Sorry for the pun, but it does fit the topic that I am writing about. Feet. We had our share of foot problems during the Camino – mostly blisters, although I’m sure there were plenty of plain old sore feet at the end of each day of hiking. This was despite careful planning, including multiple long “practice” hikes in our shoes/boots.
A couple of scriptures also come to mind when I think about feet.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Is 52:7)
The head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. (1 Cor 12:21-23)
I’ve experienced a fair amount of foot problems related to my running. Besides blisters, I’ve lost numerous toenails and battled plantar fasciitis more than once. In fact, when I think about my feet, it is mostly because they hurt or have recently been hurting.
I think there a lot of things in our lives that we mostly ignore, except when they are causing us pain. There is a reflection in Magnificat (Aug 27) by Father Dajczer, discussing the parable of the talents. He states that “A talent is not only receiving something, it is also lacking something.” He goes on to say that “bad health is also a talent.”
May we learn to recognize things good and “bad” as blessings.
One tradition associated with the Camino is for pilgrims to bring a stone from home to leave at an iron cross, Cruz de Ferro, located near Foncebadón, Spain. The stone represents a burden that the pilgrim wants to leave behind as part of the pilgrimage.I was disappointed that we would not be passing this spot (it would have added 2 more days to our hike). After we arrived in Spain, I learned that the iron cross not the only place where pilgrims left these stones. In fact, stones could be seen on top of many of the mileage markers, as well as at the bottom of other crosses we passed by.
A number of people who start beyond Foncebadón inquire “where should I leave my stone?” And the most common answers are “you’ll know” and “it’s your Camino.” Marylynn brought a stone from home and left it in Santiago, near the Cathedral. I picked up a stone along the way and never found a place to leave it. So I brought it home and I painted a yellow arrow on it. For me, rather than being the symbol of a burden, it is a reminder of God’s grace as I continue on my journey.
We crossed quite a few bridges on the Camino and many of them were very picturesque.
Usually, we saw the creek well before we saw the bridge.
Eventually, a pattern became clear – a long slow descent, the creek sighting, crossing a bridge, then a long slow ascent. As much as we enjoying seeing these scenic creeks and bridges, we did not look forward the ensuing climbs.
I’m struck by irony of this pattern. As a metaphor, we often talk about the “view from the top,” usually associated with a struggle to get to the top. When we were in Israel, we climbed to the top of Mount Tabor, thought to be where the transfiguration occurred. We talked about “coming down from the mountain” and how the disciples might have felt.
I think the lesson is that in our lives, as often as “special” moments follow a difficult period, maybe even more often they preceed the difficult periods.
The current hot weather we are having is a good back drop for story that goes with this picture.By the 6th day of hiking, we had established a daily “routine.” Up in the morning & pack our bags. Breakfast, then start hiking. Morning break, then more hiking. Lunch-hike-break-hike and start looking for our hotel. We were usually fairly tired by the time we got to the hotel, but feeling more energy in time for evening mass and dinner. Part of the “routine” included seeing mileage markers at very regular intervals. In the afternoon this day, we noticed many of the markers were missing the distance to Santiago. At first it was something that just seemed unusual, but as the afternoon wore on it became a source of concern. The reason for concern is that our main source of direction for finding our hotel was based on leaving the trail at a certain mileage marker. To top it off, this was quickly becoming our hottest day of hiking. Happily, the marker for where we were supposed to turn had the km sign on it. After hiking through a “eucalyptus forest,” we successfully arrived at our hotel. As I reflect back on this experience, it strikes me how dependent we become (emotionally) on what we expect to happen. Despite that fact that we had played no part in the markers being present, we quickly began to feel like we “deserved” to have the markers. As if they had been there since the beginning of time, for all the pilgrims who had gone before us.
In some way, this situation made me think of Jonah and the story of how he found shade under a plant after he had walked through Nineveh. “Jonah was greatly delighted with the plant.” (Jonah 4:6) Then God sends a worm that kills the plant and Jonah is very upset – he wants to die! The LORD tells Jonah, “You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
How often do we focus on what is “missing” from our lives, rather than being grateful for what we do have?