After leaving the fair city of Leon behind me – the cathedral, the churches, all the stunning architecture – I continued my journey westward. It was a lovely stop. I had only walked a few kilometers into town and several more wandering about on my quest to get lost in a big city.
After reuniting with folks from along the trail and sharing the necessary adult beverages and commiserations of our madness, I bid farewell to the city of lions. God willing, I’ll be back soon enough.
The road out of Leon is a series of asphalt and paved lanes, an absolute thumping about your joints as you stamp your way out of the industrialized center and back into the smaller villages that dot the countryside. Perhaps it was the endless roads. Perhaps it was my speed. Perhaps it was just rotten luck. Whate’er the case, I soon found myself hurting right proper in my left leg.
For the past several days now, I’ve been limping along like Forrest Gump with his leg braces: the both of us retarded individuals just walking through Life. (I’m quite proud of that comparison, haters)
I can feel the tendon in my leg, a malleable snake of a thing with a malicious streak as it curls and coils inside my body, wreaking havoc with each misplaced stone, fangs of pain sinking into my flesh as the venomous sting of lanced fire runs the length of my body.
Ah, how grateful I am for pain.
Pain, comrades, as I have said a thousandfold (especially to my doe-eyed students), is a reminder that I am alive. It is necessary to feel pain in order to appreciate Life.
You see, dear reader(s), that upon realizing I was injured and in danger of exacerbating it further by prolonged walking sessions, I slowed my pace and began taking longer breaks. During these respites of swearing and massaging myself like the lonely bachelor I am, I have had a slew of interesting Camino conversations with folks from around the world.
“Does it hurt,” I am oft asked.
No fucking shit I shall survive,” I tend to reply. Now that rapport has been established, a natural conversation comes billowing forth from pilgrims – near and far – eager to share and relate their own tales. Through hand and facial gestures, pidgin English and broken Spanish, and the universal recognition of someone in need, we stumble upon these experiences you cannot quite replicate from the comfort of your home.
My bad leg, indeed, has become quite the boon: I’ve made a walking buddy.
We’ve been walking together for about three days now, Brian and I, an affable Englishman who’s now retired to the sunny beaches of Spain. Rough Life, I know, but it is what it is. We took a rest day in Rabanal del Camino, a picturesque town situated in the foothills and half a day’s march from the famous Cruz de Ferro. Here I took a massage from a sorceress, who worked dark magic with her fingers into the strained muscles and tendons of my leg, casting out Legion and sending it back to Hell through the fortitude of her vigorous thumbs.
Ladies, the key to my heart lies in your magic fingers.
Yes, suffering as I have is, initially, a desperate situation, as your mind floods itself with every horrible scenario: am I to go home? Is my adventure over already?
But we must remember that for all the Bad there is always some Good. The pained leg has been just that: I have made a friend. I have spent time relaxing and enjoying the Way. I have had time to appreciate my surroundings without worrying about the morrow’s march. Yes, suffering; we mustn’t forget to embrace pain.
On the morrow we hike the mountain. Perhaps the leg will hold. Perhaps it won’t. I suppose that remains to be seen, but, like all things on Camino, I shall worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Until then, I grin through the pain of today.