I enjoyed a quiet, easy day in Pamplona. I stayed in bed until 10:00! Then enjoyed lunch of tapas and Sangria before walking into town to buy another pair of hiking socks. (I lost one in the dryer – i.e; clothesline in the wind.) I sat outside and drank café con leche in the afternoon before returning to my hotel room to catch up with my family on FaceTime.
Yes, I am staying in a hotel, not a hostel. Taking it easy for a couple of nights. That has been one of the most significant lessons I’ve learned over these last several months of inner journeying. I don’t always have to do everything the hard way. Or as Mary Oliver says, in one of my favorite poems, “Wild Geese.”
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
And, tonight, that was a hot bath followed by an even hotter shower followed by a blessed night without snorers. In this same vein of self-indulgence, I must, somewhat reluctantly, confess that I haven’t been carrying my pack on my back this whole Camino. Before leaving home, I “trained” for one day with my backpack. I only walked five miles and after 3 ½ miles I had to give it to Steve to carry the rest of the way for me. I had planned on training for the three remaining days before I departed but those 3 ½ miles did me in. I was so sore, I could barely move.
At that point, I knew there was no way I would be able to climb over the Pyrenees on the first two days while carrying 20 pounds on my back. (Yes, I ended up adding stuff to it rather than eliminating extra weight.) I had read in one of the Camino guides that you could have your backpack transported ahead to the next albergue you would be staying. Of course, I poopawed this idea when I first read it, after all, “real” peregrinos wouldn’t do that. Once, I was able to walk around without wincing, I decided I would rather be a “wannabe” peregrino than a “lying-by-the-side-of-the-road” one.
The plan was to stop acting like a sissy and put on my big girl hiking panties and carry my backpack like a “real” peregrino on the third day. Instead, I took the easy road and have had my backpack sent ahead of me every day since. Here’s the deal – I’ve been walking seven or eight hours each day and my feet and legs are already giving me dirty looks, why would I ask them to carry an extra twenty pounds if I didn’t have to. Sure, my pride is now wincing a bit but I would rather pamper my body than stroke my ego. Now, (other than the last hour of each day,) I’m able to enjoy the journey rather than simply survive it.
I had come to a similar crossroad earlier this year. After having booked a tour with G Adventures to hike the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu, I made the choice to cancel my spot for the 4-day hiking experience and simply took a two-hour train trip and 30-minute bus ride up the mountain. My plantar fasciitis was flaring up and I knew that I would not be listening to “the soft animal of my body” to force it to climb all those stairs and steep inclines. When I was bemoaning my decision and feeling like a wuss, my daughter, Clancy, sweetly and wisely said to me, “Mom, I know you. It took more courage for you to make the decision not to hike that trail than it would have to climb a million steps.”
Which brings us to the real “roadmance” on my Camino – the love affair that I have going with my trekking poles. I am totally smitten. I sometimes talk to them and tell them how grateful I am to lean on them. How they take the hardest hit for me when I descend the steepest hills. How they give me the extra push I need when I don’t think I can take another step uphill. How they support me on the long stretches of road. I have grown utterly dependent on them.
I was confessing my devotion for my trekking poles with Claus on our first day of walking together. He asked me if he could carry them. I said, “Sure,” and handed them to him but he wouldn’t give them back to me. He asked me how I felt without them. At first, it was kinda nice, a little freer, less cumbersome. But, then I started up another hill and I missed them. But, I was too proud to ask for them back so I kept climbing. And then I actually got teary. I wanted my poles! I needed their help! Claus must have sensed this and he asked if I wanted them back and with a catch in my voice I said, “Yes, I really do.”
I was a bit embarrassed by my silly emotional reaction to not having my trekking poles but Claus encouraged me to look deeper into the tenderness I was experiencing. I realized that it is not very easy for me to accept help but my poles supported me, unconditionally, without question or expectation. And, I had grown to depend on them and need them and love them. This sounds so dramatic but I know the root of this is deeper and I’m learning the lesson they are teaching me. I do need help and its okay to admit it and accept it. I don’t have to do it alone or everything the hard way. Thank you, my wonderful trekking poles. I am so grateful to be walking this Camino with you two.