Archives for the month of: October, 2011

(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 9, 2005
Day 10: Belorado to Ages, 30.2 km/18.8 m

Martin woke me in the morning. Somehow I had slept through the sound of the entire refuge clearing out for the day. Martin hovered above me nervously and touched my shoulder. Everyone else had left already, he told me, and he wanted to catch up with them. I stared at him for a long, cold moment. “That’s youth talking,” I said, and I wasn’t nice about it.

On the one hand, I adored the idea that he and Simon wanted to travel with me; on the other hand I thought, Whose time schedule are we on?

I crammed my swollen feet into my shoes, and when I stood up they didn’t feel any better than they had the night before. I threw my things into my bag as the boys waited, eyeing me. I moved toward the door as if I was trudging through wet cement. Everything was an effort.

Outside, the sun was blinding but at least it was sun. As we walked away from the refuge, I thought I might be in real trouble. My muscles felt like they would snap at any moment. My legs were as useful as stumps. Every step felt like I consciously had to tell my brain how to lift my foot and thrust it forward. Perhaps the boys shouldn’t have waited for me, I thought, but I kept throwing myself onward and, miraculously, a half hour into the day, I was fine.

In fact, I was more than fine; I was spectacular. The walk was simply gorgeous, and nearly all of it uphill—in the snow. But oddly, it was probably the warmest day yet. The sun sparkled gloriously from every facet of the melting landscape, and I walked on the edge of ecstasy knowing my boys were so close by.


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(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 10, 2005
Day 11: Ages to Burgos, 24.5 km/15.2 m

As I was making eggs for Martin, Simon and I, my Italian Shepherd popped into the kitchen to say goodbye. He was leaving ahead of me with no discomfort or fanfare. He no longer needed something from me, and I no longer guarded myself from him. We were finally able to share a sweet smile and a friendly hug.

The morning was a visual feast. We were greeted with spectacular views and a layer of frost blanketing them. The grass, the fence, the trees, the stones—everything was coated with a shield of ice. It was cold, of course, but I didn’t mind it.


The top of the first hill in Atapuerca was shrouded in a fog so dense we couldn’t see 100 feet in front of us. The thickness of the haze made everything appear in black and white, and walking through it was like entering an Ansel Adams photograph.

I lagged behind, letting the boys go ahead. I needed some time of silence and internal discussion. I was still thinking about the change in Martin’s behavior. He was hardening. His jabs at me had an edge, an unkind one. I knew he was sensing rejection and reacting to it, but it still surprised me. At times he acted as if he’d laid claim to me and could therefore be cruel. He’d become a fighter, and he was fighting me. Any time I got close to complimenting him, he’d reject my words, sometimes with a harsh, “Liar!” He was clearly pushing me away, and it saddened me.

I watched Martin and Simon in the fog ahead, and I saw myself in each of them. In Simon, I saw my serenity, or at least my quiet contemplation. In Martin, I saw so much more. I saw the part of me that opened so eagerly and closed so quickly. I saw my fear of rejection in the face of desire. I saw the fighter in me—fighting attraction, fighting being known, fighting tenderness and vulnerability. I was growing farther and farther past all that, and I trusted that Martin would, too, but I probably wasn’t going to see it. In ten years, I suspected he’d be quite a catch, and some lovely young woman would reap the rewards of him.

I thought about my initial attraction to him, and how much I’d thought about kissing him. In the real world, I would have likely slept with him too soon. In fact, all of my past relationships had been shaped by a race to the bedroom. Yes, I was an active participant, sometimes an eager one, caught up in the frenzy of enticement, giving in to expectation. But that was not my real desire. I had never once gone to bed with a man when I was entirely comfortable, open and ready. I kept attracting men who assumed I knew exactly what I was doing, that I was completely in control, that I could take care of myself. I never gave them the impression that I could be hurt. I had traded sexuality for intimacy. If I hadn’t, maybe I could have discovered sooner the ones who weren’t yet capable of intimacy. And maybe I could have spared myself some heartache.

In the real world, I figured that once I’d slept with Martin I would have tolerated his distance and cruelty because I would have been too fully invested. On the Camino, I thought about all those things I have tolerated in men, and I made a promise to myself to not to do it again. I also decided that I would not harden to Martin. Instead, I would allow him his edge and remain tender in spite of it because I knew there was a softness inside him that wanted only to be loved and accepted, just like me.
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