Beginning again…

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It’s spring….

Wattle pops.

Bulbs burst.

Pansies grin.

Poppies pop.

Jasmine scents the still-crisp air while wisteria flings purple rain at our feet.

It’s the time of beginnings.

I have two bags packed behind me. One contains a collection of grey, black, white and blue clothing – all of it soft. Desk-wear! The other holds books, papers, postcards, notebooks and my laptop. When I look at them, they represent hope and fear in equal parts…

img_2426I’m off on retreat. Amazingly, it has been just over a year since I went to Bundanon to immerse, and I look back and see how much has been achieved as a result of that three weeks. A book took final shape and is in the last stages of pre-publication flurry. I’ve written articles and re-shaped a monologue. I’ve read audiobooks and conducted interviews. I’ve given speeches and chaired sessions. A little silence went a very long way.

 

img_4566It’s time to hunker down and return to another silence; time to let the messy stuff of my mind have free rein so that perhaps, with luck and that old fair wind and an even bigger dollop of silence, something can begin to be shaped.

If I had to imagine what the process looks like, it would be akin to peering into a bale of tangled and knotted knitting wool, before plunging my hand in to grab a strand, and then hooking it onto a needle and beginning to knit, without a pattern, or an idea of what colour I had chosen – and hoping for a Fairisle sweater to emerge!

It’s why we have to love hope. It’s the best of the qualities that make us human, don’t you think?

img_1907And then there is fear.

The voice that says I will probably stab myself with that knitting needle, which is likely to be septic or toxic somehow anyway, and cause an artery to bleed, thus ruining the sweater and stopping my life!

All that will, of course, be a good thing, because then I won’t get to write the thing that would have been dreadful anyway.

Look, a day would not be complete without a little bit of catastrophising!

img_4590But the thing is, that is the dance of everything we make, if it matters to us. Every risk. Every creation. Every initiation. Every beginning…

Hope and fear. The possible and the dreadful.

But somewhere in the mix, there is also a thing called faith. I don’t know if it’s a feeling or an idea or a joke, but it’s faith that makes me put down one foot then another when I’m walking. So that is what I hope to do now.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as I’ve been performing my monologue at a couple of festivals, about that Antonio Machado poem I love…

Caminante, no hay camino…

Walker, there is no road. We make the road by walking.

img_2434That’s it, isn’t it?

We don’t know anything at the beginning. We don’t even know if there is a road. But we step out, and we walk, and when we look back, we can see the road we made….

I love it. And it seems the right poem for a person who is about to do some tunnelling at a desk, away from home, in silence. Fearing there is nothing; hoping there is…something…

A beginning.

I so hope your spring yields creativity and beauty aplenty, and that each time you take a step, you are making a good road.

28-current-issue_instaPS If you are interested to read two articles that rose from my journey in France and Spain earlier this year (the previous two posts), grab a copy of the Spring issue of Slow Living magazine. It’s in newsagents now, and if it isn’t, please ask yours to get it in! Or you can order online at their website. I think it is a ripper issue – especially for travellers!

 

Walking and writing

IMG_3560It’s 5.49am as I sit down to write.

A good time for beginnings.

On the road, setting off before sunrise always bodes well. It makes me mindful of my footfall. It makes me listen, when too often I get lost in the delirium of sights.

But still, there’s nothing quite like watching the sun peep over the horizon. My stride lengthens and my spine lifts, like a sunflower reaching for its vitamins.

Well, I’m seated, and there won’t be any light for a while yet, but nonetheless, I feel hopeful about my work for the first time in a few days. I’m on a long camino, currently. There are two books being walked, and both of them look to have long distances still to travel to the end of first draft.

Last week I had a roadside meltdown about one of them. Well, about my ability to follow it to its Finisterre.

I lost my way. Lost direction, lost stamina, lost my footing. I lost faith – in the project, and worse, in myself. The only good thing that can be said about this meltdown was that at least I wasn’t carrying a pack when I fell.

Or perhaps I was. Expectations are a burden. We need our goals, but they are different to expectations. A goal keeps us on track, pulls us forward, draws us on when the spirit flags. But expectations…well, they seem to be different. They can buoy us, oh yes. But they can also turn, in a second, into stones underfoot, or thorns to block the path. They can bruise and bite and sting. They can weigh us down down down…

And they are self-made.

When I walk, I rarely have expectations. I just step out. Yes, I might aim to make it to a particular place by nightfall, but I don’t hold that thought as I walk. I’m just wherever I am. That’s why I can have my impossible but real flying-walking days.

And I do have such days at the desk, very occasionally. But mostly it is not flight or weightlessness that I experience as I write. It is plodding. Plodding in faith. A particular kind of faith that is stolid and rhythmic and silent. A kind of faith with few moments of euphoria or achievement. A kind of faith that lets someone or something else lead, because I have to acknowledge that when I write I don’t even know the location of my Finisterre. I’ve no idea where I am being led. I just have to keep the faith and turn up – even more than when I’m on the road.

When I lose faith and try to guess the road ahead, or worse, look back to see where I’ve been, there is strife. I stumble. I crash. I fall. And getting up is hard. The expectations crush my spine and push me into the dirt. Getting up can be nigh on impossible.

Or it was last week.

But this morning, for some inexplicable reason, I am back on my schedule, waking pre-dawn and whirling to the desk. Letting the keyboard lead the fingers and not worrying about the mind, that slippery little sucker that can play such dirty games. This morning, faith returned. Or at least, hope did. Maybe it is hope that keeps me going. Only hope. Maybe faith is a bit too big an ask. But hope will keep me here today, my spine curling and straightening, my eyes blinking at the screen, and my fingers making the soundtrack that is not entirely unlike the sound of feet on a road. I will think of them that way. It will help.

This journey toward draft’s end is about fixing my eye on the horizon and keeping on. On and on.

So what’s new? That’s what we are all doing every single day, isn’t it?

May your road be straight, your day be clear, your spine rise up and expectations fall out of your pack to be replaced by hope.

Have a sack full of hope, and forge on. Here comes the sun…

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A Trust Exercise

IMG_0020I love that image.

It feels exactly like my last few weeks, when I’ve been groping toward a light I’m not even sure exists. Sometimes, I call this activity pleasure. At other times I call it madness. Occasionally it’s like pain, but really, that term is indulgent. It isn’t real pain. It’s only frustration – a sense that I’m not big enough or smart enough for the task.

The task?

Writing.

The problem?

Trust.

I have to learn to trust that the ladder I’m climbing, flimsy as it might be, will ultimately lead me to my destination. I have to trust that the light shining from that window up there to my right is the one that will illuminate my story. I have to trust that when I look in that window, it will be just as I imagined – even if I didn’t know what I was imagining. I have to trust that I am writing my characters home.

So the destination – if it actually exists at all! – is trust.

And what I need is trust.

It’s a conundrum, this writing caper. Its ways are mysterious and oppressive, expansive and solitary. It’s a kind of lunacy sometimes. And tonight, they’re predicting a Super Moon. Maybe I’ll go out into the dark and howl at it!

It couldn’t hurt…

Could it?

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May you be standing on a clear straight path in bright sunlight, with a map in your hand and plenty of stamina in your legs.

May the roadsigns be clear and the going easy.

May you find your way home before dark.