From Agony to Ecstasy

As I left Negreira bound for Olveiroa my walking notes said “prepare for a long day”.  OK, so what’s different with that and most days?  What they should have said is ‘ this is a RIDICULOUSLY long day…25 miles of walking through open farmland, up & down severe grades, and with no cafes or places to sit and rest your weary feet and bones in between.  Lord have mercy, this was my definition of agony.  You see, it wasn’t just my blisters and bruised toenails from the previous 17 days of walking long distances; it wasn’t just my sore back and aching meniscus repaired knees; and it wasn’t just the bacterial crud on my chest I’ve been living with for 2 weeks.  Now there was a new bedfellow, one I hadn’t encountered before.  I had a notion of his visit the previous day before arriving Santiago as I started to feel an odd sharp pain in the front of my left ankle.  I had brushed it off as yet another ache or pain associated with the miles on the odometer.  I suppose the day off walking in Santiago allowed this visitor to lurk in the shadows, waiting to pop out on the longest walking day of my life.  And pop out it did…literally & figuratively…on the last 6-8 miles of that walk.

Leaving Negreira…note the pickpocket behind me.  Beware peregrino!

The early paths were quiet and lovely.

As we scaled mountain ridges I ran into a crest of wind turbines making electricity.

It was when I encountered the sole cafe for a midday cafe con leche and a pastry, and removed my rain pants to inspect this now throbbing ankle pain, that I discovered that someone had surgically implanted a golf ball into my ankle.  There was this pronounced bump with redness and swelling around it that underscored the pain.  Another pilgrim, watching this discovery unfold, said ‘oh yay…you’ve ruptured a tendon’.  You didn’t need a medical license to see something was very wrong.  What were my options out in the middle of nowhere?  Proceed.  With caution.  The last 6-8 miles took me literally 3 hours to traverse as I would step with my right foot and slide my left.  Not pretty, but pretty damn painful.  I finally arrived at my hotel, showered, took Aleve and placed inflammation pads on the ankle.  It’s still very sore this morning but there is no walking for me today.  This is a day-to-day observation…disappointing as the finish line was so close.  Life happens.

The barren coastal scrub alongside many of the paths.  Reminds me of northern Scotland.

The Spanish ‘pick me up’ of cafe con leche and apple pie.  Sugar & caffeine…what can be better?

One of the many Galacian granaries seen in the farming districts.  Harvested crops are stored here for preservation.

The weary mind plays tricks on you.  I swear this cow whispered ‘eat more chikin’ when I passed by.  Out of respect, I ordered the pollo for dinner.

Part of the vast farming meadowlands distinct for the lack of homes and people.

So as I crested this agonizingly steep hill, a revelation hit me as I turned to take in the glorious view behind me.  What did I know of adversity when others go days without food or clean water?  What did I know of pain when friends of mine have lost spouses and children; when my own brother has lost a son?  Our discipleship group back home reads devotionals from Streams in the Desert and My Utmost for His Highest, and a repeating theme is how the Lord teaches us ecstasy from agony.  How else would we know His love when that ecstasy arrives?  The pain only serves to prepare us, to sharpen our rough exteriors, to break us down from the pride and hubris that disrupts our ability to love.

Part of the ecstasy that awaited me.  Thank you Lord for the reward of these views.

It took a long time, a lot of sweat, blisters and pain to reach this mountaintop.  Amazing!

Today has started gray and wet.  It can’t always be paradise.  Life gives you the spectrum of good and bad.  I’ll take today as the gift it’s intended to be.  Rest, quietness…stillness.  Thank you Lord for guiding my way.  Buen Camino.

Author: jtcaminoblog

A husband of 38 years, a father of 3, a Christian man and pilgrim on this earth. I am a devout Roman Catholic whose purpose in life is to love our Lord above all else and our neighbors as ourselves. I struggle with the latter but walk these pilgrimages for both atonement and guidance from the Lord to be the best version of myself.

2 thoughts on “From Agony to Ecstasy”

  1. I can’t believe all the physical negatives you have experienced but still plowed on. I’m sure along with the physical ailments there were some mental anguished and spiritual challenges- but you carried on. BRAVO!
    Loved your insight from your Devotionals.
    May the good Lord bring you home safely to your loving bride and family 🙏🙏🙏


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