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Camino Blog 13 – Capacity

Hiking along talking with Jackie through the deep green byways of Galicia today, a familiar theme came up:
Well first, we are always working around the 4 questions:
– where are you from
– where did you start
– what inspired you
– why are you doing it
Jackie’s a purposeful woman, lean and tan, California girl. Originally Wisconsin, but like most Californians she now can’t imagine why anyone would live anywhere else…
Bob and I set a theme for every day:  yesterday? Capacity.
The age of many ambitious peregrinos might surprise you.  Sure, there are many young folks, active and determined to get through in what seems like a hurry.  But the predominant population is above 60.
And most of those are putting a stake in the ground via the Camino.  They want to make a statement.
Sure they have aches and pains.  They’ve had heartbreaks, kids who have died, fond husbands who are incapacitated.  But what about physically?  The reversals mount up over a lifetime.
Jackie’s had her share.  Cancer survivor? – yep!  Melanoma – “Don’t worry, I’ve got lots of sunscreen on!”  Neck problems – several surgeries.  “I live with pain every day.  Two days ago I had none all day…Heaven”
We toiled up a hill on a shady gravel/dirt path incised into a cleft as the mid morning birds made their concerto and the whole heavy air descended, fragrant, on us.  “Roses grow like weeds here!” She exclaimed as we passed yet another untended volunteer rank of pale pinks probing above the low hedge.
“I was really afraid of this – the long walk – when I came – worried I wouldn’t make it.  My sister in law behind us, she has persistent knee problems and I have my issues, on top of worrying about just having the stamina and not being stopped by some injury or other.”
The evidence of overuse injury is all around us.  Today, I consulted Konrad in my chambers at a morning coffee bar.  He was fretting about his wife, in line for the WC.  They were latecomers, starters at Sarria and her knee had acted up on the hill coming down into Portomarin.  She was no wimp and carried on but in town that night, he got her to a Physio.  They gave her Voltarin but I went one step further with my Volteforte salve which she dutifully slathered on.  What she really has is only fixable by orhthotics – any runner knows about runner’s knee.  When you work the body as hard as we are, all the hidden residuals, ordinarily masked, come out to test you.  In my case, it’s shin splints.  In Bob’s, plantar fasciiitus.
But surprising for Jackie, no body demons had jumped them despite 800 km. By this time, the cumulative toll is expressing itself.  But our latent capacity is shocking.
The body can do and can put up with so much more than we allow.
The prevailing logic?  As we age, we should avoid an ever longer list of threats.  It goes like this:  if I hurt my shoulder playing tennis after years of happily enjoying it, I’m not going to play anymore.
If I skied but broke a bone, that’s it for skiing.  Hey it took a long time to get over that!

People start creating walls against adventure, against experience.  As a result, their older lives become delimited, they do less and less in the name of preservation of their [ever reducing] capacity.
What stops us creates unnecessary boundaries making life smaller.
So Jackie and I are making a strike back against that.  We weren’t sure we could, but even at this age, we wanted to try, to show ourselves we could.
And we can.  And so can many many others who at this stage are striding or stumping but nevertheless closing on Santiago.
So what if the bars are packed at every turn.  Tia Dolores [meaning “place of sadness”]. The compere emerges with a great big shepherd’s crook and his beret to pose with the hikers, jolly and giving.  Along the stone wall leading away to the path in the dappled sunlight, a lineup of their empty craft beer bottles.  I mean, this gives new dimension to the old “99 bottles of beer on the wall”.  So there’s lots of character and joy still flowing and those who are expanding their capacity – starting from wherever – love it.
So do those who come, like Jackie, to experience again capacity they thought was lost to them – forever.
Along the way, they are experiencing an explosion in capacity of the spirit and in relationship.
Jackie has walked 800 km with her sister in law.  Her love for this imposed relationship has expanded dramatically – she knows her sister in law – her Camino inspiration – very well now and cares about her enourmously.  Their friendship is tested and true and deep.

And along the Way, her own peace and adjustment to a new phase of life has grown exponentially.  She realized after a long period as a devoted mother, she wanted to be a better person to be with – after her kids have flown.  She wanted to be a better wife, a better friend, a better relative.  What a lovely benediction to take into later life.
On Mother’s Day [which she experienced alone, over here], she realized  that she would have to adapt to her grown kids’ reality = go where they are, now:  do what they do.  It was her gift to herself.
Bob and I have found that our capacity to have fun together, to learn from each other, to forgive, and even enjoy, our eccentricities and foibles has surpassed anything we could have expected.
On to Santiago!

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Doug Bouey, President
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Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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