Category Archives: Hiking

The Sweet Spot

How does it look? The sweet spot? The place where there’s a moment exactly as you envisioned? Where you are where you want to be, looking as you want to be, living as you want to be.

Right now I sit. I sit cocooned in a woollen jumper and socks, glasses on, legs tender from having walked a good walk, coffee to the left, water to the right, the scent of incense lingers, the only noise – the gentle tap of these keys. This is one of those moments of sitting in a sweet spot.

Excuse me if I retreat dear friends. If messages go unanswered and birthdays are forgotten. You are not forgotten, no, in fact you are very close. Closer than you realise. It is you who read here, who landed (with) me here. It is your presence and appreciation of what I write, craft, contribute that has kept the flame burning.

Last week, a (new) friend who happens to (newly) follow my instagram asked me if I am writer. YES! Actually – asked me if I am a writer, she liked the posts I’d been writing. ‘I dabble’ I replied. I dabble a lot actually. I have 10’s of 1,000s of words and not a day goes by where a moment doesn’t pass where I think ‘yes, that will slot into the story of that day on the camino’. In my mind the story writes itself far easier than when I start tapping away :)

At a time when the world (IMO) is on the wrong side of the left and right scale I need to use what I know with what I have to create something. Something to remind us that joy and freedom is found on the left hand side. The side of nature, calm, kindness and it’s found in the magic of walking with open minds and with each other. This story is what I have got to give and it is where I keep finding myself, writing it. And whatever I do can only be done when it is married to purpose, a greater purpose. Purpose rather than passion drive me.

It seems I discovered my new why.

A long walk.

Its footprints recorded and shared daily. Footprints that delivered a remarkable story of kindness, generosity, inspiration and truth (and love, so much love).

All  captured in a daily blog, journals, scribbled a-ha moments, kind exchanges, photographs, poems and tiny squares.

With enough space (and life practice) between then and now, timing has arrived and it is saying ‘Fran, craft the story’. Oh, and the heron … who just kept showing up until I got it.

Friends, let’s go on a new adventure together. I’m not sure how it is going to look but the papers and notes have all been collated, the space is clear and the gentle ‘tap’ ‘tap’ is the pulse, the north, the cairn, the way.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

 

 

 

 

A Little Whimsy

“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”― Mary Oliver

Hello!

Do you love a little whimsy? Are you brave enough to embrace your own brand of whimsy? I ask this because sometime whimsy is weird. Well, we (you and I) know it’s not really weird but others may see us as weird if we practice it. And because of that we need to be courageous in our pursuit of whimsy, to ensure our life remains ours.

I am quite partial to whimsy – in the land of ‘feels’ it is a superstar! One of the great wonders.

Here’s a little story of whimsy.

Last week during a chat with a dear friend. A friend who is not afraid of whimsy asked me if I had seen any signs of Autumn. Actually she would have asked me if I’d seen signs of Lammas, the pagan term, because she embraces the rituals associated with seasons. I learn a lot from her. The older I get the more I think the people who connect with nature are the smartest – I gravitate to them.

We should definitely ensure that we seek people in our lives who are not afraid of the power of the universe – the mother. In doing we are reminded to stay curious and to notice … and then we get fierce and protective of said mother – but that’s a whole other story.

Ooops … back to current story!

At that time I thought I hadn’t. We were still in full blown summer. The forest still brilliantly verdant (said friend also taught me that word). The trees coated with their thick coats of luscious green leaves, the wind has not yet cooled and the days are long.

The next day when walking my daily walk and I noticed acorns. Acorns? Could they be a sign of Lammas?  The very first?

I collected a few acorns and returned home. I probably skipped with joy a little. This is probably when whimsy entered the story? Yes, I think it definitely was.

At home a day or so later I googled ‘acorns symbolism’, ‘are acorns a sign of Autumn’? That sort of thing – you know the quest for knowledge type rabbit hole.

And I found a few nuggets:

‘One little acorn, with time, can also be the start of a whole forest of mighty oak trees. Acorns are also considered to be a lucky symbol, representing prosperity, youthfulness, power and spiritual growth.’ I found it here.

And the gold …..

‘Long before acorns were considered good luck, they were associated with magic between two witches. When passing each other in the woods, witches would hand each other acorns to let one another know who they were and that they were safe in one another’s company.

As a good luck symbol, acorns are said to protect one’s health. Carrying an acorn is believed to protect from illnesses, aches, and other pains. If you’re already ill, it is said to speed up the healing process and alleviate any pain.’ I found this here.

Gold because if acorns were associated with witches then I was probably meant to dance with this whimsy a little more. There are too many women in my life talking about witches for me to ignore it! So many.

The next day when I was walking in the woods I collected a pocket full. Ever wondered about the word abundance? How to see it, feel it? I think when you follow whimsy you  may just find the abundance ‘feel’ too.

Yesterday I decided I’d make something with them. I have been wanting to get my sewing machine out and was waiting for a purpose.

Perhaps I could make some little bags and gift some acorns to friends. The ones who I knew would ‘get’ such a gift. I had some beautiful wool I’d bought from an artisan that I could use to make the draw string. Hmmm but the material? To dance with whimsy in this story was to wait not buy. And this is where magic enters the story.

As I unpacked another box in my house (we’ve recently moved) I found a bag that had came with some sheets I’d bought a few years back. These bags are better than plastic for sure but they need to be re-purposed because who puts clean sheets away in a bag?!? Finally a use for the bag. Boom! I could cut it up to make my little gift bags.

And today I did!

I also added a little note and a tea bag. Perhaps the recipient could drink a tea and dream a little whimsy of their own.

There is so much I loved about dancing with whimsy. It is such a beautiful dance partner. You see whimsy is a brilliant ‘feel’ to work/play with – it grows and grows. So easily too once you start cultivating the story and let the magic carry you.

Oh and here’s another layer and perhaps one of my favourites. When I was searching for the sources of the information I’d read I didn’t know the reason acorns were associated between witches. Now I do!

So if I give you one of these bags – you are safe with me friend.

Fran x

Ps If you’re wondering how this contributes to taking responsibility for my life? I am being vulnerable – sharing a story and to special friends (and my daughter) also a gift that’s created with my weirdness, one where I embrace my own version of whimsy. I’m a little free’er as a result. I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m a nutter! Maybe, someone else will embrace their wonderfully weird whimsy and in doing so they too will feel the joy and be unafraid to become warriors for the mother. Unafraid of being under the spell of her magic. She, the keeper of whimsy!

Pps Don’t for a minute think this story is over. Whimsy and magic are a beautiful force for good when you let them fly out into the world.

Ppps For you Janet, have a dance with your love, the full moon is rising right? In lieu of a bag of acorns because I can’t send it through customs :)!

 

 

 

 

 

Mi Camino. Surrender. Stage five.

 

“Surrender means the surrender of your ego.” Radhanath Swami

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Veirlingsbeek to Meerlo – 20kms.

Total kms: 155 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $135

In response to last week’s post a few songs were sung … my friends Paula and Nicole sang:

“Hey Fran – Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek – 50kms … we all have a song to sing … and so do our sisters … so one day we can all sing as one … “

Thank you for enchanting my life you two wild women.

And Lizzy was singing her favourite tune along the Murray River in Corowa with her favourite song  … ‘road trips, new vistas, campfires’!

Hope we get to camp together one day Lizzy!

It took a while for me to get stated this morning. Yesterday knackered me. Lucky the B & B served up a euro breakfast. I could drag my ‘getting started’ out just a bit longer.

Not that I am complaining I like to push myself to the edge sometimes … it makes me know I’m alive. I am hungry to know I am alive. Perhaps that is why I find comfort in the extremes. This is something I thought a lot about today, my desire to sit in the extremes, the all or the nothing’ness.

Sleep wasn’t easy to come by last night. It seems staying in a B&B is worse for zz’s than lying amongst the snorers in the Albergue’s. There was the bar fight down below at about 10pm that ended with a car screeching off into the night. And there were the 1am party goers who arrived back and acted like they were the only people on the planet!

For the first time in a long time I didn’t wake desperate to get hiking. Along the camino lights out was generally 10pm and it’s only said snoring that will wake you. Don’t get me wrong that is a massive challenge in itself but at least it is not consciously inconsiderate. I am considering taking a tent on my next over nighter, especially now that the weather is warmer.

You never know who you will meet along a camino, a walk. These are the moments I love. The chance meeting, conversation, serendipitous moment. As I set out I missed a turn off and as a result I had to find my way back onto The Pieterpad.

I walked a way with this local. Everyone in this town had a camino story to tell. The publican told me of two locals who had walked from here (Veirlingsbeek) to Santiago de Compostela. I haven’t done the maths here but I think that is possibly a far longer journey than my one towards Rome. This local, he also had a story. The story of his neighbour.

His neighbours (husband and wife) had planned to walk the camino together. Then one day she died. So what do you think his 65 year old neighbour, let’s call him Kees (a good Dutch name) did? After the funeral Kees packed his back pack and left for Santiago. He left from his front door and he walked for three months until he reached Santiago. I’m guessing Kees walked through his grief and towards the next phase of his life. This story reminded me of why I’m here. It reminded me why I am a long way from home and it reminded me that this is home.

I am here because I don’t want to wait for an opportunity that might not come. I live in the extremes because I am hungry to feel life and to explore, seek, create meaning – whatever it is that you like to call it. I chase the is’ness, the feeling of being amongst something that is alive, the feeling that everything has meaning. And the people I meet along the way … they remind me of this. They are my way markers.

And this is why I am forever walking forward, open to what lays ahead.  Every now and then I get a little trapped in my thinking but usually that is because I’m walking backwards or am caught in the immediateness of those who situationally surround my life.

Today as I walked tiredly on I did something I don’t usually do. I stopped half way. I ordered a coffee and I looked up the bus timetable. And then I took the three hour journey home, 25kms short of my planned destination. I decided I would go a little more gently on myself. I would listen to my body. I have a long way to walk with this body of mine and perhaps in challenging my extremeness I could reframe said extremeness.

I would begin to go extremely gentle on myself moving forwards. I would be ok with all the things I don’t get done when I’m in stop mode. I would, perhaps, try to capture the ‘is’ness’ of escaping onto the trail without the physicality. I think this has been alluding me.

I would seek to only live in the currency of what feels right to ensure the path I take is the one for me.

What would that look like? And what would that create space for? Ok, I can tell you that would look like physically … a women with crappy toenails because man I walked hard yesterday. It would also, I imagine, be about finding firmer ground and questioning the ego I stop with and the ego I walk with.

Buen Camino friends,

Fran xx

 

 

 

 

 

Mi Camino. Into the GRIT. Stage four.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Do you have a song to sing?

Where does your soul find its song?

I have a song. I’m not sure I’ve sung it yet but I am singing towards it.

On a very recent Saturday morning  with a smile from ear to ear I left home (on my bike) for the first of what will become many overnight hikes of my camino from home to Rome. Is it my song? I’m not sure. But definitely, it’s where my song is nurtured and inspired. I think it is where I sing, where my lyrics are formed. Walking amongst the trees in the silence of life. The invisible shield of being one with the birdsong and lullaby of rustling leaves.

(Speaking of lyrics I am listening to the most exquisite song in my headphones and a bit of this as I begin to write this stage of my camino to Rome up, ear phone up if you care to join me.)

 

 

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek  – 50kms.

Total kms: 135 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $85

As always I hiked in my dress! As you know I set this page up as an Ambassador for One Girl. A place to share my hiking and raise awareness for girl’s education. And on that – a few wonderful things to share:

Paula and Nicole two of my hiking sisters from Sydney decided they were going to walk with me and sponsor my walk $1 per km. My mind was blown and gratitude on OVERFLOW. Ladies, I have no expectations here and am happy for my walk and writing to provide good in any form that takes. From the depths of my heart I thank you.

Also, randomly I received a message from Wilderness Wear saying they were sending me some new gear! I decided not to chase any sponsorship this hike.  I was deeply touched because I absolutely believe in the ethics of Wilderness Wear gear and am honoured that they want to support me to support One Girl. In the adventure world it is honestly can be a little tough as a mature age women to feel confident to contribute. Imposter syndrome I think they call it. Know it? Anyway … what a boost!

Sometimes I go quietly inwards for a while because I know if I wait grace will always arrive to remind me of where my song is. And it did. So with that, this little story of mine, of walking long walks continues to grow.

‘This world has only one
Sweet moment set aside for us’
~ Who wants to live forever. Queen.

If we choose we could spend much of our lives frolicking in the frivolousness of many things. Small talk, social scenes we can’t be bothered with, situations or relationships that bore us, tedious negativity, believing that curated feeds are actually genuine. Eek and yet there is an amount of all of that in which we must take part in. But me I choose to ESCAPE it – often. How about you?

It’s an act of rebellion.

To actively CHOOSE to escape bullshit.

Think about that a little … are you with me?

Sometimes I spend whole days listening to whatever music is touching me at that time, reading books that speak to me and sometimes I walk hundreds of steps. I don’t have it all worked out but I can say the closer I am to the trees, the more I wander on my own two feet, the more I sing.  Dream. Imagine. Get stuff. Get me.  Maybe there’s a reason our final act is our ‘swan song’.

Sorry, if you’re here to hear about my walk, I digress with big thoughts … but thoughts transpire from walks.  Walks are freedom from bullshit. And this blog, well, it’s a blog about a very long walk. And I’d love it if it encouraged you to go for a walk or to step into a deep talk.

A long walk, yes that is what happened this last stage, somewhat accidentally.

“Can you look up the halfway point between Nijmegen and Venlo?” I asked the guy I choose to walk this life path with.

He was working at home and I was teaching. I needed to book a b&b because I was escaping for a weekend of walking.

“Vierlingsbeek” he texts back. From here on let’s call him Vierlingsbeek Guy! You’ll understand why later.

 

So I booked the last room in the village.


It started like any hike starts, excitement for the unknown, anticipation for the joy of it and the delirious happiness that comes with choosing an act of rebellion, heading off on a solo hike weekend. On the train I realised I had forgotten my guide-book, so Vierlingsbeek guy took photos of all the my maps to text me. He’s a keeper like that. He is my actual mission control.
 


The first 10kms I spent walking toward the Pieterpad. Now if you’ve never heard of the Pieterpad and if you’re not from The Netherlands there’s no reason you would have, it’s a walking path that goes from the North to the South of NL.  It is a 498km long walk. If you live in Holland I think everyone should to aim to do this or at least a few stages in their life time. Seeing a country by foot is in my mind the only way to really know it. Yes even in cities! It’s the kms you do walking around a city that invites you into its soul.


The Pieterpad I discovered was like a camino. Look at this picture I took … how camino’esque.  Most people were walking North so I walked alone towards Vierlingsbeek. Bloody Vierlingsbeek … it wasn’t halfway. Now by halfway I mean 40kms I was planning a couple of big days. My sweet spot is 28-30kms so I was aiming high.


I’m not sure when I realised I’d be up for an extra long walk. I was busy staying on track. Me and my shitful navigation skills. The guide-book (photos) were in Dutch so I couldn’t follow the written commentary and the maps weren’t to scale, nor did they have streets marked. I was fine in the woods as the paths were marked but once I’d arrive in a city I was lost. Every.Single.Time.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was beautiful though. The landscape is always varied when you walk distances here. Heathlands, forests, farmland, big rivers, cute villages. Arriving at a village on the camino in Spain it’s always the spire of a church you see, soon followed by the welcoming sight of plastic chairs! A cafe. Don’t laugh those plastic chairs are like seeing Christmas at the end of a camino day … am I right fellow pilgrims? But in The Netherlands it’s the windmill you’ll see alongside the spire.


I think it was when I arrived at a boat crossing with no cash that I started to wonder how long I had to go. No cash. Nope, not a cent. I hadn’t thought about getting any, I had my food and water with me. I was going to get on and play dumb … what could I do (insert shrugging emoji here). There was NO way I was walking back to a bank teller. LOL the teller, it was maybe 500 mtrs back but by now I was up to 30kms and I kid you not … GOING back is NEVER ever an option on feet that are beginning to feel every step. Is going back ever an option? I think I’m more of the move forward variety. Digressing … no cash. Turned out it was no problem, I could do a bank transfer for the 90c charge ;)


On that two-minute boat ride across another very big river I realised I still had 20kms to go according to the guide-book! What the actual FECK! And there was nothing I could change because my accommodation was booked and paid for. So Vierlingsbeek guy wasn’t feeling like such a keeper at this point. “You’ll be right, you’re tough” he texted me. He is never in charge of the halfway point again, ever again. I don’t hike to music but something from the Gladiator movie may have come in useful about now. I was going into battle!

 

So into the grit stores I dug. I had to of course what was the option. We all have to dig into grit sometimes. And PLOD on. As I sit writing this now, a few weeks later I can tell you the sky was a beautiful colour as I arrived in Vierlingsbeek, the beer was deliciously cold and the fact that I had booked a b&b with a restaurant, was, in my best Aussie slang ‘The Duck’s Nuts’.

The b&b to my absolute delight was right on the path. Unlike Spain there are no pilgrims meals here but being close to Germany meant there was Schnitzel and with an Oma in the kitchen there was seasonal soup. All I needed right there.  That and a good soak! Initially my heart sank a little when I saw that the shower was in the bath. One of those euro hand shower ones at waist height. It turned out a bath was the better option.

As I sat alone in the bistro I felt the joy of having walked a long day’s walk alongside the joy of being in a place where I could do this with my life. Get on a train from home to walk to this small Dutch village and experience the is’ness of this moment, of living in Europe. Through all the hard stuff, we had done it, we had actually created a way in which we could have these choices and options. I could have cried with pride right here at this table.

Finding our own song, singing towards it … I think it matters more than the conformer’s and dream crushers would like us believe. Life is but a sweet moment and I want to be singing. Beautiful sweet songs. So I rebel. And I walk to remind me how. You?

Mi Camino. Creating a margin to walk my way to Rome. Stage three.

‘Don’t spend a lot of time trying to find yourself. Spend time creating yourself into a  person you’ll be proud of.’ ~ Anon

The morning of a hike is no different to most days, it has it’s own rituals. The packing of my pack, the consideration of what food and gear I’ll need. The anticipation (good energy) builds as the time to leave gets closer. These hikes are taking me towards Rome and there is something quite remarkable about that. Every stage is precious. A day’s worth of hours. The gentle rhythm of placing one foot in front of the other as my thoughts dance around my mind. My senses dictating the waltz.

Stage Two: Rhenen to Nijmegen – 33kms.

Total kms: 85kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

I’ve never thought of The Netherlands as a country with big rivers. Canals and dykes yes … we’ve all seen the canals of Amsterdam but the Rhine no I always imagined that a German big river, you? Or perhaps I’ve seen too many Rhine cruise for retirees tours advertised ;) But back to The Netherlands, it is in fact a country of BIG rivers! Today I walked along the Waal, the Dutch distributary of the Rhine. An important river that links Germany with the port of Rotterdam. And yes very much in use … it is not something we think of as Australians is it? Rivers as thoroughfares to transport goods. I had to cross it at one stage … the only way you can – by barge!

It was a day of rain and water. So. Much. Rain. So. Much. Water.

I was able to take myself off grid (off the main road … remember from the last stage The Netherlands doesn’t have wild) and find myself alongside the water right from the beginning. It’s a little bit of a feat actually that I found myself here. Along the last walk Gerald used an app called MAPS.ME after the walk I downloaded it. I’m going to share something with you … I never thought I’d be able to use it. I am not the best at navigation and I am a creature of habit (surely google maps would do). But faced with the busy main road that google was sending me on and a national park entrance to my right I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go!

What do you know! I was straight into a beautiful wooded reserve with hills (tiny hills … this is still The Netherlands peeps) and water as far as the eyes could see. So much bliss as the sounds of the wind rustled through the branches. I’d been sharing my morning on my stories and at this point I logged of with a see you friends … gone hiking! There would be time on the train home and here to update and share the experience, I needed to live it. I’d just achieved something getting off road and I wanted to be amongst those trees and also open to see what else would show itself to me.

I say it was a feat because a. I actually tried something I had thought I’d never master (an off road map ap) and b. that felt pretty darn strong to have the courage to trust myself, that I’d find my way. I only had to find my way through one barbed wire fence, LOL. No rips. Navigation is a skill I’ll need for later in the trek and here I am getting to know it before I’ll need it. And let’s be honest it’s a safe place to practice … you can’t get lost here! I love that about my walks, they are safe places to practice trusting myself. Walks are where I do my best thinking … without really trying. Circles that have previously gone around and around suddenly open up. Checking in with yourself happens when you go for a long walk.

For me this hike is an anchor into living a creative life. And so I create a margin for it to exist. I not only block out days on weekends for me to go and hike … I also try to walk daily. If I walk today then tomorrow I am not under pressure to walk the next day and so on and so on. A margin is something we can give or set for ourselves. It’s extra space … it’s not just enough space to fit everything in. It’s blowing it wide open – it’s saying that our creative pursuits are too important to put off. And on days like today where the mercury retrograde has me in ‘uneasy’ street I make sense of it by writing about my project. Nope, I didn’t walk today … just on this page. Same kind of peace, strength.

In the wide open space, the margin, we create the holy grail – we’re no longer forcing, fighting and fitting it in. We are living creatively and it’s free to do as the big rivers do – to flow.

Of course some days we have to trudge through … like the last 10kms of this 33km walk. The city of Nijmegen was in the distance as I wound my way along a 10km stretch of road. I was so pleased to make it into this town, and the idea of getting home and dry, that I even sprinted the last 500 metres to make the train. Aaah but that trudge is far more pleasant when the margin is there for that bit of … ‘whatever it is’ … that takes you along on the ride of the flowing river!