IMG_3610I’m an April Fool in a rush.

Deep breath in. Exhale. Start again….

Today I fly to Rome. It’s the fourth anniversary of the publication of Sinning Across Spain. It’s six years since I last arrived in that city, about to begin the sin-walk. And, amazingly, it’s a year since I inspected the apartment that became my new home – my place of refuge and safety. Clearly, I’m a natural-born fool.

But to the journey.IMG_3630
I wanted you to know, because I’m going to be walking. Only about 300 kilometres, but the challenge for this camino is to walk slowly, like the snail. I have set a strict limit of 25 kilometres per day, which will be exceeded only once, when I cross the Pyrenees toward the end of the walk. I will stride out with my poles and pack for part of the day, and then I will be a flaneur in a village for the rest.

I will take time. I will sit.

I will listen.

I’m going to be on the southern section of the GR65, or the Le Puy chemin, and will end at Pamplona. My pack is once again ready. My last pair of Merrell Sirens are itching to walk, and my heart is beating a little faster. It has been a topsy-turvy month or two, but when my doctor said to me that what was wrong was anxiety and that maybe I needed to go and do something brave again, I knew he was right, though he was joking. It’s time…

So off I go. Out to greet the northern spring with its bluster and blossom, and its tricky little surprises and its gentle embraces. I had taken a French course at the start of the year to refresh my grey cells, so I’m not too rusty. Mind you, I’ve also been learning to swim and taking some dance classes, and if those skills are anything like my French, I might be having some very mangled conversations. But I’m getting there. This morning I did 50 strokes of freestyle without stopping…IMG_3674


I’m getting there.

The other big news to share is that my next book, which I’ve co-written with Tony Doherty, a Catholic priest and natural pilgrim, has been picked up by Allen and Unwin and will be guided into the world by Jane Palfreyman. It will be out next year. I couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful. It has been greeted with such generosity and affection. Only a year ago, I thought it was dead and that I wouldn’t write again. Such is the power of anxiety and the dark days…

But today is light.

There is more news to share too. More GOOD news. I’m so grateful when the news is happy.

On my return, in mid-May, I’m hosting four conversations at the upcoming Sydney Writers Festival, with seven extraordinary writers. If you want to know more, go to their website and scroll to my name and you can see details. Go to the website anyway, because there are astounding riches for readers. The reason I mention it here, aside from my excitement, is to tell you that one of those sessions is with a remarkable man called Jean-Christophe Rufin. He is a co-founder of Medicines Sans Frontieres and a distinguished writer – one of the youngest members of the Académie Française, when he was admitted. And the book he is bringing to the festival is a tale about walking the camino to Santiago! It has been a best-seller in France, so we will be taking that, and his whole life, for a walk in our one hour conversation.

So there is much to be grateful for and much to ponder as I set off to walk. It’s a golden morning here and I’ve just walked out to my lighthouse to farewell it. I hope it will stand tall in my absence, and I hope it will light my way home…

Because I am home. I know that because there is a tug when I think of leaving. That has to be good doesn’t it? A little separation anxiety?

Walk strong. May your autumn days be mellow and fruitful…


28 thoughts on “Hello world!

  1. Best wishes to you Ailsa. I’ll look forward to your forthcoming book and news of your new experiences . Adrian Jacobson.

    1. Thanks so much Margaret. Yes, as Mary Oliver says…a bride married to amazement. That’s what I want to be. xxxx

  2. So glad there is good news. Glad you are venturing, sad that anxiety had its claw around you. May the sky be blue, and the road be solid. May you meet people that add to your days.

  3. Hi Ailsa
    Best wishes for your journey. I came upon Sinning Across Spain at a time that I needed it the most. I found your words very uplifting and inspiring.
    The act of walking always eases me back into a place of balance and joy.
    I hope this walk does for you too.
    Am very much looking forward to reading your new book!

    1. Thanks so much Tamsin. I’m enormously grateful that the book could be helpful in any way. Thanks for your support and wishes. Walk strong. Xxx

  4. Ailsa: My wife organised a trip to the south-east of the US, the Caribbean, México (right now) and in two more days – Cuba – then by car from Miami to New Orleans and back to Dallas where we began – after that Savannah in Georgia…Fort Lauderdale – touching on Grand Cayman, Roatán and the Mexican island near Cancún of Cozumel. Not exactly a pilgrimage nor a set course for walking – but every day we walk for many kms. We feast in history and vistas and the conversations with others similarly engaged or indeed just being within their own neighbourhoods. We’ve seen cousins near Fort Worth – distantly connected kinfolk originally from Australia – now more than half-a-century living abroad – the longest in George Town on Grand Cayman – nearly 40 years. And other kinfolk connections yet to see in Fort Myers in Florida after our time in Cuba. Your re-acquaintance with French in some respects mirrors my own current revival of long-ago learned Spanish – as I engaged as far as possible with every Spanish-speaking opportunity in Dallas and in Florida – and now here in Mexico-city. I’ve described it elsewhere to friends as diving in head first confident I can say what I want – and nearly getting there before being tripped up by the hurdle of my dominant other language – Japanese. It twists my grammar into that form and it then cuts las palabras from my mouth substituting nihongo no kotoba! Responses from my interlocutors come through fairly easily – it’s my grey matter language centre which is not as yet totally responsive to my intentions! But what fun! And so many amazing stories have come to me – in the trading that no, we are not British – though our English is in fact the result of the mid-latter 18th century London speech of the bulk of the early exiles sent to New South Wales.

    All good wishes to you in tackling the Le Puy sector to Pamplona. The great Jesuit missionary Frank Xavier SJ was from there (Pamplona, I mean) and he also lived half-a-year just 30 kms from where I lived in western Honshu – in Yamaguchi-ken in Japan – though the years between his residence and mine was around the 450-year mark! I once visited the Jesuit church on Coloane – the remotest of the three sectors making up Macau – where there was/is a relic of F. Xavier – one of his elbow bones, apparently – so it was claimed, anyway.

    Burn Camino – Bon Chemin!

    1. Wow Jim! I can always count on being amazed by your responses. What a pilgrimage. What a journey. It sounds utterly enthralling and beautiful. Keep on enjoying in all languages. Thanks for the update.

  5. Dear Ailsa, Can only wish you all the very best for your re-commencing your walk. I am sure all will be well with you now and that you come home truly refreshed in all ways. We are looking forward to the new book and to the joint cooperation in its birth. Our love and thoughts go with you on your journey. Your sessions at the Festival in Sydney sound superb, especially the one with Jean- Christophe Rufin and I wish you all the best for this as well, but as it is in Sydney… Not sure when you will get this but it really doesn’t matter, just keep the knowledge that you have many people thinking about you and looking after you back here in Australia. Yes, it is always hard to leave home but it always is the right thing to do as you will come home invigorated and ready for the challenges ahead, and they are always there!

    1. Thank you so much, as ever, Bertina. So kind. I’m about to board so your words will be with me as I fly. Much love and gratitude. Xxxx

  6. Dear Ailsa, you will be in the air now and I feel so happy to wake up this morning in Dublin to read all your news. What a lot of wonderful positive news. It seems your star is shining very brightly on you right now, this is at it should be. I love hearing about your walk in the French countryside & Pyrenees & 25 k per day.

    I look forward to reading your new book. Think I’ve read Sinning … about 4 times now. Bless Robbi Zeck (whom I saw in Dublin recently) for introducing the book to me.

    Wish I could be there when you do your talks ……… so much luck and peace to you on this walk Ailsa.


    1. Grazie from Rome, Lainey! Already I’m feeling changed. Spring in the eternal city is a reminder of life. Life lived large. Hope Dublin is blooming too. Thanks for kind words. Xxxx

  7. Hello dear Ailsa, We are discarding our Optus account, but thankfully we are more planners than doers, so have not yet severed the cord, and your blog post popped in. Deo gracias. Can you please put my other email in your contacts: ? Thank you. How I would hate to miss word from you, although truly undeserving as I have been a fickle correspondent. But I do share your words with many and refer frequently to you and your beautiful sentiments and courageous and inspiring posts.
    So, another book. Wonderful news. Congratulations. I await it eagerly. Just as now I await my husband to return rom the airport with our son home for the weekend. Isn’t anticipation exquisite? Sort of the glory of hope and expectation – often better than the actual. Thank God for human imagination, that we can envision happiness, joy, love and fulfilment and recovery, for where and what would life be without it.
    I anticipate your posts and thoughts with excitement and send you love and care and heartfelt thanks for your dear soul.

    1. Beautiful words Julie. And so right. Although yesterday Rome exceeded all expectations. Wildly beautiful and so good for the soul. Hope your sons homecoming was just as happy.
      I will try to add your email, but I’m not sure I am allowed to do that. If possible can you re-enter it on the website? There is a place to click to follow. Hope you can find it. Take good care and may the Autumn garden be full of surprises.

  8. Hello Ailsa, Hello from Canada. I love your emails and am glad that you are going on another adventure. I hope it is all that you want it to be. It has been a difficult time these last months for my husband and I. He was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and the doctors are hopeful all will be well after treatment. Still we are able to go on a holiday for a couple of weeks to the Bahamas. I am also hoping when your book comes out I will be able to find it here in Canada. Have a safe journey.

    1. Hi Judy. Thanks so much for your wishes and greetings from Rome. I also hope you and your husband can take your holiday. One day here has altered something for me. A break can work wonders. My very best wishes and thoughts to you both as you tackle the cancer treatment. The editor of my favourite magazine, Slow Living, has written beautifully this month about his journey with it and he is doing very well. May your experience be equally strong. With love. Ailsa X

  9. Oh, and meant to add to my comment above, Ailsa, I’m delighted you will be at Sydney Writers Fest. I hope to get to it this year. Will definitely seek you out to say hello, if I do. Hope the walk is the restorative tonic you are after and enriching in every way possible.
    Warmest regards, Julie

    1. Oh yes, please do come say hello Julie. I love that festival by the water. Would be great to meet up. Xxx

  10. Hi Ailsa – I hope that your walking is going wonderfully well – Bon Chemin!

    The news of your discussion with Jean-Christophe Rufin was the topic of much interest at the Pilgrims in Sydney meeting last Saturday. Several of us have already booked. When I booked on Sunday I found that 72 tickets have already been sold.

    Take joy in every step –

    Best, best wishes –

    Jenny xo

    1. That’s great Jenny. He is an extraordinary man. Very exciting. Have you read the book yet?
      I’m in Rome. Heading for France and the road tomorrow. Merci to you. Xxxxx

  11. Hi Ailsa –

    Best wishes for the start of your walk – the excitement of that first step is something that is so thrilling, isn’t it?

    I haven’t read Jean-Christophe Rufin’s book yet – I’ll buy it at the SWF. I’m really looking forward to reading it – one of my pilgrim friends read it some time ago (in French no less! Tres bien!) and she reported that it’s an excellent read.

    It’s wonderful to hear of the release of your book with Tony Doherty. Congratulations to you both. I look forward to reading it very much.

    Best, best wishes, and take joy in every step –

    Jenny xoxo

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