(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 17, 2005
Day 18: Leon to Hospital del Orbiga, 33.3 km/20.7 m

Leon was the biggest city on the Camino, which meant it was also the best shopping opportunity, and I spent part of the night searching for good insoles to replace the ones in Simon’s shoes that were blistering his feet. To no avail.

If I was in the US, I could have gone into any drugstore and spent 15 minutes in front of an entire rack of insoles trying to make a decision on which to get. But in Spain, hours went by, and shop after shop, with not one pair in my midst. It was the biggest difference between me and my fellow pilgrims: gear. I had spent real time and money making very specific gear choices before I left, and so I was prone to noticing what others had selected. “Waterproof” was the word that might have been the first real differentiator, followed by “weight.” For instance, my pack, made by GoLite, was made of parachute material that was both light and (largely) waterproof. The amount of handy pockets on the outside as well as the netting and straps and loops on which to hang things were all clearly added by people who’d gone before me—not necessarily on the Camino, just out in the wilds where small details become godsends in an instant. I seemed to be among the very few with such thoughtful godsends.

GoreTex was another favorite word of mine. Along with SealSkinz—socks and gloves. But CamelBak was like a revolutionary invention to those who saw mine. Imagine: a pliable bladder filled with water attached to a suck tube—it meant no fumbling with bottles. Ever. Mine was the only one I saw for the entire 335 miles to date. (And since I’d spent the night adding up all the mileage numbers I’d scrawled in the margins of my guidebook, I knew the current distance).

It shouldn’t have surprised me that insoles were not to be found. I did spot a nice pair of orange socks, however, and I stood longingly contemplating them. One of my outer sock layers (the black Pearl Izumi’s) was reaching retirement (the heels were threadbare). I certainly could have gotten more mileage out of them, and I wasn’t looking for their replacement, but when I saw the orange socks, the official color of my Camino, the black ones were doomed. The orange socks seemed to be the perfect size and thickness. And they were crazy cheap. As soon as I got them, I sat outside the shop, pulled off my GoreTex boots, ripped off the Pearl Izumis and bid them farewell. The next 200 miles were going to be traversed in orange socks!

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Welcome. For those of you who are new, read on. For those who are returning for updates, scroll down…

I’m taking a short break from writing about my travels across Spain to continue with the Jeanette story, otherwise known to this website as “An Assault in Venice.” To read the story from my perspective, you can start here.

To donate to the Jeanette Facial Surgery Fund via PayPal, click the button below.

You do not have to have a PayPal account to donate. All donations, large and small are not just happily accepted, they are gratefully received.

I will, through this website, give periodic updates regarding the amount of donations received, as well as details of the surgery, which is scheduled for March 15, 2012.


I got good people! Such good people. That’s not a surprise. The outpouring has been nourishing and lovely. I’m ever so grateful.

Within minutes of me blasting out my email about Jeanette and asking for donations, they began magically appearing.

Amy responded nearly on the heels of me clicking the send button and responded simply with “Done.” And then, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to help Jeanette in some small way.”

Many of you wrote that to me…

From Laura: “Thanks for this opportunity to help Jeanette.”

From Kristie: “God bless you for doing this for all of us.”

From JoDee: “Thank you for the update and for the opportunity to help make Jeanette’s life a little easier.”

From Jill: “You both have my support.”

Robbyne wrote, “This is such an issue for me, our lack of decent health care in this country.”

From Deb: “God bless you, Tess, for documenting, believing, supporting and championing Jeanette.”

From Melissa: “Anything for you.”

Others simply donated without acknowledgment. Marisa, Maureen, Forest, Gale, Kara, Pete, Sarah, John in Wisconsin and John in New York. David, whom I sadly haven’t had contact with in far too long also gave to Jeanette without hesitating. And that is just so beautiful to me, that despite time and distance, the tether remains. Strong.

Kristie, who’d not read the blog when I first posted it last year, sent an email followup, and it’s too priceless not to include here.

I didn’t want to start reading your story at work. I knew it would affect me. But like an alcoholic who thinks s/he can put a bottle of Jamison on the table and stare at it, but resist it, I opened your blog page and then minimized it. What happened? I closed the door to my office, put a note on the door that said “on extended break”, un-minimized the blog, and read the whole thing. And when I was done I had a good cry. At first out of sadness, then out of sheer beauty. The beauty of a cop, a surgeon, an attorney, a politician’s aide, a friend, a stranger, a dog. All who came in to offer their assistance in the ways they knew how or felt would be most beneficial.

I hope a million people send money or if they can’t afford money, a good thought. A blessing. Because maybe, just maybe, if enough strangers can rally, we can collectively undo a bit of damage that a single stranger did.


As of this morning, you all have contributed $1,100!

Thank you doesn’t really begin to express it.

More. Soon.


Well, almost exactly a week ago I sent out an email blast. And we’ve just crossed the 2K mark. I believe the tally today stands at $2100 and that’s including a few checks that have arrived to my mailbox.

And the emails keep coming.

John from Wisconsin wrote of the blog I wrote laying out my view of the tale: “Thanks for putting it into words which turned it into such real, real life.”

From Richard, simply: “Check is in the mail.”

Brad wrote: “Thanks for making a difference for Jeanette.”

From Dena: “Thanks for including us in your email blast. We are happy to help out your friend.”

From Maureen Mary Margaret: “Your heart is forever in the right place.”

Stephanie quickly wrote a check and handed it over. As did my sweet parents. Lauren handed me cash over dinner last night.

Amy in Santa Monica wrote: “Please send my love to Jeannette and thank her for allowing you to share this horrific story.”

Steve, with the fantastically sweet heart filled with heartache wrote: “Thank you for taking up Jeanette’s most worthy cause in a rancid society that simply doesn’t take care of its own.”

From Forest: “My heart goes out to your friend.”

David’s note really got me. He’s the guy from the last update who blew me away with a donation since years had passed and we’d had no contact.

Your request for Jeanette came at a moment when my giving was really an act of healing for me so thank you for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to participate in some small way to a very loving and significant thing.

My heavy heart is centered on the crossroads that the Literature to Life program has reached. While we have built a nationwide and truly worthy arts and education initiative, we have run into that brick wall of funding problem. It is truly remarkable that something so good and so necessary can lose support is mind boggling but if you break it down between the usual suspects, the economy, the schools lack of funds, the arts, etc. You see where I’m going. Dig a bit deeper and you come to a myriad of problems all around.

All in all I feel very responsible for the company and for one of the first times in my life I feel mostly helpless.

So you see reaching out to you and your heartfelt request was a concrete act that very simply makes sense. So thank you. I sincerely hope the surgery goes well and Jeanette continues to recover.


I’m in a very different place as I write this update. Jeanette is now six days into her recovery from surgery. We’ve had a difficult, beautiful, painful, glorious time. Yesterday her bandages came off and she looks better today, even with the swelling, than she did when she arrived.

The donations keep coming. I love that. She struggles with that. It’s hard to receive, that’s all. Word has gotten out, past my circle of friends and into hers, and so now donations are coming from people I don’t know. I’d still like to acknowledge you all and I’ll do the best I can…

Lloyd, Hank, Lorraine, Ellen, Michael, Susan, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Max, Amy, Tim, Elizabeth and Melissa…

In the meantime, I got this email from Jeanette’s niece, Sarah, who writes beautifully. I got permission to include this part of gorgeous email:

Thank you for putting together the fund, and for offering my Aunt a place to stay after her surgery.

When I think about the attack, I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of father taking down the suitcase from the attic so my mother could pack. She came and sat on my bed and told me that Aunt Net was hurt, and that she was flying to California immediately. I was 11. I walked to school in blue jeans and a blue denim vest that day and felt like I should be sad. I was worried, but I couldn’t sum up the emotion that the event deserved. I think I wasn’t ready to be that sad.

Now I’m sitting on the couch in my first grown-up apartment, and I think about being with her and growing up with her in my life since then. There were slices of hot cheesy pizza on the porch, drives in her little Volkswagon, discussions about feminist politics, long-distance telephone calls about the people we’re in love with, countless trips to movies and plays and museums, steaming mugs of chai in a cafe in Dupont Circle. I’m so glad she made it through that attack, because I love her so much and I can’t imagine who I would be with out her. I’m deeply sad that she’s still hurt. So thanks very much for setting up the fund, I’m honored to contribute.

Today I sent out a follow-up email to the friends of mine who have contributed. Here’s an edited version of it:

Jeanette arrived last Tuesday night for what was to be, literally, a reopening of old wounds. On Wednesday, we drove to Santa Barbara. Dr. Keller’s entire office staff has changed since last we were there but they all proved to be just as sweet and accommodating as the last group. A plastic surgeon runs a boutique business, and so bedside manner is a lot of the experience. They can afford to coddle you and take as much time as you want to feel comfortable. It was a little like being at a spa, oddly, but then I wasn’t the one having anything done. Photos, consultations, conversations. Basically, Dr. Keller was just going to get in there, and then decide what was to be done.

I’d rented a guesthouse near the beach that I found on airbnb.com. If you don’t know about that site, check it out. I wanted a freestanding structure with a yard that was close to the beach, all things I thought Jeanette would like. The place I found was perfect.

On Thursday morning, we took a stroll on the beach. The morning light was magical. As we spoke about this horrid event that had happened to her 13 years ago, I’d mentioned that it seemed like a lifetime ago. In the magical morning light, she expressed that she didn’t have that luxury—that the daily-ness of the injury was an ongoing presence in her life. And always would be.

When we got to the office for the surgery on Thursday, Dr. Keller said that the anesthesiologist was still there, and he could easily stay for Jeanette’s surgery if we wanted him to. It would be an additional $400, though, he said. And this is really the point. If the additional expense were coming out of her pocket, she might have evaluated it more carefully. In no way did she want to have to endure the surgery awake, but the debate of being practical vs. emotional would have played out differently. Because of all the support, she didn’t have to have the debate. She only had to experience the relief of letting go of her fear.

It’s hard receiving. It’s harder for some people to receive than to give. It’s been hard for her to receive all this generosity but it has made all the difference in her experience of this, her 10th? 15th? surgery. We tried to count them.

And the thing is, both Dr. Keller and the angelic anesthesiologist, Dr. LaGrange, said after the surgery, “It’s a good thing she wasn’t awake for that.” When they got in there, there was so much scar tissue on the right side of her face that they had trouble getting the old implant out. What was supposed to be an hour surgery was two and a half hours. They got it all out, a new implant went in, and they took fatty tissue from her belly and put it in her cheek to fill it all in.

It’s now six days later and she’s still swollen, but she looks better today than she did when she arrived last week.

I just wanted you to know that it’s been a tough, beautiful, life-affirming week over here. And I simply can’t thank you enough for helping me through it. I know that most of you gave money to Jeanette because I asked you to. It’s been a lesson in receiving for me, too. And it has been no small thing, believe me. The attack she endured will never be “a lifetime ago” for her. But making every step slightly less painful is really quite stunning. Thank you, from the top to the bottom of my heart, thank you, for being present in my life and loving me through these moments when I/we most need your love and support.

(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 16, 2005
Day 17: Mansilla to Leon, 19.1 km/12 m

The night was my most challenging on the Camino so far. The refuge was full, and it was the first time I had to sleep on a top bunk. The worst part, however, was that two German elephants, unaware of their size and their noise, made sleeping spotty. Earthquakes and tidal waves thundered through the room. I crammed in earplugs and managed some winks, but I awakened with a headache from the pressure of having foam in my ears. I still managed to reach the REM stage, but unfortunately, I had one of those inane dreams that made the night seem to stretch on forever.

I dreamed that I was part of an Apprentice-type competition against two other teams. Our job was to produce an infomercial, and my team’s product was a magic pen that got stains out of everything. Jim Carrey was on my team. He was the host, and I was the director. Unlike the other teams, our product was easy to demonstrate, however, my team was the most inexperienced. In the frenzy of the competition, I neglected to prepare a good price point for our magic pen, which I suspected was going to be our downfall. I woke up before discovering who won the competition.

My first thought was, I’m on the Camino and this is what I’m dreaming about!?

The morning was filled with the chaos of dozens of people showering, packing, dressing and finding a place to make breakfast. I expected that the closer I got to Santiago, the more full and frantic the refuges would be.

I left before Simon. It was a short day’s walk to Leon, the largest city on the Camino, and I wanted to get there and spend some real time in one place. Simon was planning on staying an extra day there. He wanted to sight see, and he also wanted to slow down his pace so that he didn’t arrive in Santiago on Easter weekend. I felt the same. Symbolically it seemed interesting to get to Santiago on Easter, but the crowds of people I expected to flood the place didn’t interest me at all.

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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 15, 2005
Day 16: Sahagun to Mansilla, 36.9 km/23 m

I woke up, went to the bar for some coffee and wrote in my journal.

When the coffee is good here, it’s really good. Smoke everywhere. Just put your trash and cigarette butts on the floor. Hang out in bars all day, all night. But the coffee can be so, so good. It is this morning.

I took another bath. Good way to start the day. I put the leftover wine in a ziplock. We’ll see if it makes it. I am so loving being here, walking, discovering, wondering, praying, aching, laughing, grieving… I am holding the questions. I don’t know if answers exist. But to hold questions. Muy bien.

Are we destroying the world?
Is siesta and inefficiency better than commercialism?

They smoke American cigarettes. Marlboros. Not a Starbucks in sight.

This morning I have many options of refuges but I think I’d like to get to the farthest one so that my trip tomorrow into Leon, the biggest city on the route, will be a quick 12 miles. At this point, 12 miles feels like a vacation.

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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 14, 2005
Day 15: Carrion to Sahagun, 40.8 km/25.4 m

It was my third night in a row without heat but I’d long since learned the art of burrowing into my sleep sack. As a result, I awoke well rested. I was also still feeling full by an evening of friendly nourishment. Fela, Tanya, Andreas and I rose and began packing to leave. I lathered my feet with Vaseline, my morning routine, and they all gathered around me to marvel at their condition. It seemed that everyone was having problems with their feet—except me. They were as amazed as I. Tanya had to invest in a new pair of shoes, and she and Andreas had resorted to traveling a few days by bus and taxi to give themselves a break. I was relying on gratitude, prayer and luck.

As I tied my shoes, Fela said, “Boy it’s nice getting up in the morning and not having to wonder what you’re going to do today.” We laughed and laughed and then said our goodbyes. I suspected I’d never see any of them again.

I left Carrion only to discover that it was another perfect day on the Camino—not too windy and, lo and behold, sun that tried its best to break through the gray rain clouds. It looked as though the rain might hold off, so I was contemplating walking another epic day. I’d scanned my guidebook to find the next town with a hotel since I’d been longing for an evening of hot baths and a bed big enough to stretch out in. Unfortunately, if I was intent on making that dream a reality, I’d have to walk a marathon. Literally. I decided that it was worth a shot.

As I walked, I easily slipped into another daily habit—thinking about the richness that all the people in my life brought me. And a few of the disappointments. After two weeks of walking, I was taking note of the striking difference between the depth of love I was receiving from my friends and the absolute absence of any communication from my family. I was feeling increasingly hurt by the disparity and working hard to release my sense of abandonment. I was questioning how to let go without it being the resounding disappointment it felt like. At the same time, I was looking at my own responsibility in the nature of our many misfires. I’d not been able to talk about the trip with my family much before I left. I wasn’t able to really explain why I wanted to do it or what it meant to me. I was horribly withholding, not because I’d intended to be but because I felt misunderstood so much of the time. As a result of all the silence within my family, I felt as though they weren’t much interested in my thoughts and plans and dreams. When I’d told my father years ago that I wanted to go to film school, he brought home articles and statistics on how difficult and impractical that career path would be. Rather than having a discussion about any concern he might have for my wellbeing, rather than feeling his love and concern, I felt shot down. It’s how I felt about a lot of the choices I’d made in my life. As I walked the Camino, I wondered if I’d made bold decisions and was drawn to extreme experiences just to have something register on the familial Richter scale. I realized that in some ways, being loud and radical and offbeat was the only statement I ever made.
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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 13, 2005
Day 14: Fromista to Carrion, 21.7 km/13.5 m

The Fromista refuge didn’t have heat or hot water. I’d slept well but obviously opted to pass on the shower. And I was looking forward to a short walk to Carrion—an easy, flat 13 miles. It had been two long days across the flatlands of the meseta, but it had been blessedly warm with winds that kept it from getting hot. I couldn’t imagine walking the Camino in the summer. Much as I’d been surprised by the cold, it seemed far preferable to the heat of summer.

I exited the refuge and stopped in the plaza outside the church one last time to admire the trees—trees whose branches reached out and clasped each other creating a fingered canopy. Not one tree stood isolated and alone; instead they were all linked together. I smiled, appreciating the beauty of nature that so aptly reflected my web of community and our intricate interconnections.

After I’d exited the smoky bar the night before, I found Simon sitting among the trees watching the last vestiges of light disappear with the setting sun. I sat down next to him, and we enjoyed our dinner together. We’d each been to the store, and we laughed when we discovered that we’d gotten the same thing: a baguette, a can of tuna, a tomato and a chunk of cheese. It was becoming our meal of choice because it was readily available, inexpensive, light, easy to carry and filling. Instead of slicing the bread in half for our sandwich, we carved a V into the top to create a crevice that held everything more easily. It was one of my favorite discoveries on the Camino.
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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 12, 2005
Day 13: Hontanas to Fromista, 37.8 km/23.5 m

When I awakened, I decided to hit the trail early and get to the next town six miles away for breakfast. The day was spectacularly beautiful and the first real warmth on the Camino so far. I stripped down to just my pants on the bottom—no under layer—and a t-shirt under my coat on top. And even that had started to get a bit warm. The sun on my face was a welcome phenomenon, though I could feel that it would eventually penetrate my sunscreen if I wasn’t careful.

It was an easy, flat, two-hour walk on a road build by Romans to Castrojeriz, a town that puts forth a spectacular display nearly the entire way by offering its Castillo standing sentinel in the distance.

I stopped in a bar for breakfast—the basic pastry and coffee combination. The castle ruins rose up on the hillside out my window. I watched the sunlight hit the blades of grass. I marveled at the ancient stones that made up the walls around me. I thought of the people who have moved through, sitting in the same seat, drinking coffee from the same cup, maybe even thinking the same thoughts of somehow being totally removed from the world and totally immersed in it at the same time.

In my guidebook, on the Castrojeriz page, was a quote from Joseph Campbell: If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track, which has been there all along waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.

I pondered the idea of bliss and if I was following it. Despite hoping that I’d put myself on a track that was leading to abundance and creative fulfillment, it was hard to really know. I certainly was pursuing a dream, but I was about to turn 40, and the dream hadn’t really materialized in the way I’d imagined it would. Thus, I was on the Camino looking for answers that might bubble to the surface in the midst of silence.

Silence. I’d had a couple days of it, at least while walking, and now I was hoping for some companionship.
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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 11, 2005
Day 12: Burgos to Hontanas, 30.3 km/18.8 m

I’d had diarrhea for a couple days. I suspected it was due to the lard the Spanish use for cooking, which liquefied into a horrible orange oil. It seemed that everything arrived in a pool of horrible orange oil. I could live with the diarrhea, it hadn’t been terrible, but when I awakened, to be frank, the inside of one of my butt cheeks was raw and inflamed. That’s when I discovered that it’s impossible to walk without moving the inside of your butt cheeks. I pulled the roll of sports tape from my bag and did the best I could knowing the tape probably wouldn’t stick for very long. I was grateful to be walking solo, that’s for sure.

Jaime came down from his quarters upstairs and offered a warm, easy smile. I told him I’d need another hug from him before I left. As he embraced me, he said that his hugs heal people. I didn’t doubt it.

I asked him if anyone served breakfast at that hour, 8:30, and he said the café next door was open. “Wanna join me?” I inquired boldly.

The Spanish aren’t as keen on breakfast as we are. They tend to like a thimble of espresso to wash down their bland, lifeless pastries. I, on the other hand, like a pot of strong coffee and a plate of something that’s sizzling—eggs are nice. For the Spanish, a fried egg and a plate of French fries is a dinner order. But Jaime hooked me up. He knew the café staff, of course, and he had them make me a vat of Americano coffee to accompany two eggs and toast.

And then we settled into the task at hand—to exchange as much of ourselves as we could over eggs and coffee.
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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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(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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