Monday, June 4, 2012

Camino de Santiago, Day 22: León to Villar de Mazarife

On the Camino, the best-laid plans can be foiled by many things. For us today, the culprits were (1) lack of sleep and (2) blisters.

Having decided to get out the door at 4 am on the 37-km road to Hospital de Óbrigon, Marian had the devil of a time getting to sleep last night. Maybe it was the long nap each of us had yesterday afternoon. When the alarm went off at 3:30, she had snatched two hours of sleep at most. Gamely, she said she wanted to get going. But five or six hours later, she began to fall behind, and at our next stop she confessed that a new blister had popped up on her foot.

Now, my daughter has become a blister expert. With all of the attention she has had to give her feet, she should apply for a degree and open up shop on the Camino as Marian Bull, Blister Blaster. She would do land-office business. In fact, there is already a foot expert installed at the large municipal albergue in Santo Domingo, who worked five straight hours for donations the night we were there.

Rick, the fellow with whom I had breakfast and lunch yesterday in León, said that while "The Way" generally paints an accurate picture of the Camino, the Emilio Estevez–Martin Sheen film fails to make A significant point: This pilgrimage is more difficult than it looks. Since we left St. Jean Pied de Port three weeks ago, we have heard of three people dying on the Camino while we have been on it. And every day or so you pass a monument erected to the memory of a martyr of Caminos past. People show up for a hike and find themselves on a death march. The first day's climb over the Pyrenees alone is a baptism by fire. Estevez's character dying there is not just a screenwriting twist. It really happens. Not infrequently.

Blisters are not life-threatening, but we know people who have abandoned the Camino because of them. My friend Lindsey showed me a blister yesterday that has taken up residence under one off his toenails, fergodsake. I didn't know that was possible. I asked him to put his foot back in his shoe immediately. Please. I didn't want to look.

So while I begin this post, Marian is sleeping and resting her feet. But please don't think that she is holding me back. First, I am happy to be sitting on a lawn chair in front of an albergue named for St. Anthony of Padua, who cared for the young. Second, there have been many times, especially on climbs of the first week, when Marian had to wait for me and not the other way around. This Camino is not for the faint of heart, metaphorically or literally.

Still and all, we had a beautiful walk this morning. Having joined forces again after three days apart, Marian and I started out of León together by 4:45 but soon drifted apart. At the beginning, we took opposite sidewalks, which was a good thing. If not, we might have missed a critical turn that she saw and I did not. Later, I walked on ahead and she drifted back. This may be a pattern for the rest of our Camino: Within sight of each other as we walk and staying together at day's end, we will have our own thoughts, experiences, even insights and revelations.

At a rest stop where she caught up with me and we talked for ten minutes, I told her of my evolving thoughts about what comes next, how my life as a writer may take new form when I return home. (Details to follow.)

After her blister kicked up and she took half an hour to rest and treat it, we walked side by side for nearly an hour on the final approach to Villar de Mazarife. This gave her a chance to ask questions never fully answered about my young adult life and the circumstances in which Katie and I met, and Marian and her sister were born. (Details too personal even to follow.)

Our Camino seems to have entered a new, more thoughtful phase. On our seven-hour walk into Villar de Mazarife, we saw only three other pilgrims, and they passed us by without a word while Marian was nursing her feet. Alone with our thoughts, with each other, and with the good Lord, we walk along toward Santiago de Compostela, still not entirely sure why we are here but utterly convinced that we're glad we are.

Update At 5:05 pm, Marian beat me in rummy, 535–460, as we lounged on the front lawn of the albergue in glorious sunshine. An hour later, I made a comeback, winning the second game 545–445, as dinner time approached. We may play a rubber game after dinner. The Camino is so hard.

[NOTE: This series of posts on my Camino continues here.]

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