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Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Pilgrimage to Chartres; Part 3

     Our third day was going to be the second longest. There was some village walking, and some really nice forest walking too. The good news was that the pain that manifested in my right hip area had largely abated. The bad news was that my feet were kind of a mess. It’s not a great sign when you are trimming your nails and all of the sudden, water leaks out. A blister had formed under the nail and I had popped it. The good news is that it provided some measure of relief from the tender pain I was experiencing but I definitely needed to get that little piggy wrapped up in moleskin.
     The hotel didn’t have a restaurant but Kim had arranged for them to deliver breakfast. We were pretty unsure what it would be so we were delighted when we found a giant bag of good hanging from our door. Juice, croissants, butter, jam, milk, cereal, hot chocolate and cheese were all there! The only panic was NO COFFEE. But we texted Kim and she said that they had plenty so that was a relief! We enjoyed our meal. We had a little cooktop in our room so we could heat the milk and make the hot chocolate. It was a lovely way to start the day. We were gathering in Kim’s room for our morning time together and we were eager to see everyone, but mostly eager to get a cup of coffee!
     The verse for this day was Isaiah 43:1-3.
“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Our question for pondering what What is your biggest fear? I think for some of us, we were genuinely afraid of not being able to finish the walk or if finishing wasn’t really a question, there were many questions about how much pain finishing might lead to. At any rate, we were off to a good start, with pretty good optimism. The weather continued to cooperate in a pretty spectacular way and that was a huge gift. 
     We headed up to the village to see the church and obtain our stamp. The village was really lovely and the church was quite beautiful. Very old, with beautiful archways inside.  Much to our delight, we were able to meet the priest and he was just as kind and encouraging as could be. Those who could speak French enjoyed a wonderful conversation with him and I felt compelled to get a photo with my “colleague in ministry”.  Here we were, the three priests along the Chemin. All in all, a very nice start, but it did mean that we weren’t really on our way walking until 10.00 a.m.
     There was quite a bit of village walking but it wasn’t even close to the urban jungle that walking through Paris was. It just wasn’t forest or field. Our first stop was in front of a lovely chateau, The Château of Breteuil.  It’s amazing how many of these lovely properties dot the landscape of France. We sat and had a snack, relaxed a bit and reloaded for the day ahead. We needed to get our lunch supplies together and I just love this picture of Emily, walking along with a baguette sticking out of her backpack!  Such a symbol of our walk in France! 

     After the break, we got our stuff together and sallied forth. Soon we hit the woods again and it was really beautiful. I could barely resist taking photos of the path that spread out in front of us.  It was such a symbol and invitation of what we were doing. Kim knew of a really beautiful spot where a lunch break would be welcome. It did not disappoint. Surrounded by huge rocks and pine trees, each one of us settled into a spot and lunch was largely silent. The area reminded me of the mountains of CA. It was a comforting connection. I looked around and saw all of us, just quietly gaining some nourishment for the afternoon ahead. It was a peaceful and lovely moment. In one of my late night google sessions about tips for hikers I had read that smart hikers take their shoes and socks off at every stop and wiggle their toes and get the circulation going. So I did that. It felt great to rest my feet on the cool big rock in front of me.  Soon it was time to go again and the first thing we had to do was to navigate a steep downhill descent. I was very thankful for my hiking poles. Once down, we simply marched ahead. We passed through some beautiful little villages, took in some lovely sights and eventually found ourselves on the outskirts of Rambouillet.   I know that Kim had mentioned that it was hard to get through the outer edges of this stop and it seemed to take forever to get to the destination even though signs of the town had begun to appear. Our trek was much the same, with deep longings to arrive. We all were feeling it whether in the feet, the legs, the ankles, the shins, or the calves. I tried to distract myself from the pain in my toes by making up silly songs about my piggies. It helped for a while but not nearly enough. We did pass a house that had several labradors in the yard.  They brightened my spirits! But the mood shifted a bit and weariness took over. When would we get there? Finally, the train station came into view and instead of heading straight to hotel where we knew there wasn’t much around, we decided to take a pit stop in a café and enjoy some refreshment before making the trek to over to the hotel. What a road weary crew we were. I needed to go to the bathroom badly and was very thankful to find one there. I also could not wait to get my shoes off so that I could give my toes some sweet relief. I needed salt and carbs so beer and fries were ordered. Not sure either ever tasted so good! Eventually we made our way to the hotel and it wasn’t the most warm reception we’d had. There was some hassling regarding the rooms and the place looked a bit worn. Several were uncomfortable with their accommodation and all in all, it was kind of a rough spot. Tensions were high and relationship dynamics were strained after 3 full days together as evidenced by a struggle around the dinner table about who would sit where and what the make up of the table should be. Tiredness. Unmet expectations. Fissures in the group dynamic all showed up. Not a surprise but not so pleasant either. I ended up not feeling well and needed to leave early to get back to the hotel. It was times likes these that the commitment to meet together and debrief our day together were really important. It would’ve been easy to grumble off to bed that night, split in our mood but instead, we gathered in our room and went through the Examen. What were the highs, what were the lows, what were we looking forward to. Highs included the beautiful woods that we were privileged to wander through.  Lows were disappointments we experienced in relationship to how we felt, physically and mentally,  who we were able to talk to or not, the lack of silence or reflection. Everyone was looking forward to the shorter day the next day. We were tired after the 14 miles (22 kilometers) hike of this day and the demands of 3 straight days of walking. We needed to be restored physically, mentally and spiritually. I was happy for rest but a bit worried about being sick. I was thrilled for the promise of a shorter day on Friday. I tried to let go of all of my concerns and allow myself to rest. I slept good that night even though I woke up in the middle of the night feeling lousy. I did rest. I learned some new techniques for making my feet hold up better. Mostly I just rested and tried not to worry about all of the things that I could be worrying about. The new day would dawn soon enough with all of its own challenges. 3 days were behind us. We only had 2 more to go and 1 of those was quite short. Could I finish this pilgrimage? It was starting to seem quite possible.