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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Walking

In the morning, I walk without thought absorbed by the beauty of the waterfall or the curious  behaviour of sheep that kneel to eat the nubbins of grass left in the field where they graze or the friendly "bon camino" from a good-looking young dude scooping shit out of a hole he stands chest deep in as I admire the neighbouring yard with immaculately  sculpted bushes that could have been the work of Edward Scissorhands.

As the day proceeds toward the mid to late afternoon, the walking starts to hurt and becomes the object of contemplation; “Just two hours left, then one, then 30 minutes, then 25, 20, 15, 14, 12, 9.” And then it could be all wrong. There could be another hour of walking when I think there's only 10 minutes.

The beauty of the trail certainly takes you mind of the walking. 
I listen to a podcast or audiobook and concentrate on that or have a chat with passing pilgrims. (Always passing, never being passed.) I listen to how one guy’s feet hurt all the time so, I ask the obvious. “Could it be your shoes?” and he says, “No way.” Then he tells me that when he did the French Camino, he’d walked 40 miles a day. No wonder your feet hurt, I thought. You're frickin’ nuts.  How could anyone enjoy walking 40 miles a day? But secretly I'm grateful for the conversation cause I'm not thinking about my sore shoulder or my aching legs just like he may be grateful to me for allowing him the opportunity to boast about his physical feats.

And my wife is talking about our kids to some dude behind me and I put on my headphones and try to concentrate on the podcast or audiobook and this focuses my attention away from walking so that it becomes automatic and not a chore and I wonder why I do it. Why walk such a ridiculous distance on a pilgrimage that has practically no meaning for me. Then, I realize it's not the objective. It's in the very act of walking and the contemplation that comes with the walking.

For much of our journey, we passed and then would be passed by a young German woman who'd always give a friendly hello but seemed to have no interest in conversation. In a caf√©, she was asked by a local patron why she was doing the Camino again after having done it once. She said, "I needed to think.”

The world moves so fast that sometimes it's just nice to slow down, separate ourselves from machines and become human. I find it interesting that the creature that’s widely considered the best friend to the human also loves nothing more than to be taken for a walk. Toward the end of our journey, we walked through a pretty little town called Caldas de Reis. In the cathedral, the town’s patron saint, San Roch, is depicted in a sculpture in pilgrim’s garb with his companion, the dog. How appropriate, don't you think?



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