Thursday, August 4, 2016
Blisters, Blisters Everywhere
I write to you from Portomarín, 25.1km west of my post yesterday. And I got here on foot, thanks be to God.
I awoke this morning to many of your comments of encouragement and decided that I was going to take one hour at a time today, and not try too hard to process the totality of my experience thus far.
I'm tired of being a total liar when I tell you that my plans are to start the next day early...and then almost never doing so. I was like a teenager this morning, not wanting to get out of bed. The alarm went off at 5:30a. No. It went off at 6:30a. Um...no. At 7:30a I made myself get up but only after I could hear everything happening through the walls around me. For a solid hour I heard the muffled alarm clock from the room next door. My room didn't have an alarm clock but I assume their room was nicer...and that they hadn't set the alarm and must have been gone before it went off. I wanted to kill them. But it would turn out that I was to blame. That annoyingly persistent sound I heard was the phone on my own bedside which had apparently been knocked off its cradle when I was fumbling to postpone my own alarms. This was not a good way to start the day.
When I woke up I instinctively examined my feet. Some of the swelling had reduced but only marginally. I'd be trying to walk on these today. The blister on my right pinky toe which I had drained was now quite sensitive while the one of my left pinky toe (which I had not drained) was still swollen with fluid but less sensitive. I wrapped them both entirely in Compeed and would see how they behaved.
Uncharacteristically, I grabbed breakfast before setting out. I was suckered in by corn flakes and white toast. After a small amount of both I was on my way. The guidebook would recommend doing 25.1k but I was taking nothing for granted. There was to be a steady incline all morning and a somewhat rigid descent for the final 4K. Anything would be better than the isolation of sitting in a hotel room all day.
So I set out. The first 9k went slowly but smoothly. Yes, the blisters hurt but they were not unbearable and so long as I kept moving, I could manage. But stop for more than a minute or two and the throbbing began to take over. So I stopped only once in the entirety of the first 18km or so.
I had some special intentions while I walked today, and at one point I was in prayer and sort of wondering if I would be given a sign. Upon completion of my last Camino I had a powerful experience in confession, and my mind wandered if that would happen again...or something like it.
And just as that thought crossed my mind, I saw out of the corner of my eye a four leaf clover on the side of the road. It is worth nothing that we have crossed over into a new province of Spain called Galicia and the Irish say it's just like home. Rolling hills, very green, and often misting and/or raining, and today would not disappoint. After walking in a couple hours of light, rather refreshing mist, I saw the four leaf clover.
My family would tell you that this isn't a surprise. I have a bit of an eye for them it would seem. When I was a little girl my friends and I would often sit amongst the clover patches near my home having a picnic and chatting while sifting through the clover in search of this genetic defect. And very often I would come home proudly boasting a bouquet of them for my parents. And on the trip where Lino and I met I found the biggest four leaf clover of my life, measuring probably close to 2" across. It's pressed and in my fire safe box at home. And yes, I took it as a sign.
Today I stopped dead in my tracks when I thought I saw one. I peered down to the tiny patch of green, and indeed I had spotted one. But then I couldn't believe my eyes. Within a couple inches of this four leaf clover I found another one. And then another. And then another. In total there were 5 that I found all within 18" of each other. I was beside myself and debated whether I should pick one. I looked down the track to see if anyone was coming. A large Spanish family (7 of them) which had been passing me and then falling behind and passing me all morning to my great annoyance, was on my heels. I let them pass. But then I looked again and up walked 2 women I had passed earlier and noticing that they were speaking English, exchanged a "hello" with.
I shouted down the way "you're the Brits, right". "We are the Brits!", they replied. "This is odd, I know but I thought you might appreciate it", I said and began explaining my discovery. After much oohing and ahhing, I wished them well and went on my way.
About 15m later we came upon a tiny village with a bar where I took some rest and collected a stamp. (Pilgrim credentials must have 2 stamps per day from this point forward). They were close behind and just about then the light mist turned to real rain. We sat together in the protection of a picnic table with a large umbrella and began chatting.
Today was their first day on the Camino. One woman is a recent retiree who at 57 is here to knock this trek off of her bucket list. Her friend is a little bit younger and here to make sure that she does in fact get it done. And while they'll answer to being English, they're actually from the Jersey Channel Island off the cost of France, near Normandy. "Have you ever heard of a Jersey cow", the recent retiree asked me. "Yeah, of course", I replied. "They're dairy cows", I add. "Well, they're from where we live", she informed me. What a claim to fame, I thought. But kept that to myself. I would come to learn a lot about Jersey over the next several hours. :)
As the rain began to let up a little, it was obvious that it would persist and require actually gearing up. So they slid ponchos out of their day packs and I pulled my rain coat and rain pants out of my (not day) pack. Once we were all outfitted we set out together. Only 8.6k more to go and they asked if I thought it would take more than 90minutes. I explained why I thought it would take more like 3 hours, given the terrain.
And so for the next 3.5hrs we walked together. Them asking questions about the Camino, and New York, and whether I say "dance" or "dawnce". My feet were killing me but I was exceptionally grateful for the company and their pace was comparable to my own.
We (finally) arrived in Portomarin. They had accommodations already planned as they organized their whole trip through a service. I of course was winging it. But I followed them to their hotel and got a room of my own in a decent 3-star hotel with a restaurant.
By 4:45pm I was in my room and facing the worst part of my day. While I could offer my physical discomfort for my prayer intentions, this was the moment of truth.
Not knowing if the Compeed that I had wrapped my pinky toes in would even come off, I gently tugged at the edges. Given how wet my feet and the bandages were, they released with surprising ease. Both blisters very swollen but not taught. Painful to the touch to be sure but not hellacious. And then I noticed that the left one seemed larger somehow. And then I figured it out. A blister has formed on my left pinky toe but between my toe and the one next to it. AND that blister had merged with the one wrapping around the pad of my toe. So now a solid 80% of the surface area of that entire toe is blister. I don't even know what to say. It is uncomfortable and I don't know if I'll be able to bandage it and walk on it tomorrow but I do know that the fluid which fills it is the body's way of helping heal the tissue underneath it. So if I don't need to drain it, I'll just have to see how it rides.
And then I realized the other blisters. This time they aren't on my feet. They're on my left forearm...from my sunburn. Although there was almost no sun today (which thankfully kept it quite pleasant in terms of temperature) but my burned left arm was now littered with blisters which look like dew drops sitting on my forearm and hand. And then I realized that I have the same phenomenon on the back of my neck. Because why not. At this point, I am one giant human blister.
So after taking a shower and hand washing my laundry in the shower, I laid down for a bit. I caught Lino up on the day and tried not to think of the ballooning fluid-filled parts of my skin. I had agreed to meet the "ladies from Jersey" for dinner at 7:30p. So at 7:26 I pulled myself together and headed down.
I warned them that the English translations of the menus tend to be...optimistic. This one boasted a Waldorf Salad and a Caesar salad. I ordered the Caesar because I was feeling daring and one of the ladies ordered the Waldorf. What we received looked identical except hers had some walnuts in the middle and mine had a gigantic plop of creamy salad dressing that was definitely not Caesar. But we sat and ate and drank (all of us having 1 glass) and chatted over our meal for the next couple hours.
And while I have plenty of anxiety about the current state of my feet, I am grateful. I'm grateful that I was able to complete what the book assigned for the day and in so doing preserving both my chance to get to Santiago and my ability to take another day off if need be. I am grateful for the company and laughter today. I am grateful for the clovers and the time I had in prayer. I am grateful that I'm sleeping tonight in a clean bed where I need not worry about the creepy crawly.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, much less the day after that. But for now I will stay focused on the immediate tasks at hand and try to keep putting one foot (however slowly) in front of the other.