Saturday, May 28, 2011


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!)

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