Fairbanks: May 2013
An Ignominious Defeat
I looked it up online in Vocabulary.com. You’ve lost the game, you are face down in mud, and the once cheering fans are burning effigies of you. This would be an ignominious defeat. I have suffered no such ignominy. An inglorious defeat, perhaps, surely my comeuppance, and there is the embarrassment, but in these past seventy years on the ride of my life, this defeat barely makes the Top Ten.
I am writing my third and last entry for May 2013, from my worldwide favorite place to be, my back porch overlooking our little slice of Paradise on Santa Rosa Sound. My knee is encased in ice, my body is slowly freeing itself from massive doses of ibuprofen, and my spirit is soaring with our yard eagle, the magnificent resident osprey, hunting hard over the water to feed his nest of fledglings. I am home.
I departed from Atlanta on April 24, bound for glory, Spain, and a long walk of unknown significance. I failed to achieve glory, failed to walk across Spain, and failed to find significance. My physical goal was to return home with no injuries; I failed to do even that.
I should be devastated, depressed, and wrapped in melancholy. How is it possible to feel so satisfied, so satiated, so full? There’s no sweet taste of victory here, this is failure at its most miserable, and yet I am good…I am very good.
After a fool’s parade by taxi from the sleepy Meseta village of Castrojeriz to a bus in Frómista packed with peregrinos, to a train in León, to a Delta flight out of Madrid, I arrived on the afternoon of May 20 in Atlanta. On May 21 I was in the Pensacola examining room of my new doctor-for-life, Elise T. Gordon, M.D., Sports Doctor Extraordinaire. Unable to walk or put any weight on my right leg and suffering from no-sleep exhaustion, I was in excruciating pain and scaring my dear Bill half to death.
The good news is that I am an extremely committed person; the bad news is that I am an extremely committed person. I rarely give up or give in…I will hold on longer than a loggerhead turtle. “Overuse, constant friction, and stress with pain increasing during exercise or climbing” was the defining description of the diagnosis, pes anserine bursa. For eight days I had held on and had pushed the daily twelve to fifteen miles across the dreaded Meseta in mud and rain and freezing wind gusts.
Dale's boots Tatiana's boots
The last day of holding on, I walked with Dave of California and his daughter Eva. We trudged from Hornillos del Camino (population 100) to Castrojeriz (population 600). Dave is an experienced and licensed chief engineer, who has worked often on the drillships in the Gulf of Mexico. He distracted and entertained me with the adventures of a seagoing man and his work on the BP’s fleet of exploratory drillships. I had a thousand questions and the day passed uneventfully, but with more knee pain than I was willing to reveal. It was my last grandiose effort: no more walking, no more O'Rosey on my back, no more heroics.
Beautiful Bridget of Ireland accompanied me to León, and after walking what seemed like an endless trek into the city, we found comfortable and private lodgings. We celebrated at dinner that night all of the Camino Angels who had passed through our lives…angels we would not see again nor find to bid farewell. It is the way of the Camino.
In wine-producing region of La Rioja - Dale and Senja of Vancouver, British Columbia
Adrian and Morgan of Australia at the Monumento del Peregrino on Alto del Perdón
Tatiana of California as we leave Santo Domingo de la Calzada
My friend and fellow artist, Michael DeMaria, wrote to me in León that out of great defeat is born great creativity. He quoted Rilke: “I will tell you how we grow, by being defeated by greater and greater things.” “A heart warrior,” wrote Michael, “knows how to let go, to be humble, and to walk into her own vulnerability and defeat.”
My family swept me up, brushed me off, and filled me with gratitude. They are each and every one obnoxiously proud of my effort. I did walk over 200 miles, carrying a backpack at seventy years of age…no small feat, right? My new best friend, Dr. Elise T. Gordon, assured me that pes anserine bursa is not an old woman’s injury. “It is an athlete’s injury,” she said.
Hey, I like that. An athlete’s injury. I can go with that. Yes.
Out of the ashes...she rose