I had big plans for a 10K today, but God had other plans for me; namely, to have a quiet day at home with Emma.  Her tummy was feeling a little oogy this morning and I didn’t have the heart to send her off to school just so that I could keep my plans in place.  She went back to sleep for a few hours and I used the found time to pick up a book on the Camino that my friend Maria had lent me.  It was written by an American priest, Kevin, after a 700+ Camino.  My friend Maria had marked the part of the course that started in Astorga and I began to read there, but I realized that what I really wanted to know about was the first few days of his Pilgrimage so I went back to the beginning.  I mean, I know this is going to be tough…but let’s talk turkey…HOW tough?  

Let me just say that what I read scared me.  Perhaps it was a good reality check.  I’ve been doing my 6k’s and my 8k’s and feeling pretty good about the progress I’ve made with my physical fitness and endurance.  But even what I’ve done is going to be a drop in the bucket.  It’s better than nothing, don’t get me wrong…but listening to him talk about the physical pain of the pack and his blisters and wanting to give up brought me back down to Earth with a thump.   

Add to that a creeping kilometer count.  When I signed on for this adventure, we were talking about 100 kilometers over the course of 10 days.  Then it was 240 kilometers.  Now it’s 272 kilometers.  So, even a math-idgit like can see that the daily count is pretty high.  So here’s the breakdown:  

Day One – beginning in Astorga – 21 km

Day Two – beginning in Rabanal del Camino 22 km

Day Three- beginning in Ponferrada – 23 km

Day Four – beginning in Villa Franco del Bierzo – 28 km

Day Five – beginning in O Cebreiro – 29 km (YIKES!)

Day Six – beginning in Sarria – 21km

Day Seven – beginning in Portomarin – 24 km

Day Eight – beginning in Palas de Rei – 29 km

Day Nine – beginning in Arzua – 39 km (DOUBLE YIKES!)

Arrive in Santiago de Compostela by noon on the 10th day of walking

Now I’m the one with an oogy tummy. Fear has a way of just sucking all of the joy out of things, doesn’t it? 

Back when I was in my early twenties, I spent 5 months in New Zealand supporting Operation Deep Freeze on Antarctica.  It was a deathly dreary job of recording programming onto videotapes, boxing them up, and putting them on a plane that was heading for “the ice.”  No creativity, no glamour…just record, box, ship.  Rinse and repeat.  

To combat the boredom, I took up a new hobby:  skydiving.  There was a great little outfit in Christchurch that would give you all the training and your first jump for about 75 bucks.  So off to the drop zone I went, with nary a shred of fear.  After our training, I volunteered to be the first person out of the first airplane.  I didn’t want to see anyone else jump first, lest I lose my nerve.  So up and up our little Cessna climbed, with six of us sandwiched in the back.  And when they reached 5,000 feet, my jump master signaled for me to take my position in the open door of the plane.  Then, and only then, did I feel the nauseating wave of fear.  As I slung my feet out of the plane and perched in that open door, I looked at the tiny dots of sheep below, I began to swear mentally.  (Forgive me Lord, but it’s important for the truthful telling of this story.)  “Oh, f**k,” I said.  f**k, f**k, f**k!  What the f**k am I doing?  And then the jump master tapped me on the shoulder to tell me it was time to jump.

And I jumped.   

Pure unadulterated terror.  For about 2 seconds.  Then the static line deployed my chute and I jerked upwards and realized that I had done it.  I had somehow summoned the courage to jump.  I had not let my fear overcome me and keep me from doing what I set out to do.  I howled with joy and adrenaline and really enjoyed my descent to the drop zone.  My landing was a little bumpy, but I didn’t hurt myself.  I have a picture of myself in that moment, gathering my chute, absolutely on top of the world for having skydived.  I was high for a week, and did 5 more jumps (including a free fall) before I left NZ.    

I have other stories about moments in my life where I faced down fear, but none so dramatic.  But this Camino generates a different kind of fear; one that comes with things that require endurance and pain.  And let’s face it, I’m kind of a whiner.  I do not suffer pain and discomfort in silence.  I wish I could be as stoic as others I know (my husband, for one), but I’m not sure it’s in my genetic makeup.   My fears are very specific and have mostly to do with suffering:  I’m going to get blisters; my back and shoulders are going to ache from carrying a pack; I’m going to wake up in the morning wanting to do anything other than walk 25+ kilometers that day; I’ll be so cranky from my discomfort that I’m not going to be good company, I’m going to give up; the list goes on…  

But, as I reassured my worried mother, this Camino is not a forced march.  I will do what I can.  If I fall too far behind, or need a day of rest, I can call a cab or take a bus to the next stop.  There’s no shame in that for me.  My Camino is going to be my Camino, and it is not going to be some perfect ideal.  But I’m not going to let fear stop me from trying.  It’s time to put down the book and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.   

Thanks to all who submitted fine ideas as to what to name my boots.  Last night, as I brushed my teeth, the names popped into my head:  Mercy and Grace.  It’s by God’s great Mercy and Grace that I am walking this Camino, and it will take God’s continued Mercy and Grace to see me through every minute of it.   

This time next week I’ll be well into Day One.  Please pray for me.

Cathleen Booth Author

Cathleen Booth


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