Thursday, January 30, 2014

Over Sunday's hill: The Return

have been quiet here, this my first post this year.

After leaving southern England's cold, grey, wet, windy weather behind I landed in Phuket in the height of high season. Warm days, cool nights, crowded and noisy beaches, busy and dangerous roads. It has taken me a few weeks to adjust and love being here on this island again. For a while I thought I loved it no more. But I still do.

I have spent my mornings lying on the day bed on the verandah of the beautiful house where I am staying, surrounded by swaying palm trees, dappled by sunlight, listening to the birds chirp and chatter and circle the blue sky before me. I have regular visitors here; the flock of cranes that circle at dusk, a magnificent eagle that soars by day, a pair of ravens that sit in the jacaranda tree at dusk and a pair of Indian Myna's that even landed on the verandah railing a metre away from me yesterday. I have been writing, reflecting, journalling. One can still journey even when they are standing still.

On Monday, I will start my return to Melbourne. For a few days, I contemplated delaying the journey, changing my flights and staying here for another month. I have had a tendency to cling to what I love. But no more. My life is a river. It weaves its own path into unknown terrain. Sometimes it pools for a while until it gains the depth and momentum to continue on. But I no longer dam it. It flows. And the flow is bringing me home to Melbourne, again, for an indefinite while.

In Pilgrimage - the sacred art, Dr Sheryl A Kujawa-Holbrook writes that "pilgrimage is a transformational experience, which moves the pilgrim from home and back again in order to view the self and the world differently. For pilgrims merely to reach the destination is not enough unless upon returning home they are compelled to make changes." 

I am in the third stage of pilgrimage, incorporation, which she describes as "where the pilgrim integrates new learning and new ways of being into her life and journey home." In pilgrimage, there is a separation - a leaving, a transition - the journey and incorporation - the return home. I am returning home, bringing the fruits of what I experienced and learned and entering a new phase of my life. I have the answers to my questions that I have chased and pleaded and beseeched and allowed to guide me for 5 years. I bring a fierceness to begin.

There is no preparation required to return. Just a quiet surrender into the flow and to love every last minute of my time here. Massages, beach time, swimming in the sea, diving, sitting on the sand feeling the earth's softness and solidness beneath me, and dying into every sunset.

See you next week my Melbourne loves.

K
xx












Thursday, December 19, 2013

Grief, 17 years on.

For years I lost you
in the silence
and the wounds
buried with you.
Forgetting's fortress
served its master well
until the grief 
that grew untended
fissured its walls.
I dived deep
into its grey, fickle sea
and gradually surfaced
with eyes, open,
carrying gifts, open.

All these years
you marched with me
through the ashes of my life
until I could see you
in these small flames
burned to nothingness.
To strike a match
softens sorrow.
To light a candle
summons spirit.
To bow to pain and love
honours all that is human.
This ritual to remember;
your life a gift,
my life a gift
because you lived.

On this day 17 years ago, my mum took her last breath and was finally free of her pain-ridden disabled human body. She tried to prepare me for her death by speaking of it. She knew it was coming. When it came, I was not surprised but not prepared. It forever changed my world.

There are no instruction manuals or classes to teach a daughter how to live without her mother. Grief must be lived and deeply, deeply felt until its gifts can be open. It is only in the last two years that I started to open those gifts and unlock the lessons of our tumultuous relationship. Slowly, this day is changing from one of pure sadness and desolation to an honouring and loving remembrance of the gift it was.

Allison Nappi's words resonate strongly;

"The Truth: The truth is there are losses you never get over. They break you to pieces and you can never go back to the original shape you once were, and so you will grieve your own death with that of your beloved lost...

And herein lies the gift that cannot die. It changes the course of your life forever. If you allow yourself the chance to feel it for as long as you need to — even if it is for the rest of your life — you will be guided by it. You will become someone it would have been impossible for you to be, and in this way your loved one lives on, in you."

A standstill

From Milngavie to York to Grantham to Folkingham where I spent 4 days with a Joy sister in a beautifully renovated grade 2 apartment.  Then Grantham to London to Grove Park to Bromley North to Old Netley where I am now standing still.

Old Netley is a small and quaint village near Southampton to the very south of England. It is not as cold here as Glasgow or Folkingham but it sure does get windy and rains a lot. It has rained almost every day since I arrived five days ago and it has rained solidly for the last 5 hours. Not that it really matters anymore. I am dry and warm and there is nowhere in particular I need to walk.

I am staying with my dear friend Viv once again, sharing her attic room on the third storey of a narrow terraced house. My bed, a hard futon, lies along the length of the floor to ceiling window with a view of Southampton water above the terrace houses roofs, although the vista is slightly marred by the oil refinery on the other side of the bay. Sleeping close to the ground on a hard mattress feels like I am sleeping directly on the earth. The connection is grounding and comforting. Being able to see the sea and walk beside it is a sweet torment; it ignites my longing to dive and swim in a tropical sea once again.

I have spent quite a few hours just gazing out the window watching the trees sway in the wind, the gulls hang on the invisible but audible breeze, the clouds drift over the ever changing-sky and the ferries, cargo ships, yachts and occasional cruise-liner sail into and out of the harbour. I have done a little strolling along the sea, into the woodlands and into the village to buy supplies for dinner. I have enjoyed being able to cook and nurture myself and Viv through nutritious meals, to hand-wash dishes, to launder my own clothes. I even went for a run for the first time in 3.5 months. My feet protested; sore heels, tight arches, some lingering numbness in a couple of toes from a suspected neuroma I can feel in my left foot. I have returned to hobbling around the house.

Finally I feel like I have been able to come to a complete stop and enjoy it. From the momentum of 12 weeks walking 4 kilometres per hour to being in the one place with no destination I needed to walk was a difficult adjustment to make.  I started calling myself lazy several times a day. A lazy person does not walk 2,000 kilometres. Lazy is now gone from my vocabulary. I am relaxing, regrouping, reverbing, reviewing this incredible year that is coming to a close and feeling into the next year. All I can say for now is it is going to be Fierce. Fierce with a capital F. Fierce. Fierce. Fierce.

Watch this space.


Glasgow










Near Milngavie

Loch Lomond


Loch Lomond Shores (at 4pm)


York



Folkingham

Stamford


Folkingham



Bourne Woods




Folkingham


Old Netley

















































Friday, December 6, 2013

11 days on: Vagabonding and the Post-Pilgrimage Transition


My days in Rome passed by in a shroud of sickness. Outdoors I was almost constantly cold despite the sunshine and wearing all my layers.

On the Monday morning we returned to the Vatican to obtain our pilgrim certificates.  Once we found the right gate and passed through security we walked into an office, handed over our pilgrim passports and waited for the clerk to return with our certificates.  He spelled my name wrong, with an I instead of Y, something I often let pass by but not after walking 2,000 kilometres.  After he returned with my new certificate, we asked to be taken to the crypt to see St Peter's tomb.  We stood silently for a few moments before leaving the crypt and then handing in our security tag, reclaiming my passport and leaving the inner confines of the Vatican.

We lined up and passed through the security check to enter St Peter's Basilica.  Sadly, it was filled with so many tourists busy taking photos and some chatting despite the signs to observe the church as a sacred place of worship and the service that was being conducted at the time, it felt soul-less.  Peter and I escaped into a prayer chapel for a few moments before meeting Paulius outside. 

After this, none of us were really interested in being tourists but it was Peter's first time to Rome. On Tuesday, I lead the way from our convent in Travestere to our hotel in Trevi meandering past the Statua Equestre di Vittorio Emanuelle II, the Roman Forum, the Palatine and Colosseum. On Wednesday I took Peter to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps and we watched the sunset from the garden of Villa Medici. 

Paulius left on Tuesday. Peter left on Wednesday. I walked him to Roma Termini station and waited on the platform with him until the train arrived. Our farewell was quick. He doesn't like long good-byes. As I turned to walk away, tears welled. I was alone again and I felt out of place in my hiking clothes and I felt extremely cold. I walked to the closest department store in search of a warm jacket and normal clothes. Everything I tried on looked wrong and felt wrong. I felt out of place shopping. I walked out of the too hot shop back into the cold midday air motivated to walk to Via del Corso and buy what I needed to at least feel warm and to look normal on the outside. Inside I cannot be cloaked or changed back.

I was woken early on Thursday morning by severe stomach pain. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep but it was too much. I reluctantly stumbled to the bathroom to fill my water bottle with hot water and take some buscopan. I curled up in bed in the foetal position, the bottle against my stomach, wondering how I was going to pack, walk to the train station and manage the 2.5 hour journey to Fabriano, north east of a Rome near Ancona. I cried. Forty minutes later the pain subsided. I packed. I skipped breakfast. I checked out of my hotel  and walked slowly to Roma Termini. I felt warm and looked almost normal in my new civilian clothes except I still wore The Red Beasts on my feet and carried the Devil on my back, a skinnier Devil after sending 4 kilograms of unneeded gear back home. It was comforting to throw The Devil over my shoulder and walk with him wrapped around my body again. This felt almost normal. 

The train was 35 minutes late to depart for some unannounced reason. The heating turned up high. My stomach pains started stabbing me an hour into the journey. I swallowed more buscopan. The girl sitting next to me received many phone calls ending all with "ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao, a dopo, ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao." I craved silence, stillness and cool air.

Fabriano was everything I needed. A familiar home. Loved faces. Delicious food when I could eat again. Rest. Lots of sleep; 11 hours the night I arrived after sleeping for 2 hours in the afternoon. Surrounded by beauty, the mountains and houses and gardens blanketed in snow. I completed my external transformation back to civilian. New hair. New boots. Even a new handbag. My cold lingered as it still does now along with a not-quite-right stomach. We visited the beautiful and preserved medieval town of Gubbio. I ate tagliatelle with white truffle for the first time. I shared aperitivo and dinner with a friend and we stopped to talk with everyone she knew (a few I did too) as we strolled from car to bar to restaurant.

I cried as I printed my boarding pass for my flight to London.
Tears welled as I boarded the train at Fabriano to return to Rome.
Tears welled after I dropped The Devil off at British Airways baggage drop.
By the time I boarded the plane I was too tired for more tears. I sat and waited for the plane to taxi out to the runway and whisk me away from Italy, this sweet and beautiful country that I love, and this incredible chapter of my life. Leaving Italy felt like more of an ending to the Via Francigena than arriving at Vatican City.

From Rome to Fabriano to Tenterden to Milngavie. This was not 100% my original plan. After leaving Italy I planned to return to London to rest and write until going to Dublin for Christmas. While I was walking, the universe had different ideas. For a long time it has signalled me to stop planning and live more intuitively, creatively, freely. I did not argue. I went with the flow.

My friend Viv gifted us both with two nights at a spa and country club in Tenterden, a small village in England's garden county, Kent. Two nights sleeping in a plush double bed. Red wine and cheese. Shopping, more for her but a bargain Ted Baker bright red blazer for me. An afternoon in the spa and sauna. A delicious three course dinner. Relaxation starting to seep in.

Now I am in Milngavie, 11 kilometres north-west of Glasgow. It is my first time in Scotland. There's an old part of me that says I should be using this time to see, see, see but the weather has gone from sun to showers to gale force winds and rain to sun to snow, and I am more deeply tired than I realised. Lots of sleep. Nourishing home cooked meals. Writing. Reading. Couch time. Two days worth of this so far. Sometimes you have to stop, to lean into stillness to allow your experiences to sink in and digest.

Yesterday I had my first ever Shiatsu massage. The initial diagnosis was that my small intestine meridian was blocked; information overload. 
"That makes sense to you?" John, the masseuse, asked.
I smiled and nodded. "Yes."

I am just starting to digest it all now. Once again I am using the whole month of December to Reverb, to reflect on 2013 and contemplate my vision of 2014 with an open mind and heart. Although I usually share my Reverb insights on my blog (see 2012 and 2011 postings here and here) I've decided to keep it private this year for no particular reason other than that feels right to me at the moment. However, I want to share what a powerful process this can be. The prompt for Day 5 is Sueno (Dream) and asks what was your dream come true this year and what is your wildest dream for next year? In my journal this morning I wrote that my dream come true in 2013 was to walk the Via Francigena from start to finish, Canterbury to Rome.  Look at what I wrote on 5 December 2012 as my wildest dream for 2013 (read it here). I knew I wanted to walk it one day but I forgot that I ever named it as a dream for 2013 until I looked back at it today.

Heart dreamed it. Mind forgot about it and got out of the way. Universe took over.

Incredible. My palabra (word) to describe 2013. Incredibly incredible.

View up to Castel Sant Angelo

A less crowded St Peter's Square on Monday morning still packing up from Sunday Mass

Inside St Peter's Basilica filled with tourists

Statues adorning one of the many bridges

Beautiful light and I loved the thick giant clouds hovering above the horizon

Out last dinner at the convent

Me and the beautiful Maria-Luisa

Inside Basilica Saint Cecilia that our room at the convent overlooked

What would Rome be without ruins

Statua Equestre di Vittorio Emanuelle II

Various snaps from around the archaeological site (I'm too lazy to confirm the names)




The Colosseum

Trevi Fountain


The Spanish Steps


Sunset approaching the Gardens of Villa Medici

Sunset over Rome

Fabriano markets on Saturday morning

A little bit of snow

Snow covered front garden

Gubbio

An artist at work in Gubbio

Two doors; one is the main entrance, the other is to exit the house when you die.  Typical of Gubbio.

Left-over icy snow in Gubbio.

Palazzo dei Consoli and Piazza Grande in Gubbio

View from Palazzo dei Consoli over Piazza Grande and Gubbio