MINI WALKING STORIES
Mini Walking Stories is a project I’m doing this month to catalog what has been an AMAZING year of walking. Every day during December, I’m going to choose one photo and invite you to come along with me for a few minutes on one of the walks I took in 2022. Read more stories here.
A Sliver of Shade in Redondela on The Portuguese Way
80 degrees (F) is not that hot if you are sitting still in the shade.
It’s actually the perfect temperature for dining outside under an umbrella, especially by a river or a lake with a soft breeze blowing.
But 80 degrees on a walk in the sun, with very little shade, is a different matter altogether.
When you are stepping one foot in front of the other, again and again for more than 10 miles, and maybe you didn’t sleep very well because you still have jet lag or because your room feels too hot compared to your climate controlled, air-conditioned bedroom back at home, well then, 80 degrees feels like a heat wave.
And all of a sudden, you might feel compelled to tell me, the person whom you followed to a strange, new country (Spain) to do a strange, new thing (walk day after day after day) that you’re regretting very much having said YES when I invited you on this adventure.
You might feel inclined to tell me in great detail how you are feeling at the moment about this decision to be here, but you can’t really bear to waste the energy it would take to talk to me right now, so you’re relieved when someone else asks…ALISON, HOW MUCH FURTHER???
YES, you think to yourself, How much longer must I carry on before I can collapse?
You hear me say: It’s not far at all! Honestly, we are practically there. Here we are at the outskirts of Redondela. And LOOK, over there is a place selling ice cream! Let’s stop for an ice cream. My treat!
You follow me across the street to a tiny convenience store. When you crowd in with everyone else, you expect to feel the cool relief of blasts of air conditioning when you walk inside, but alas, it seems like it might actually be hotter inside the small shop than it is outside. You have to go back outside for relief, but first you choose an ice cream off the picture board. Only it seems that only some of the ice creams pictured are actually stocked by this small shop, so you have to settle for a drumstick over your first choice of a fudge bar and your second choice of a cookies and cream bar.
But it doesn’t matter. You don’t even care about the ice cream. You have to leave the stuffy air of this shop right now or you’re going to be sick. So you step back outside into the hot sun.
I finally emerge from the shop with my arms full of random ice creams and a few cold bottles of water. Then you follow me down the street to a teeny tiny corner of the sidewalk that the sun has not found with its relentless rays.
And for one moment, you feel some relief.
You eat the ice cream, even as it is melting and becoming ice milk, sticky and dripping onto your wrists, mingling with the sweat on your arms. You drink the water. You wipe your face with a bandana.
Ten minutes ago you thought you were not going to make it one step further, but right now, you are okay.
You don’t know that I am about to lead you into town, only to discover that in order to reach our lodging for the night, you will have to walk up a rather steep hill. And then after you march up that hill, you will have to climb four flights of stairs to your room. And then after you get up all of those stairs, you will find that your room is almost as stuffy as the ice cream shop and of course, there is no air conditioning. You don’t know what’s ahead of you, and that’s for the best.
Right now you have a tiny bit of shade and a very modest boost of energy thanks to cold water and a sugary treat.
Ten minutes ago, you were ready to sit down and cry but now here you are smiling and laughing.