My 40 Day Trial

A Warning: I had A LOT of time today pondering the mysteries of existence. 😉

Today started out fine. Yes, I was still limping a bit from yesterday, but that was to be expected. It’s day 3. I can’t expect to be fully pain-free until Burgos.

A quick tip for the kids and mathematicians in the audience. 55 is not 51. And the past 18 months post-Covid are like dog years to my body. Learning this myself on the trail has proved frustrating. But I have persevered.

Tonight I sleep in Larrasoaña and the walk today became longer and longer. I was cursing the uphills yesterday. Today I find myself missing the uphills, as the downhills have quickly overtaken them as creations direct from the devil himself.

To make it down with less pain I had to walk backwards. Until walking at all became so painful I had to use my poles as canes.

I’m pretty sure The Camino is laughing at me right about now.

‘I gave you those first two epically miserable days to warn you off. But you refused to listen. Now you shall pay! Wanna quit?’

To which I say ‘Not a chance.’

I am not a religious person. Raised in a scary Lutheran Church (bet you didn’t know the Lutherans had those), I have eschewed organized religion. Just opting for a more ‘Do unto others’ approach to the entire enterprise. But somehow I find myself in churches a fair bit in Spain. Popping in to light a candle for friends or family. Sometimes for me.

In Valencia, every Wednesday after my weekly massage I went into the large church across the narrow street and spent time having a conversation with God. Sometimes with the statue of Mary up in a niche. She is my favorite Mary. Lutherans don’t have Mary. I liked the look of her when I was little. And she seemed to like kids.

I don’t really know all the moves you’re supposed to do in a Catholic Church when you go in just to pray or spend a quiet moment. I’m pretty sure, outside of meeting the Covid protocols, I didn’t do them correctly or at all. The priest reading the newspaper up near the alter would give me a scowl. After my weekly visits became regular he would nod but go back to his newspaper. A cool detente. But I was fine with that. I wasn’t there for him or to chit chat.

And when my Dad died right before lockdown I ran to the Cathedral in Valencia where an apple doll nun held my hand after lighting some candles. Saying soothing things in Spanish that, even today I have no idea what she said.

But the Camino has drawn me in somehow. And I am not alone. I’ve seen Buddhist monks walking the path. And today I met a recent college graduate from Denmark who was walking before she starts six years of seminary school to become a priest in the Danish Protestant church.

‘They told us we are not allowed to walk the Camino but we are choosing not to listen.’

Seems they have a rebel in their ranks. So it’s a powerful draw from those from every faith tradition. And even those who have lost their faith. Or have never had any to begin with.

Today I asked myself why I am doing this. My right knee is on fire. My face is wind burned. The only food that sounds good is dried mangos – the beef jerky of dried fruit. No one made me come here to do this. And yet here I am.

I know little of the bible (see scary Lutheran church above) but I do vaguely remember the story of Jesus walking for 40 days in the wilderness. It was a test of his faith. I’m no holy person, but I feel like this physical trial isn’t just a test of religious faith. It’s a test of our faith in ourselves. Our own ability to deliver ourselves from trials and tribulations.

I think it says somewhere that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ Where better to learn to help yourself than walking over a mountain range and surviving the Meseta?

And where better to learn to have compassion for ourselves so that we can have it for other people? In the wise words of Delta Airlines ‘Put your own mask on before assisting others with theirs.’

Right now, I am flat on my back with my knee elevated. Last time I didn’t take a rest day until Burgos. This time it will be Pamplona. (See reference to being 55). But am I quitting my Camino? Hell to the No! I got stuff to work on out here. And I’ve only just begun. I just need to go a bit slower in the beginning. Because, no matter what, it’s still a Buen Camino.

14 thoughts on “My 40 Day Trial

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