When I allow the past to dictate the future, it’s as if I’m a fish swimming upstream, battling the current, overwhelmed by my own anxiety.
I have this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as Julia Gregson describes, like when you’re swimming, and you want to put your feet down on something solid, but the water’s deeper than you think, and there’s nothing there.
In three short days, Larry and I are flying to France to begin our long-awaited pilgrimage along the El Camino de Santiago. We’ll be hiking for two weeks, covering approximately 200 miles, traveling over the Pyrenees from France to Spain on foot.
The Camino de Santiago has existed for over 1000 years, and it dates back to the 9th Century when the remains of St James the Apostle were first discovered in Northern Spain. It is believed that St James preached the Gospel in present-day Galicia, and on return to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in 44AD. Herod was a rather callous dude, even for his time.
So yes, we’re walking in the footsteps of Apostles, Saints, Crusaders, and modern-day pilgrims. No pressure.
I realize it is the job of my feet to walk, but my feet have a hobby, it’s called being elevated.
I know. What the hell was I thinking?
Let’s blame it on “The Larry Factor!”
Anyway, finding the right shoes is of utmost importance.
And I completely flubbed that one up by doing the usual, following someone else’s lead, instead of my own gut instinct or doing any viable research.
A few months ago, Larry and I, in an attempt to escape the stifling heat of Lake County, landed in Fort Bragg for the day. This small coastal town is located along the Pacific Coast of California, about seven miles north of Mendicino.
We head directly to our favorite high-end shoe store for a lookie-loo at this year’s fashionable loafers and sandals. We might have a footwear fetish, but we cover it well.
Larry says, “Hey, they carry Hoka shoes here!” All excited like.
I say, “Honey, look at these adorable sandals.”
He completely ignores the delicate straps hanging from my fingers and says, “These are top-rated hiking shoes, and we should each get a pair for our trip.”
“Who says? “
“It’s common knowledge, but I did a little research, and these come highly recommended.”
“Again, I’d like to know if this is science or the tactics of a great marketing department.”
“It’s science. What size do you wear?”
“I’m a 10.”
He looks at me like I’m kidding, and then wisely, he says, “oh, yes, you’re a total 10.”
So we try on a few Hoka’s and quickly settle on a pair of top-rated hiking shoes for our much-awaited trip.
It’s recommended that you break in your shoes well before the hike so you’re not dealing with sore spots and blisters while you’re trying to cross the Pyrenees.
Larry set up an ambitious hiking schedule to prepare us for the rigors of life on the trail. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. And that, my friend, is not going to be our fate.
The next morning, we confidently slip into our new Hoka’s, and off we go.
I’ll be honest, it didn’t go well.
Around mile six, both of us have sore feet. Mine are more hot spots, whereas Larry has developed actual blisters. He looks as if he aged five years, and I’m sure the pained expression plastered across my face is not doing me any favors.
The truth is the shoes are not wide enough for my feet, but I bravely soldier on because I haven’t aged out of my early training. Breaking in new shoes is like people who bind their feet. The binding is painful at first, but eventually, you get used to it, and the pain goes away.
Kate McGahan wisely says the saddest part of all is that by binding yourself to the choices you make, you forget that there is another way to live.
Larry says, “it’s just a matter of breaking them in.”
I whine, “I’m not going to make it if my feet are aching and we’re only a couple of miles into our day.”
“They’ll loosen up, you’ll see.”
“Honey, jeans loosen up, muscles loosen up, I loosen up with wine, but Hoka’s, they’re as stubborn as you.”
“So you loosen up with wine?”
“Let’s stay focused on the shoes.”
The next day we attempt a less ambitious hike, and I end up with the same problem, only this time I was slightly more vocal about my discomfort.
Larry says, “stick these in your shoes and see if it stretches them a little.” He hands me these ancient wooden shoe horses, and I jam them into my slightly sweaty shoes and leave them there for a few days.
I decide to wear my old shoes on the next hike, but they have no arch support, not the best choice for climbing over the Pyrenees. I would say they’re suitable for the shopping mall or taking the kids to the park.
Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I might have to be helicoptered off the damn trail.
Larry’s feet continue to blister, but he is determined to break the shoes because they are not going to break him. Do you detect a pattern with this man?
I, on the other hand, start researching hiking shoes for women with unusually wide feet. I can see you are amused by my minor deformity. It’s not like I have flippers for feet, but with the birth of each child, they grew slightly wider.
Shit happens when you get knocked up.
Can I just say Larry’s feet made no noticeable changes with each child, but his hair greyed quite a bit?
If I were to describe my feet, I would say they are very feminine, curvacious even, with long toes. In fact, my second toe is slightly taller than the first, which Larry has mercilessly ridiculed for 38 years, it being my only flaw and all. The skin is soft and milky, with an attractive array of veins that circle the ankle. The nails are currently clipped and polished with an earthy grape color that compliments my skin tone. The instep is as if the sway of a back that tapers beautifully to a well-rounded but calloused heel. I might be impartial when it comes to my feet, we’re attached, both literally and viscerally.
So I discovered that Salomon has a great hiking shoe for women with my particular foot issue. I secretly ordered a pair as backup, like police officers, when dealing with villains.
When they arrive, I shoved them on my feet, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t fit like a well-worn glove.
I say, “Larry, look at my new shoes. They’re a perfect fit.”
Larry says, “Where in the hell did you find those things? They’re not good hiking shoes. You should send them back and continue breaking in the Hoka? You’ll see. Mine are feeling great.”
“I think the shoes are as wide as they’re going to get, and no amount of hiking will change this fact.”
“Have a little faith in the process.”
I mumble under my breath, “I have great faith in fools.”
Yes, I’m an idiot. I sent them back.
After three more tries with the narrow Hokas, I reorder the Salomon, and I believe they sent me the exact same pair I returned days earlier. I wear them on a fifteen-mile hike the day they land on my front porch.
They’re magnificent, and like Jesus, I feel as if I could walk on water. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, faith.
I gave Kelley the “other” shoes, and she says, “wow, these are really wide. I’m swimming in them.”
I wisely choose to ignore the unfortunate observation and poured myself another cup of coffee.
We also purchased walking sticks and backpacks, which we will be using daily, and we’ve been practicing with all our gear along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which has garnered some eye-rolling, blatant snickers, and unabashed staring.
People are so judgemental.
At this point, we are either prepared or not.
But before all that, I have a special dinner planned for Larry with just the kids and grandkids to honor his retirement, my nephew’s wedding, and Audrey’s birthday before our long-ass flight to France.
Did I mention the plumbing backed up in our entire house? Of course, it happened after a delightful dinner that Tony and Thilita cooked for the entire family, kids, grandparents, granddaughters, and nieces included.
It’s dark when we discover the issue, the dishes are done, and the seven of us currently residing in my home are preparing for bed.
Larry says, “no one can use the bathrooms until I have a chance to snake out the main drain tomorrow morning.”
I say, “wait, I’ve been clearing these toilets for thirty years. I can do it,” and I proceed to plunge like a mad woman with a house full of guests.
Larry observes, “You’re just forcing the sewage up in all the other bathrooms.”
I scream, “Everybody, grab some towels out of the garage, and soak up the overflow in your bathrooms.”
As you can imagine, there were some complaints.
After plunging for a good thirty minutes, I concede defeat, we all scamper across the street to Julies to use the facilities and return to a rather foul-smelling house to sleep.
What can I say? Shit happens.
In the morning, Larry pulled the toilet off in Dante’s bathroom and snaked about eighty feet out to relieve the clog.
While he was driving the rented snake back to the Tool Shed, I’m scouring every bathroom and shower on the west side of the house with Clorox. Good times.
Oh, and I have to pack. I’m not sure, but I believe my psoriasis is acting up?
I have been allotted exactly thirty pounds for my luggage, including my walking sticks, hiking shoes, rain poncho, and backpack. Not by Larry but by the company we hired to organize our walk.
I keep reminding myself to keep swimming, kick those feet, you’ll get there.
Our journey will end at Santiago de Compostela on the west coast of Spain, where I will dip my manicured toe in the
Mediterranean Sea, opps, Atlantic Ocean (my geography sucks). Assuming I still have all my toes.
Our feet tell our stories. They walk us through this life, moving us from one place to the next. And although our gait is revelatory, our feet carry the weight of our journeys.
I’m wondering how it will feel to be at the end of this excursion looking back. When I wrote that, it made me think about looking back on one’s life, which is oddly different from looking forward to one’s life from the past. Now that I am aged, with wide feet, and all, where I’m standing might be more important than the view.
You know what I mean?
It’s like when you climb a mountain, the view is spectacular, and you feel highly accomplished, but do you want to reclimb it?
I’m Living in the Gap, living the dream, swimming upstream.
I’ll be climbing the mountains for the next few weeks, the internet will be sketchy, and I might go silent for a stretch of time. Miss you already. Hugs, C