I read once that the biblical expression “40 days and 40 nights” just means a really long time. In the old Hebrew text, the number forty wasn’t generally used to indicate a specific number. It was used as a general term for a large figure, and when discussing time, it basically meant “a lot”.
Normally I would agree. 40 days is an awful long time to focus on a singular task or to endure something painful or difficult. I plan to spend 40 days on the Camino de Santiago and this feels like a mammoth task. I am sure this is because walking 500 miles is a mammoth task.
Today I realized that I will begin my pilgrimage in 40 nights and 40 days. 40 sleeps until I board a plane bound for the EU. Considering I started this crazy plan almost 2 years ago, only 40 sleeps to go feels like a very short amount of time. It’s almost too soon.
The religious references are not lost on me, especially during Lent. The Roman Catholic Church describes Lent as “A season of self-examination, fasting and penance in preparation for our Easter Day observance.” This is similar to how many pilgrims describe their experiences while on pilgrimage on the Camino. They live simply, sleeping in rustic dorms, eating humble pilgrim meals, being in community with others, and when walking 14 miles per day, one has lots of time to think. Without other distractions, I think self-examination is inevitable. I am told you reach the dry desert area called the Meseta about the time your body adjusts to the physical demands. Pilgrims are then left to their thoughts just about the time the scenery hits a dry open plateau. I often wonder how I am going to feel (especially as a person who is not a big fan of the desert) once I reach this part of the path.
I am walking the Camino because I want to prove to myself that I can. I want to work hard and succeed at something that seems out of my normal realm of possibilities. But, there was something magical I was drawn to about this particular place, though. I could walk across Texas if 500 miles was all that mattered. The history, the purpose of the trail, and the confraternity I will find along the way are unique to the Camino. It is as much about the place, as it it the journey. Admittedly, there is also the adventure through northern Spain and the need to satisfy my wanderlust. But this will always be the case with me when a plane ticket in involved.
Today, 40 sleeps away, I am looking forward to the simplicity and the time with myself. What a gift it will be to only be responsible for myself and to only really be concerned with my most basic needs. A place to sleep, food to eat, healthy legs to carry me, clothes on my back, and time to put one step in front of the other. And, not to say the Camino is the same as Easter, but I do hope to feel a transformation at the end of this experience.
Tonight, my thoughts before sleeping are those of immense gratitude. As my departure date nears, the support I have received only grows. I truly wish I could find the words to express just how much this means to me. I feel strong, I feel motivated, I feel supported, and loved.
This really is the good life.
Leah’s Camino 500 for MS.
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To make a tax-deductible gift for MS research, please visithttp://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/LMSCamino500