the lighthouse that is about three kilometers from the village. When I arrived many pilgrims, following an ancient tradition, were burning the shoes and clothes that they had worn during the pilgrimage. The smoke obscured the crystalline and transparent surroundings of the Cantabric Sea. There are some traditions that we need to adapt to our times: to take care of our environment and nature, and to protect the remaining beauty and resources that we enjoy.

I moved away and sat on a rock, and gazed at the far horizon of the sea. Transfixed and filled with the peace, I heard a voice in my soul that spoke to me of a form of shoe...I envisioned the characteristics of our new shoe line. The name will be Recyclus; you will only need to pull a thread, and the sole, the in-sole, the leather, and the laces will separate into independent pieces to be deposited in special recycling bins that we will offer to stores.

Seven hundred kilometers, thirty-four stages, numerous souls, and many silences had brought me to Recyclus. I wanted to return something to the environment that nature had given to me. Recycling is more than separating the household waste into different bins; it has to do with growing up, seeing more than just what is in front of you, finding the way to be happy, respecting others and nature, and learning to love through understanding, empathy, and generosity. Recycling is something that starts in the soul and manifests itself every day of our lives, in our every act, and in all our words. Recyclus is our "grain of sand".... the rest is in your hands!