Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ten Miles!

Well, I guess I was a bit premature in my desire for a fifteen mile trek this week. I still have a ways to go to earn that. But I did do ten miles around Freeman Lake today, limping in with some sore feet the last mile or so. Even with moleskin on the balls of my feet--they are just not tough enough yet. I have no complaints about my boots. They are great and do not rub anywhere. Ten miles is definitely a lot harder than five. "Duh!" as my youngest son would say. Not so young as of today, however. Alex is nineteen. My little boy.....We have pictures of him in his cadet blue uniform performing a color guard ceremony at the UK football game, looking every bit the Air Force lieutenant. But I digress.

I am always plugging in to my trusty mp3 player on my walks. At first I thought it was kind of cheating and I should be practicing being "in the Now" as a good pilgrim would. But I rationalized that there would be plenty of time for that on my real trek, so I savor the time where I can listen to uplifting music (such as Libera or Anonymous 4) and listen to downloaded podcasts. One of my favorites is Krista Tippett's "Speaking of Faith." She is a great interviewer of leaders of different faith traditions, and I just love the subject. (Inherited from my dad, the world religion professor, I guess.) Today I listened to an interview with Stephen Mitchell, a translator of many great sacred literatures and a poet in his own right. He wrote what he calls an improvisation on Psalm 4, which brought me to tears, it is so beautiful. Here it is:

Even in the midst of great pain,
Lord, I praise you for that which is.
I will not refuse this grief
Or close myself to this anguish.
Let shallow men pray for ease:
"Comfort us; shield us from sorrow."
I pray for whatever you send me,
And I ask to receive it as your gift.
You have put a joy in my heart
Greater than all the world's riches.
I lie down trusting the darkness,
For I know that even now you are here.

Truly, these are words for the pilgrim! I think I will tuck them in my backpack.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Eight Miles

I thought it was time to stretch my hour and a half walk, so I prepared my feet with moleskin where the hotspots tend to start (balls of my feet) and set out to walk the Freeman Lake trail. I wanted to do the loop twice which is just short of ten miles, but ran out of time before my Spanish lesson, and had to settle for eight miles. I remembered the first time I walked the loop and how very far it seemed, but now it's a snap! Still, eight miles is only a half of my future daily walk. Next week I hope to take a day and tackle fifteen miles: three times around the loop. If I can do it I will really be psyched! I've been carrying a light backpack with water and a snack. Eventually, I'll need to simulate carrying my 15 lb. load. That will add another dimension to the walk, for sure. This rainy weather will also help me "simulate" walking in the rain...You know about the rain in Spain, where it falls and all that, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Glorious Autumn Walk

I'm back from a long weekend exploring ancient mounds in the St. Louis area. Average age of my travel companions was over 70, so there wasn't much vigorous walking, but they were a hoot to travel with. You young whipper-snappers have no idea how much fun your elders can have without you!!

Meanwhile, it was another glorious day for walking. It is fun walking with friends, but I really do love the solitary walk. What St. Augustine said about walking is so true...Solviture ambulando-(It is solved by walking). Not all problems can be solved in a mere hour and a half, but much progress can be made. Today a couple of friendly dogs decided to accompany me en route. They wouldn't listen to me telling them to go back, no matter how rude I was and how much I stomped my feet. I was afraid they would have to be returned to their own territory in some way if they followed me all the way home. I finally decided I could probably coax them into the jeep and take them back. When I turned to see where they were, they had vanished. I guess they had met their invisible boundary and had followed their noses home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kentucky autumn morning

Oh, what a glorious morning! I could barely refrain from dancing down the road, (and why do I refrain, pray tell? Only for fear of what the neighbors would think. Sad, sad, sad.) My feet were light, my gait was sure, my ears were plugged in to Libera singing Be Still My Soul, and all was right with the world. Truly this was an hour walking meditation, or you might say "praying by foot.".
I am finding at this point that I feel I could walk on another hour or even two. However, the limitation is my feet. I just start developing "hot spots" on them after about an hour and a half. I hope this will go away as my feet toughen, but I don't want to risk blisters developing. Wednesday I am going to stop by a shop in Louisville called Fleet Feet to look for a product called "Blister Shield" which is a kind of silicone power that athletes swear by.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walking in a Relaxed Manner

I could spend all day reading the blogs of the vast "underground" of long distance walkers. (Yes, there is such a thing!) They are so inspiring and fascinating. Here is another quote I found which will keep me going:

Only those willing to risk going too far, can find out how far they can go.~ T.S. Eliot

I have a nice three and a half mile jaunt starting at my front door which I really like. It is mostly a peaceful country road with an "agony hill" at the end to get me ready for the Pyrenees. I walked it yesterday with my friend, MB, and explained to her that the goal was not to see how fast we can do it, but to walk in a relaxed manner as all those who have walked the camino advise. It is not a sprint, nor is it a marathon. It is more a walking meditation, and the idea is to be present to the moment at every step. This goes counter to the American spirit of competition, doesn't it? However, I intend to make walking a lifelong endeavor and it is essential to enjoy it. And an easy, thoughtful stride is deeply satisfying to me.

I will eventually work up to four times around that loop, and that will be about a day's journey on the camino. A typical day on the camino will start early with two hours in the morning, 7 o'clock to 9, say. A good hour's break for breakfast. Two more hours of walking, 10 to 12, another break for lunch, then another two hour trek, 1-3, and it will be time to find an albergue. Throw your sleeping bag on the bed, crash for as long as necessary, then explore the town with some fellow peregrinos and find a bar that serves a pilgrim meal, remembering the Spanish habit of very late evening meals. Keep in mind that a bar or Spanish barra is the word for a local hangout, not specifically for adult beverages! This doesn't sound too arduous, does it? But those who have gone before me know that the hard part is getting up every day and doing it again, day after day after day. That is where the mental toughness is required.