In 2016, for my 49th birthday, I bought a good pair of walking shoes. I even bought the expensive inserts soles that the store molds your foot into to get the needed support. Walking only 2-4 miles every 4 or 5 days I was feeling good about myself. Then the summer heat kept me from hardly walking the dogs. Debbie started the Camino hiking group off with Lisa Jett on Shaw Butte in early fall. It wasn't a difficult hike at all and it was fun meeting six new friends. I exchanged numbers with one of my Camigas (stole that name off a backpack on the Camino) Christine at our breakfast soon after. We started hiking up north mountain and other popular spots in Phoenix. It was important we pushed ourselves and kept lengthening our walk. I hiked with Christine, alone with other new hiking buddies whenever possible. The addiction was fierce and I put off needed chores and work to do it. AND LOVED IT! Up until we left the following April we hiked...even when the snakes came out to say hello.
Fast forward to our first walking day on the Camino out of Biarritz. It was absolutely gorgeous...stunning...perfect! The tiny village, then the massive green mountains with fabulous landscape took over. Immediately our walking pace varied within our group. The trek was steep but it seemed we were headed straight for heaven which made it all okay. Miles into the hike passing and being passed by other new friends just as excited, but losing speed we started to feel the backpacks heaviness and our feet were needing a rest. Have we earned the title Pilgrim yet? We sat down in a grassy area to eat our packed lunches. Stunned that a piece of bread with just meat tasted so delicious. We eventually learned with the wheat fields and animals all around that most the food was fresh and tasty. And wait till you taste the wine! Devine!
As much as the first days had my feet and calves screaming for a massage and at times my back just ached deep in the muscle tissue the absolute surreal beauty that lay constantly around made it bearable. Honestly, it was calling me forward and gave me supernatural strength appreciating all of God's gifts seen and unseen. This trip was my dream for my 50th birthday. My goal was to draw nearer to God and trust Him more for anything and everything. But what I found was that I was almost unable to pray at times. It was just survival mode. This is what it's like to be a Pilgrim. Not my will but Your will, not my strength but Your strength, I can't do this on my own. I couldn't put my feelings into words because my body and my head wanted to fall apart, but my automatic response was stay on the trail put one foot in front of the other. It was a struggle to take a moment and talk to God, to lift up a prayer took too much energy.
It's unclear how many days had past till I stopped thinking altogether and was aware of only the path ahead. And eventually my mind was cleared of even just thinking of myself (or the pain). There was a peace that came over me and I realized I was with Him; I felt I was with God in His holy presence, just walking with Him. Come to me...you will find rest for your soul, He said.
Content was my word for the Camino. As much as I loved the walking, meeting Pilgrims from all over the world, drinking cafe con leches and yummy wine I was finally content in my thoughts, in my soul, in my heart and even in my body.
Keep dreaming, walking and enjoy every second of the Camino!