Tuesday, November 17, 2015 – Lisieux to Benay
With 18 miles before us, Steve and I set out early, just after sunrise, which is accomplished entirely behind a thick wall of clouds. Today, gray skies and occasional rain will be our constant companions.
But the biggest challenge is neither rain nor distance. It is traffic. A sidewalk guides us out of Lisieux.
Then the assault begins.
The barrage of cars and semis is relentless, exhausting – among the worst I’ve ever navigated. I crave the quiet roads of the previous day’s trek. Yet for distance walkers, dangerous highways are often unavoidable in a world where the infrastructure of mobility is fashioned around cars, not people.
Both Steve and I are experts at walking in such conditions. But there is often no shoulder, and we are constantly on guard. A slip or inattentive moment on our part – or a one-second lapse of control on the part of the driver – could be fatal.
We take a break at a quaint restaurant, where flags of the US, Britain, Canada, France and Germany fly at the entrance. I welcome the physical and mental break. I imagine Allied soldiers passing this spot 70 years ago, walking through this same countryside en route to Paris, also constantly alert and on guard, navigating a far deadlier set of hazards than the traffic we face.
Our break is short. We are back on the highway, negotiating the violence of traffic. Between vehicular lulls, I think about how pervasive is violence in our world.
The violence of World War II.
The violence of terrorism on the streets of Paris last Friday.
The violence of a changing climate.
It has been a rough day. My legs are sore. My senses are numb. And I have no answers to the problem of violence.
Relaxing at the end of the day, hope appears on the streets of Paris, from two unexpected sources.
One is a man who stands blindfolded with a sign telling people he is Muslim and he is not a terrorist. He invites people to hug him. They do – in droves! The video is moving, and I hope you’ll watch it here.
The other ray of hope is from a man holding his young son, who is afraid of the terrorists and their guns. His father explains that the terrorists may have guns, but we have flowers. The clip is incredibly uplifting. Watch it here.
Hope. I head to bed knowing there are many reasons to feel encouraged, grateful, and eager for a new day.