Category Archives: Travel

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

 

 

 

 

The Secrets Of The Woods

‘Creativity is experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.’ Mary Lou Cook

Hello there,

At the beginning of the summer holidays I wanted to find something. Something I didn’t quite know how to explain. It was a connection that doesn’t exist in the world of plastic and expectations, judgements and small talk, lists and rules. I tried to explain to a friend as we were cycling home from our last yoga class before the break. I think I said something along the lines of ‘it’s a connection to something deeper, a spiritual connection with what is real, you know, the universe’.

BIG ask right there. I know!

Of course she knew, she’d just lent me the book Awakening To The Spirit World.

‘ … toward our reconnection with Nature, for Nature is, and forever has been, the gateway into the invisible worlds that are all around us. and all the time.’ ~ Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselmann, Awakening To The Spirit World. The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation. 

I did get back in touch with it, the connection I was looking for during break. How? Actually it was quite easy. I followed the clues to find the path. And let me show you what happened. Here is a poem I published a few days ago.

Who will you be?

Today I wander the mother
She hurts, we weep, it’s time she says
Take my courage
Who will you be?
I choke with sorrow, her pain, my pain.

I held you as you grew, I hold you now
You are ready
The battle call no longer distant
Who will you be?
A surge of powerful tears.

I’ll be your armour
Will you be my grace
Brave enough to protect, or content to destroy
Who will I be?
I choose you, mother.

~ Frances Antonia, From the Woods Collection. The Netherlands. 2019.

It is not the poem that proves the connection, it is how the poem came about and it is the absolute ease with which I publish something that came from deep inside WITHOUT fear. The magic. Am I a poet? No. Have I ever studied poetry? Nope, never. It isn’t even something I remember at school. Not the ones I went to. Or maybe I wasn’t listening (more plausible). They lost me when I was shamed for not knowing a prayer by heart, truth. Do I know the rules of writing poetry? Also, no. I have zero ideas of the rules. Do I trust that it’s safe to put it out there? Yes. Yes I do. Do you know why? Because I’m not scared to be creative. Not in the way I live, not in the way I express myself, not in the way I role model living for my children. I don’t have any expectations for the poem, I don’t need to. For all I know it is shit! To find the magic, I just need to be unafraid to be creative, to try.

In fact I feel that strongly about being unafraid to try that I want to SCREAM from the rafters to my children  … PLEASE never be scared of trying kids. Of trying to live creatively, of playing with creativity and to seek a world and people who know where creativity lives. This will impact a lot of my parenting in the future … because to live creatively is to live without fear. It it to feel. It is the path into our intuition, our dreams and it is to be connected. Connected with the world in a way that goes beyond existing amongst only human kind. It is how we know there is more. It is trust. And it is lovely and joyful and sometimes it’s scary and painful, it is real. The only catch, and of course there is a catch – is no expectations. Trust that the reward comes in the form of living a connected life, a life well lived rather than one that is numb to what exists in the world beyond what humans have built.

“We are not separate from this Earth; we are a part of it, whether we fully feel it in our bodies yet or not.” ~ Sharon Blackie. If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman

A few times a week I do yoga in a hot room. I like to go to sweat it out and stretch in the heat. Frankly, my body with its aches and pains needs the heat. I find it a place to heal. Recently, I discovered that if I go early I can get a spot in the corner. From the corner I can see the sky through a small window near the ceiling. When I do my sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) I look towards the sky. I dedicate myself to the that sky. The same sky we all share. 

 

‘Whilst the Earth Mother finds immense comfort, safety and satisfaction in marriage, domesticity, growing food and children, and enjoys order around her, the Creative Rainbow Mother regularly feels the need to fly free. And if she can’t . . . well, the flip side of her is the Crazy Woman: depressed, unable to touch her power, tied, numb, self-medicating, addicted. Crazy Woman breaks out if we try to spend all our time out in the world, or serving others.’  ~ Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman

And thank you Sharon Blackie for this quote. This is why looking to the sky matters. It is a way to break free from the world. I think we need to break from the world to truly touch our creativity, to sometimes, fly free. To be in solitude with our creativity is not to be alone. It is only to ‘not’ be in the presence of human kind. It is to create some space for ourselves to connect with what matters most and it is where we can learn trust through feeling. Trust that there is something more vast, far greater and far more beautiful than the new modern world humans made. And it is here in my secape from the world where I found my way, my connection to what is real. This beautiful world of creativity and life beyond fear (of people).

The day after I found my sky window I set out on my daily walk. On this day I decided I would walk a different path. I am not sure why but I felt a strong pull to go in a different direction, towards North. And on this day I followed the pull, it was too strong not to (perhaps it was my experience with sky from the night before, I’d offered myself, trusted her). As soon as I stepped off my usual walking route it felt different. It was as though someone was singing to me. I felt I was walking where many had walked before. I knew immediately who she was. There was pain in her song. I believe she is in pain and I think she is worried for us (human kind). She being the mother. And I felt compelled to write and express not only her plea but also my promise. My promise to not be scared to battle for her, her life.

Along that path I cried. It was a deeply moving experience. I walked along the canal where soldiers had walked in the last big war and I let go of the fear I was carrying for others. I can’t carry it any longer. My grandad was a prisoner of that war, my mother born after his return home. I told him I loved him but if I was carrying his fear I needed to let it go. I needed to leave it here amongst the trees. Somehow in this plastic world we’ve forgotten we come from the DNA of many who have experienced lives we can’t possibly fathom. Do you ever wonder if we feel their pain? I think we do. More importantly, I think we can also let it go, when we get in touch with our creativity. Live creatively, with our hands in the dirt, the clay, the paint, the music. Whatever our soul calls for. And we need to be able to cry. I don’t normally cry in the forest, on this day I did and I know I was held. Held tighter than something we experience physically. The mother gave me courage that day. And as I left this spirited path guess who I would meet first. The heron, naturally and yes she is a clue.

This story needed to be written today because recently I had a conversation where I heard a judgement on the style of movies someone chooses. Like the books we read, does it matter? Is it not about what inspires us and where we are in our lives? Can’t we just be where we are and in our own place on our path without thinking we are more or less than others? it mattered that I found bravery and it’s timely for me to not be scared. I say this because next week I will re-enter the world after holidays and everyone has something to say. The world is filled with humans with loud opinions, expectations and burdens they wish for us to carry. You can be sure the school gate chatter won’t be about what magic they uncovered. Or maybe it will. I have two friends who are open the possibilities of the ‘more’ of creative living. The challenge, as always will be to know those kinds of opinion, judgement, burden shifting style of comments for what they are – creativity freedom crushers. Negative vibrations. Instillers of FEAR. And to be able to let them wash away without also becoming a negative viber. To fly free in order to continue to fight the good fight, to stand for something, to be true to myself. Thankfully, my connection with what is real has been cultivated this break. The joy of solitude and rituals that cement sturdy foundations. I want to continue stepping into this exciting and creative time. So I’ll need to mind myself as I continue to follow the clues and keep walking forward. Yes, this is the mythical and dream like space where I enjoy writing from and swimming in. It feels home to be here.

Fran

xx

Ps I know I am breaking every ‘blogging’ rule by not replying you your beautiful comments last week. I will when I can do so with the time they deserve. Thank you, you all helped me with the direction in which my book needs to go.

Pps Women are amazing. Go seek each other out the ones like you, who ‘get’ you.

 

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 :)!

 

 

 

 

 

A break from the usual!

Do you remember this photo? It was one of my favourites from the Camino.

‘Sunset over Cape Finisterre.’

To me it paid great homage to the Cape. The sun setting at the end of the Camino almost as if dropping directly into the Atlantic Ocean. A perfect display of why the Romans would have seen this to be the end of the earth. And Celtic music playing in homage to the ancient Celts who worshiped here at their alter to the sun.

Fresh from a weekend in Berlin where one cannot but be inspired by the lively, unapologetic LOVE of all things creative. And a weekend in the company of one of life’s great souls I’ve found myself in somewhat of a creative burst.

‘What is it that I make?’ ‘What can I make?’ ‘And how can I make something with that?’ The things I make come from my experiences with travel. They are photos and words (observations and reflections). Wanders near and far. With no desire to be a travel blogger. I’m genuinely not built for that, not disciplined enough nor am I structured enough in my writing. But I have got to get a little more creative with what I make from my travels! I think my home will be the recipient of this creativity.

Firstly, I entered the above sunset photo in a competition! If you liked it or like it maybe you’d consider liking it in the competition.

You need to click through to here:

https://photocompetition.klm.com/home/galery/id/21843

You can like with FB or email or just like it in your mind – also super cool ;) It’s not about winning but actually about getting some movement with creating and owning my work.

And ps speaking of FB have you seen The Great Hack? It’s a Netflix doco. I don’t have FB maybe you won’t either after watching.

Secondly, I wrote an article about the camino that someone asked me for a year ago! Seriously, I really only respond to callings when all the planets align. There’s definitely been aligning … watch this space ;)

Thirdly, I’m here doing something different. Perhaps a few more small posts may happen, little life tidbits!

And fourthly – I’m going to print an exhibition of my camino photos. I sure am – for my dining room or perhaps my hallway 🤣!

Ok awesome ones I’ll get back to my bursting! How are you? What is bursting out of you? I think the moon has been sending some pretty awesome creative vibes out across and through the seas. Can you feel it? I am loving everything I see you do on the GRAM, in your private messages, our What’s Ap chats and you know all the places we connect. And if life’s a bit shit for you right now hang in there we’ve got you. Don’t forget to ask us your friends for some company. As my friend Annette says … ‘don’t forget to look up at the sky’, do that, really look there. We can hold your hand that way, through the stars.

Fran x

 

 

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