I spent the morning yesterday enjoying spectacular ocean views hiking underneath the brilliant Southern Portuguese sun… until the moment when my hike on the Rota Vicentina came abruptly to an end. An end that came without my permission and a fair bit of angst.
But let’s go back a few hours…
I drew this sketch while resting in a beach chair yesterday morning with my toes buried in sparkling white sand. I had dipped my feet in the ocean water but realized I would rather draw than swim.
I haven’t had the energy to draw this whole trip until yesterday. I’ve been so tired at the end of these past three hiking days that I barely could eat dinner before passing out exhausted in my bunk. I conveniently forgot that the first week of walking long 20+ kilometer days is fairly brutal. My body, after a month sitting at my exhibit at the lighthouse, was not ready for the long days, much less the blazing sunshine. I felt like I was just getting in the groove on day number four. The coastline views of southern Portugal are stunning, but what I really enjoyed were the delicious smells! Sage, juniper and other dusky desert scents filled the warm air as I padded through the sand on the cliff’s edge; it was an amazing all encompassing sensory experience.
Then I did what we all fear. Or at least what I have begun to fear as I’ve gotten older; a random accident with no discernible cause. I pushed off on my right side to step onto a higher platform after planting my walking pole, and that’s when I felt it. A severe shooting pain ripping through my shoulder. And that’s when my hike was technically over.
It was officially over when I hitchhiked to the next town and woke up the next morning feeling the same pain. It’s that type of pain that shoots through your shoulder when you move it in a particular way. If I’m very very careful and move my arm very specifically and slowly I can do most things without the stabbing pain. I cannot, however, shrug my backpack on. I only had one day left of walking, but I couldn’t walk it. Hiking trip over.
I sat in my bed in a tiny town in southern Portugal last night and felt sorry for myself. I felt sorry for myself until I saw the news and the horror that hatred had unleashed on Orlando and I began to cry. I cried as I grieved for all those innocent people whose lives were taken from them. I cried because I wanted to cry with people that I loved around me instead of totally alone. And I cried because I was grateful; I was grateful for the pain shooting through my shoulder that so viscerally lets me know I have breath and life.
As I sit at the bar drinking a gin and tonic tonight, I also reflect on how grateful I am to have walked over 1500 kilometers on two Caminos without an injury of this magnitude. I thank God for His continued protection, grace and mercy in my life. I will walk back to my hostel tonight, breath in the brisk sea air, take my ibuprofen and look forward to what tomorrow has in store.