April 29, 2012. It’s Neil’s birthday weekend, and I haven’t been out on a walk since the 21st up at Beaver Creek. A medical procedure and its preparation took two days of last week, and preparing Julia Child’s Boeuf Borguignon for six people added a long list of steps for the meal.
So even though today is a second, more casual party for Neil, I had to get out on this beautiful, cool and breezy day for at least an hour. The walking ritual was as usual. Don the socks, boots, pedometer, iPod and headphones, make sure I have water, and head out for the trail.
I realized as I walked that this is a time, perhaps the only time, when my mind can wander without interruptions. I watched as two children, perhaps 10 or 11 years of age, went up and down the trail, the girl with her scooter, her slightly older brother with his skateboard. Their parents were videotaping them as they breezed down the faster hills.
I wrote letters to my son Tanner in my head. He lives on an island off the coast of Thailand, and talking with him is difficult. A 13-14 hour time difference, delays and echoes in the phone connections, and a myriad of other things makes it easier to write the letters inside myself than to actually have an opportunity to tell him some of my thoughts.
The other thing my mind does on these hikes is listen to my body. My knees, hips, fingers, feet, all send messages to my head, messages that tell me how I’m doing, how I need to adjust various parts of me so I won’t strain my joints. Sometimes I pretend I’m already on the trail, wishing I had my hiking sticks. Sometimes I make mental adjustments to my equipment. And always there is that thread of a question . . . “Do you know why you are training for this Camino?”
I don’t know why, really, but I also don’t think a reason is required at this particular moment. I just know I have to do this. For me. Just for me. I’m not religious by any stretch. An atheist on her own pilgrimage.
And I have a feeling that question might never be answered. Does it make any difference to me whether I know a reason or not? Not in the least. So I’ll keep walking, keep writing those letters in my head, keep paying attention to the twinges, to the breath, to the music that encourages me on my journey.