When I walked the Camino de Santiago with my sister there were no rules, no expectations. We walked knowing we were each walking our own walk and at anytime if we needed to split – we would. Walking 800km was a great unknown. How would we each handle it? What would the challenges be? Who would we meet?
It is a bit like this time. The unknown. What will tomorrow bring? When will the end arrive? Who will we meet on the way? And like the camino we take the path. Each day taking us closer to the the other side – the beyond.
I may have been a bit extreme in thinking I could simply turn my phone off for 31 days! Aside from needing contact with my mum, it is a place where I connect with people. And let’s face it in these times our people are important.
“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”― Mary Oliver
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.
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 :)!
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 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.
“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.)
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.
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?
Did you have a secret world as a kid? Do you visit there now as an adult? The more I walk the more I find myself retreating into that realm. And once again the old latin phrase of ‘solvitur ambulando’ seems to perfectly describe the magic of walking.
Once moving was a sport to me but now hiking has become my ‘way’. A way to walk through life, to find my path. My life’s path will not be found in a noisy life, stuck in traffic or amongst a crowd. Of course that stuff occupies a space in my life (albeit as minimal as I can allow) but it’s in my secret world amongst the trees and the crisp fresh air where my mind is free to hear my heart. Mostly, I walk alone and it is here that I build confidence, grit, strength, find purpose and join dots.
Synchronicity – a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.
I have long been a believer of synchronicity. Sometimes it is in the subtly of a feather or crossroad on my path, the stranger you converse with, the message from a friend or the song that plays just at that perfect moment. Synchronous moments are my markers. My life’s guide book. They are not a guarantee to an easy life, nor one without the myriad of feelings, worries and hurdles that are part of the human experience. But they bring little nuggets of hope, excitement, inspiration and possibility. They are reminders of trust, they’re change inducers. And they belong to the group of big feels, the ‘deep breath moments’. The ones that settle in our cells in the form contentment and purpose.
Serendipity– when someone accidentally finds something good.
Working with One Girl from the first fundraiser I did with my daughter to walking the camino has been built from synchronous moments. Inspiration from a dynamic young CEO who said ‘if you care about something – do something, we all have a choice’. A blog post from a mentor reminding me to have guts and take action right when I needed courage to take the next step. And truckloads of support and messages of belief. Yeah, I found something good in committing myself to advocate for the education of girls. Real good! So this story continues.
There are times when I have thought why am I doing this again? Walking and putting the call to action out. Putting my vulnerability into the world. Wouldn’t it be easier to just wander the path to Rome quietly. This past year I have floated a bit and worried I may be annoying people with my noise. Also I’ve wondered how this walk could create the change in the same way the camino seemed too. A little self doubt or maybe some space to align with what the walk means to me right now … to understand a new lesson from the trail.
And this week as I walked with my head amongst the trees I realised that I needed to worry less about that. A long, slow walk is never about expectations or arriving somewhere. It will bring what it brings and it will unravel as it unravels. Walking through life in this manner is where the treasure lies. If I’m honest I knew and believed this already about the walk but I needed this little truth to filter into other parts of my life. To be home where you are, in the moment awake to season you’re in and to not be worried about standing alone … because it is in this state that the forces of synchronicity will reveal themselves.
This long walk will be and do something different than the last. It has it’s own creative energy.
And with that it’s time to write up stage two so I can walk stage three tomorrow! Ps I think there will be a lot of weekend to Rome walking in the next few months, I’ve discovered the Pieterpad and it is the route for me to follow for a while … at least until I reach the border to Belgium or Germany … let’s see what the path says ;).
The photos scattered through this post are of the second stage of my walk to Rome (from home).
I began where I left off last time, Maarn. I woke early and cycled into the station to take the train into my starting point. An extra level of excitement as I was meeting up with Gerard a friend from I met along the Camino de Santiago. Here is the story of when I met Gerard. A little synchronicity that turns itself into a little serendipity.
There’s a bond between hikers, an open trust that seems to exist without the need for hoops. The freedom to talk or not talk. I learnt a lot walking this stage with Gerard. He is a keen conservationist and he has a great knowledge of the Dutch landscape. He pointed out rocks that travelled here during the ice age, old royal carriage ways and he made sure we walked through a polder! A polder is an area of low lying land is reclaimed from the sea. The one we walked in was all clay. In days past this clay was used to make bricks.
He also taught me a Dutch saying that has helped me to understand this country in a way I hadn’t before. ‘There is not a piece of land in The Netherland that hasn’t been turned over’ thus all the land is cultured. Now there is a lot of countryside in NL and that is one thing I love … we all live on top of each other so that countryside exists but none the less green is never far away. Also I reached the Dutch arm of the Rhine river … that felt pretty darn AMAZING. Yep a deep breath moment for SHIZ.
‘Cultured’ and not ‘wild’ … now that made a lot of sense to me and helped me to end a struggle I was having. The Irish wildness that I love so much will never exist here in the same way … and understanding that has created a pleasant shift for me. I’ll love these flatlands for what they are not what they’re not. And I can always visit Ireland ;)
Living our own creative lives looks different … making something … playing … it’s a great challenge as we get older to continue the dance with our creativity … but to not would be to miss one of life’s great romances.