When you walk 5 or 6 hours a day, your equipment is, of course, very important. Even more, I find that it as I go along, my equipment is becoming part of me.
My pack--When I started my pack, which weighs 14 pounds without food or water, felt like an alien being that had taken up residence on my back. I had to struggle into it and out of it--sort of like putting on a tight pair of Spanx. When I was wearing my pack and had to bend over to pick something up, I felt as if I would end up like a turtle that´s been turned over on its back--I would be stranded on the road, arms and legs waving helplessly in the air.
Now I throw my pack on with nonchalant ease. Unlike in the beginning, when I was essentially clueless, I know when a strap is too tight or too loose and know how to adjust it so that I´m comfortable again. It might be going a tad to far to say I hardly know it´s there, but it certainly no longer feels alien. It´s just a part of me--not necessarily my favorite part of me--but a needed and appreciated part.
My trekking poles- On El Camino forums whether or not to use trekking poles is a hotly debated question but just let me say this--I LOVE MY TREKKING POLES!!! I cannot imagine doing El Camino without them. They are a great help going up hills and a literal life-saver (or at least a literal knee saver) going down. There are descents I cannot imagine making without the poles especially since you are already off-balance from your pack. On the flat places I think they really do increase my efficiency in walking, plus more than once when I´ve been tired they´ve kept me from falling when I tripped on a stone. Did I mention I LOVE MY TREKKING POLES!
My feet- I probably should say my boots, but really, I feel like my feet are my most important piece of equipment. The boots are just an adjunct. I had fretted about blisters and hoped I would be one of the lucky few who didn´t get any blisters at all, but I´ve not been that lucky. On the other hand, I haven´t (so far at least) gotten any blisters that have been too debilitating.
The first and worst blister I got was on the big toe of my left foot. A few days later a blister popped up on the heel of that same foot. So I named the blister on my toe Esau and the blister on my heel Jacob, because when these twin brothers were born Jacob was holding on to Esau´s heel. In the morning when I started walking I would ask, ¨How are you today, Jacob and Esau?¨ And if they gave me no twinges, I would lavish praise upon them. Just as they were healing, a blister popped on a toe of the same foot, so I named it Joseph, Jacob´s son. Like its namesake, Joseph is a whiny little punk. I have been lecturing him about it.
Writing this it occurs to me that it sounds very weird, but being so utterly reliant on my feet means I have a very different relationship with them. They are my friends and companions, and I am asking a lot of them.
The Apostle Paul urges us to put on the whole armor of God, but for El Camino, I´m relying on my pack, my poles, and my feet.
Snapshots along the way
In the marvelous albergue of Grañon we sang happy birthday to a young Irish woman celebrating her 22nd birthday. Every nationality there took turns singing in their own language--Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, English, Korean, Finnish. And at worship that evening, it was a Pentecost moment again when all languages were represented in worship.
Along the way into Burgos on a windswept hill, there is a spiral that previous pilgrims have created from rocks. I walked it with Anna from South Africa on a windy morning as the mists swirled around us. It was extraordinarily mystical.
(Ooops times up and I´m out of euros--more later!)