I’ve been on the Camino for more than 3 weeks at this point. I’ve walked more miles than I can even remember. The days bleed into one another and I can rarely remember what town I slept in even the night before. This is the life of a pilgrim. Day by day, one step at a time. In the beginning when it was new, one day slid quietly into the next and it seemed like it would go on forever. At some point, that changed. Maybe in this past week. Now we have one week to go before we get to Santiago.
In the early days of the Camino, my feet did their job. They carried me from place to place. They were tired at the end of the day, but I had no complaints. Sure, I shuffled along, in what we have loving called the “Camino shuffle”. It’s a slow, baby step walk. But then you go to sleep and surprisingly, you’re ready to begin again the next morning when the alarm goes off at 6. At least that´s how it went for the first 2 and a half weeks.
And then we hit the meseta. The meseta is a long, flat, section of the Camino that is legendary. After the mountains of the Pyrennes and the wine county of Rioja, the meseta is dull. Monotonous. Boring even. The sun beats down on you and you walk for miles with little variation in scenery, focused on getting to the next town so you can Just. Stop. Walking. Yes. Some days you just want to stop. The meseta can be hot. Friction builds up in your feet and even the best shoes, the best socks, the best feet rebel. Yes. My feet rebelled.
By the end of the Meseta I could barely walk. My feet were blistered. I had blisters on top of blisters. I was no longer doing the “Camino shuffle”. I was hobbling. I walked on the edges of my feet, the only part that did not have blisters. Movement was hard. I bandaged them. I put Compreed on them. I popped them and strung thread through them the way I had been instructed to do. My feet looked like Frankenstein. And still I struggled. I still walked. Believe me, I walked. But every step was painful.
Finally I limped into a pilgrim shop in Leon and asked the shopkeeper what to do. He smiled. He sauntered over to his sock wall which had dozens of every kind of sock imaginable, and handed me a pair of black socks. “These are what you need”, he said. I was skeptical. Call me a non believer. But I had to finish this Camino and the way things were going, I was worried I might not be able to. It was that bad.
“Take every bandage off your foot,” he instructed me. “Put skin to sock. Nothing else. I promise you, these will fix your problem.”
“Are you sure?”
“Vale. Estoy seguro.”
I bought two pairs.
Five days have passed since I first put on what I now call my “magic socks”. Today, for the first day in more than a week, I´ve been able to walk almost pain free. The blisters aren’t gone. No, they’re still there. But they’re getting better.
We talk a lot about what the Camino has to teach us. What lessons there are to learn. I’d be lying if I told you that I’d figured it out. I haven´t. At least not yet. “The Camino provides,” my friend Emma said a few weeks back. Just when you least expect it. When things seem their darkest. When you worry the answer won’t come.
The Camino provides.