In Which I Practice Some More

As you know, I’m really not an outdoorsy, let’s-go-hiking-or-camping kind of person.And when I decided to walk the Camino this summer, it never really occurred to me that I would be backpacking across a country while walking this pilgrimage.

So amidst my preparations – getting the right gear, buying plane/train tickets to get to my starting point, getting Euros – I also began the physical preparation for hiking: walking really long distances.

Oh, boy.

The first Saturday that I took the train downtown and walked 30 kilometres back home, I had no idea what to expect. The first kilometres were easy, of course. About 15 kilometres in, I stopped for lunch, and was SO glad for the chance to sit down, as my hips were starting to feel the distance. When I started walking again, the skin of my feet literally hurt with each step. Thankfully that stopped relatively quickly, but possibly only because the pain in my joints was a good distraction. At about 20 kilometres, I was sitting down for a quick break every ten minutes or so. At about 24 kilometres, I was sitting down literally every time that there was something to sit on – bench, ledge, railing, didn’t really matter what.

When I got home, there was a brief period of euphoria. See? I can do this! But underneath it was a more concerned sense of okay, I did it once but I have to do it every day of the summer. Every. Single. Day.

My next walk was a little better – my feet didn’t hurt, and stretching my hips on a very regular basis was helpful. It was my knees that hurt. I made it about 25 kilometres before being exhausted for the last five.

The next week was better again – my feet, hips, knees were all fine, and it was only the last three or so kilometres that were really hard.

Then I started walking the 30 kilometers with everything in my backpack that I’m taking with this summer. That added a new challenge – always monitoring my back to make sure it survived. No matter how much easier it gets each time that I walk the 30 kilometres, there’s no way that I would refer to a day spent walking as “easy”.

 

When I tell people about the Camino, or especially if I tell them how I’ve been spending my Saturdays lately, I get a lot of reactions like I would never do that. That sounds terrible. This is your vacation? I would give up. I appreciate the people who are excited for me, but I do actually understand the negative reactions. Like I said, backpacking across the country wasn’t really something I had considered when I decided to walk the pilgrimage.

 

So why do we do these hard things? Why backpack across a country when there are so many easier ways to travel and sightsee? And couldn’t the spiritual aspect be gotten as easily with any other kind of spiritual retreat? Why is the Camino actually experiencing a resurgence of popularity? Is it just for the physical challenge of seeing if you can do something hard?

 

Andy Crouch spoke at a convention I went to a couple years ago, comparing spiritual disciplines to learning a musical instrument. There is a long, long, LONG period of no noticeable growth as you begin to learn to play. There’s not a lot of payoff in happiness as you put in long hours of practicing, practicing, and even more practicing. (As someone who took piano and violin lessons for years, I can TESTIFY.) But eventually, things change. You start to improve. You start to enjoy what you’re doing. If you keep practicing long enough, you get to the point where you can play almost anything that is put in front of you, or even anything you hear. You can get hours of enjoyment from the skills you have acquired, and others can as well.

Spiritual disciplines require the same slogging in our lives of spiritual development. They take a lot of hard work for years, as we seem to make no progress at all. The payoff comes years later, and then we reap the benefits of our disciplines with much less effort.

 

Pilgrimage is not officially a spiritual discipline, but I feel like there are a lot of parallels between it and the spiritual disciplines. At the least, the comparison is a good explanation for why people still go on pilgrimages nowadays. It will be long, hard work to walk long distances every day. There will be, without a doubt, days when I want to do anything other than walk again. There will be sore, tired feet, legs, back. Even as my body adjusts and gets slowly stronger, I am under no illusion that this is going to be anything other than a tiring trip. And yet, like the other spiritual disciplines, it will be worthwhile. Spending time with my Father in his world, conversations with others, time thinking and praying, seeking God. That is worth all the blisters, sore feet and legs, sunburns, terrible nights’ sleeps, and whatever else that I face along the way.

We walk by faith, not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7 says. The benefits we reap from a life of following God are not always benefits that we can see, but we walk on, step by step, trusting that God will continue to lead us and work in us.

Por Fe Andamos

In Which I Drink a Lot

I am so thirsty. Walking 30 kilometres through the middle of the day will do that to you, apparently!

I have a 2 litre bag for water that fits nicely into a special pocket in my backpack. A tube with a bite valve lies right along my shoulder, and getting a drink is the easiest thing in the world while I’m walking. Spending money getting something “fancy” (fancier than my water bottle!) was important to me because I found on my earlier training walks that I just wouldn’t bother to stop when I was thirsty. It was a production – unclip the belts, set down the backpack, drink, haul the backpack on again, clip and adjust everything.

Nice as the hydration pack is, it doesn’t solve the thirst problem completely. About 20 kilometres into my walk this past Saturday, I was sucking as hard as I could on my bite valve, but not getting any water. I figured it had a kink in the hose somewhere and found a place to sit and put my pack down. Everything was working perfectly – I had just finished all the water already. Well then. (When I was telling my parents this story, my dad found it necessary to point out that I “get” 10 kilometres out of 1 litre, which is the same mileage that my parents’ van gets – 10L/100km. Thanks, Dad.)

Since I’m not a hiking aficionado, I don’t know the best way to solve this problem. If I can find a place to refill my water, it seems to me like I will need to haul a bunch of stuff out of my backpack just to get the water bag out and then back in. I’m not quite dumb enough to try to refill it while it’s in my backpack… Any experienced hikers have good advice for me?

My walk is more than 48 hours over as I write, and yet five minutes ago I went to the kitchen yet again, filled up my water bottle, and gulped down the contents. It seems I can’t catch up with rehydrating. I drink and drink and drink, until I do not want to drink any more. But I wake up each morning so parched, and need to drink often. I suppose this isn’t really a big problem. There are lots of worse things in the world than drinking a lot of water.

 

As I continually go to refill my water bottle, I keep thinking of Jesus’ words from John 4:13-14 (MSG): Everyone who drinks this water again will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst – not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.

Mmmm. Sounds amazing!

 

And I’m off to the kitchen again to refill my water bottle.

In Which I Practice Blogging

See below for my report on today.

Now I am practising blogging from my phone, since that will be the method of the summer. So far so good, right?
I took some pictures along the way; let’s see if I can successfully post those!

Roy Thomson Hall bringing back good memories with Kair:

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That’s where I’m headed:

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Humber Bridge:

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I looked, but didn’t see Sheldon:

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On the way home, I pass a Dairy Cream…

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… a Dairy King…

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… and a Dairy Queen. Where I stopped for an ice cream cone! Which did not make up for the fact that I’d run out of water several kilometres before. Note to self: thirst + ice cream = thirst.
Still, a little sugar to get me the last three kilometres home, which are always the hardest.

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In Which I Practice Walking

Last night I packed up my backpack with everything I’m taking to Spain. Well, everything except my passport, which I left on purpose, and my nail clippers, which I left accidentally. I doubt that extra weight will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. (I guess you never know, though!)
This morning, after a terrible, restless sleep, I took the train downtown and started walking home. This has become my regular Saturday schedule, but today was significant because my backpack was finally at its full weight for the summer. I made it home successfully, without collapsing, without crying, without wishing for a swift and sudden death, AND without a sunburn. Yippee! I CAN do this!
30 kilometres is farther than I’ll walk in the average day on the Camino, so that makes me feel good about the summer. That helps balance out the knowledge that today’s walk was quite flat and on smooth sidewalks, as opposed to, say, up the Pyrenees. And it was just one day. Not 35 days in a row of walking. Woohoo! (Why do I take weird vacations?)