Thursday, November 6, 2014

Heartbreak in Covadonga

As I began the damp, grassy decent towards the water’s edge, all was silent but for the wind whistling off snowy mountain peaks and a herd of sheep’s bells clanging in the distance. Out of nowhere, warm tears started to roll down my icy cheeks. Never before in my life have I been moved to tears by the sheer beauty of something. Today, Los Lagos de Covadonga broke my heart.

Let me back up a bit.

Just when the nonstop rain had soaked our spirits and we were ready to throw in the towel on Northern Spain, the sun rose over the mountains this morning and totally redeemed itself. We tooled around the hillsides taking in everything the area had to offer, from this 800 year old bridge...

Roman Bridge of Cangas de Onís

To this rose-colored castle of a church...

Covadonga's Basílica de Santa María

To this pint-sized cathedral built into the side of a mountain, hovering above a waterfall… !

No big deal.

It was one of those perfect days spent frolicking around town that made the entire price of our car rental worth it. I’d heard there were some amazing lakes a few kilometers up the road from where we’d been happily snapping pictures all afternoon, so we decided to venture further into the mountains to take a peak (no pun intended, haha).

The drive started innocently enough, some twisty-curvy-uphill roads revealing increasingly prettier views. 

I see snow!

As the ascent became steeper and the road became narrower, this is when things started to get hairy. The wind picked up, the clouds rolled in and threatened to burst on us, and there was no picturesque lake in sight. Nor guardrails between us and the vertical drop below. Higher and higher we climbed, until we began to catch glimpses of breathtaking snow-capped summits. I could see Reece clinging to his seat as I negotiated each hairpin turn, tediously shifting gears to accommodate the changing speed and incline while praying an oncoming car wasn’t coming around the corner. Nearly 3,500 feet of altitude, we'd later learn, we gained in less than eight nerve-wracking miles.

Of course our navigation system failed us up there, so we had no way of knowing if we’d gone the wrong way or if our desired destination was just around the next bend. I could tell Reece wanted to turn around, but I was determined to push on. I forced the thought of rain out of my mind and decided we’d give it one more mile. Surely we were almost there.

And we were! I can't tell you the relief I felt to finally be greeted by this small body of water. 

We pulled off the road and got out to take photos, but sadly it was overcast and drizzly by then and the incredible snow-covered hills in the distance were hidden from view. Still, the moment was peaceful and a little bit surreal and I insisted we continue even further, to see the final lake.

Reece thought that was a wolf coming to eat us. It was a big black sheep dog.

Which brings us back to where I started. It sounds insane now to recount, but it is truly indescribable how moved I was by this place. The oddest part is, I’ve seen tons of prettier lakes. Greener hillsides and bluer skies and more dramatic peaks. But for some reason, this place was so powerful that it still haunts me. My heart literally ached in my chest as I took it all in. Was I pained that I may never see it again, saddened that photos couldn't possibly do it justice? Was I overwhelmed with relief over finally making it there, releasing the tension of our journey? Was I shaken by my unyielding urge to explore, moved by the satisfaction of finding whatever it is I am seeking? 

I'll never quite put my finger on it. All I know is that I lingered in that moment as long as the graying skies would allow. I felt so tiny. So at peace. So fulfilled. So overwhelmed by the beauty of this world around me. Endlessly grateful for these experiences. Humbled by our tremendous blessings. And hopeful that someday, somewhere, I'll come across this feeling again.

That tiny black dot = Me.

"We do not want to merely 'see' beauty. Though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it." - C.S. Lewis

I couldn't have said it better myself.

1 comment: