With some fear, and not a little trepidation, I’m getting back on the road.


This weekend, I will be back in Aireys Inlet for the Melbourne Writers Festival. The session is titled Journeys of Self Discovery.

Of course, that relates to Sinning Across Spain, and the camino. But when I was booked for the talk, months and months back, I don’t think I could have guessed that I’d be on a longer, tougher and more demanding journey now. This camino of grief tests my mettle every day. Every breath.

What keeps me upright is the monumental outpouring of support from those I love, and from people who don’t even know me but have read the book. That is a strong hand resting along my spine. It is strength and tenderness together.

I’m so grateful.

I was last at Aireys for the Lighthouse Festival. Peter was with me, and he was one of the readers for the weekend. We had such fun. I will walk the beach for him. Aireys is a place he loved from childhood…

And I will remember every person who has helped me walk this road so far. Thank you. I will try not to let you down.



Amanda Smith, producer of The Body Sphere on Radio National, has made a wonderful programme about walking. You will LOVE baby’s first steps! And you might recognise the pilgrim voice at the beginning and end of the show…

You can podcast/download here.


17 thoughts on “Small steps

  1. Ailsa.
    Just know that you have so much love and warm wishes from the many people you have touched and inspired with your own love and warmth.
    Yes – even apparent strangers like me.
    Step by step.
    Take care and splash up a tsunami at Airey’s!
    Bev x

    1. Dear Bev,
      Thank you so much. I will chill my toes as I mark out time along that coast, walking gratitude and sadness into the sand. Thank you. Xxx

  2. Dear Ailsa

    I’ve not written for ages – but you are often in my thoughts – friends walked the Camino earlier this year – from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela – a beautiful spring-time blog and illustrating photographs. My wife and I were wandering around Adelaide – a train trip to Darwin (lots more walking around that city) and some days out in Kakadu and in Litchfield. Then walking around Seoul – and Hong Kong (the former a first visit, the latter closer to a dozen times – going back to 1972). You are always charting ways for us – your readers/blog-friends – via your poetry and via your reflections on facing this life – and the meaning, too, of death. I think I mentioned back when I was first writing here – that when I walked the 88-temple pilgrimage of Japan’s Shikoku I took with me a list of all my friends and kinfolk who had passed away during my years living in Japan – to (in some senses) pray for the repose of their souls – or some such memorialisation. There were 52 names on that list – though if I were to take off it our three – prematurely still-born – that would bring it back to 49 which is the number of days of the ritual Buddhist mourning period. You’ll have been going through your own seven times seven mourning period for Peter. I sometimes wonder whether we have enough supportive structures leading us through that period of grieving – or whether we leave those near and dear to us to deal with it privately. Whatever the context for you I hope that it has been just right – friends/family – and private space. Best wishes with the Airey’s Inlet/Melbourne Writers Festival involvement.

    1. Dear Jim,
      You are kind. Thank you. I have a lot of Buddhist friends, and I said the Bardo prayer for 49 days. I loved it. Felt bereft when the time was up. I walk prayers now. And I sit with a different kind of silence.
      What travels…
      I want to get to Darwin, you know. Never been…lots of possible pilgrimages. This one to Aireys feels quite large for now.
      Thank you so much for holding me in your thoughts sometimes. It means so much. You are kind.

  3. You are an amazing woman Ailsa. Unfortunately I won’t be in Aireys this weekend so I’ll miss your session with Hannie … but I am sure you will have a room full of love and support – and probably some new faces waiting to be inspired by your journey.
    Enjoy the walk … it looks like being a spectacular weekend.
    Love Libby x

    1. Dear Libby,
      I will see your smile as I walk. Might go back to that little writing corner with the view to the lighthouse and do some slow focused writing/walking.
      That seems a lifetime ago, that workshop.
      I hope you are strong and writing up a storm. Thank you so much for your lovely words. Xxx

  4. Hi Ailsa, I hope you find some fun this time too. I am not for putting too many words into the mouths of those who cannot speak them selves but I am sure they wouldn’t want us to live in a state of “absence”. So I hope you find some fun.

    1. Thanks Harry. There was fun. There were tears, but what else? There were beautiful sunsets, thought softer than the one on the blog photo. And there were memories. People were kind. As you are. Thank you.

  5. Dear Ailsa,
    Reg and I wish you all the very best for Aireys as you dip your feet gently into the enveloping warmth of the gathering. It is a good quiet (ish) start to returning to the fray. We, together with Liz, sent you our love.

    1. Thanks so much, Bertina. It was a gentle time, and the experience was all positive – even the hard stuff. I was reminded over and over of his talent and his kindness. Over and over…
      And his humour. Dancing on the sand…
      Thank you. xxx

  6. Dear Ailsa,

    Ironically for one for whom words are the lifeblood, I had none for you when I learnt of your sudden and shocking loss of your Peter in May. I could only imagine your pain and sorrow and send thoughts of love, strength, solace and mental hugs. They would not form in any coherent sense to send and say what was in my heart, which was breaking for you. I send them now, but wonder what good is that to you? Probably very little, and less so in their coming so late. Can you believe me when I tell you a little slip of paper has been sitting near my keyboard since June 5 with “Ailsa Piper” scrawled on. It has been a daily prod to contact you and express my condolences but I held back because I felt all along so inadequate to the task. How can my pathetic words ease any of your great ache, any of your emptiness and sadness? And today, when I received your email ( thank you) it jolted me to the realisation, it was not about me and feeling what worth my message had. It was just the act that counted; the act of my reaching out to you and offering love and care. I recall the suffering you spoke of about losing your mother and related very much to it. Now, hearing of the loss of your Peter makes me imagine losing my husband (also Peter) and I tremble at the prospect. You have reminded me to love him that much better and hold him closer. We know not the hour …… . See, you are still giving!
    So dear Ailsa, thank you, bless you, may God keep you.

    Your v remiss but loving fan,

    1. Dear Julie,
      Absolutely no need for apologies. It’s impossible. I struggle for words every single day. But thank you for taking such care and trouble. It means a lot.
      Hug your Peter.
      And a big hug to you from me.
      With love and gratitude.
      A xxxxx

  7. Paso a paso. I can only imagine how hard it must be for you to take those steps in coming back to the world again especially to a place that was so special to both Peter and yourself. Coraje. No matter where you go or where you are, true north will always be in your heart. Keep walking :o)

    1. Dear Lissa,
      Thank you so much for your kindness.
      Coraje…what a word.
      Close to corazon…
      Do you think they are related? Courage and heart?
      They are in my lexicon, anyway!
      Thanks, Lissa, for helping me make that connection.
      Love, A x

  8. Ailsa, blogging is fun but I have to stop it bleeding into my writing time. It’s hard.
    My site is so basic but I’m a novice, but learning fast. It took me three hours to discover how to insert a menu. Thank you. I have a follower! M x

    1. It DOES eat into writing time, and you will have to be watch out that you don’t mistake it for writing! But it’s fun. And it does sharpen ideas and give a new format to things. Congrats on Veronica!!! xxx

      1. It also educates and touches fellow travelers walking their own paths in life’s journey,I think.
        Hearing about and reading about other paths walked by fellow travelers through life gives us all the courage to keep walking no matter how hard the walk gets.
        Blogs can also provide a useful map
        (when you look back through them)
        on how far you have come on your life’s journey and also point the way forward.

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