Following where the road leads…

This road has a mind of its own.

That may not have been clear to me in the beginning, when I thought it was my idea, my project, my monologue that I was going to write, and my decisions that would shape any outcomes.

Hilarious old hindsight, eh?

When I sent out my letter asking for sinner-sponsors, I said my intention was to write a monologue for performance. I even knew the actress who was going to play it – my friend and fellow walker, Louise. Perfect for it, she would be.

Writing a monologue, however, proved another thing.

I struggled to find ways, struggled to compress the story, struggled to feel truthful, or that I was honouring the story. I was met with NO at every turn!

Then one day I began to write prose, and about twelve months later that prose found a publisher. A book allowed me to tell all the stories I wanted to tell, to be as scrupulous about the journeys of others as I could possibly be – and to confess to my own journey, which was never my intention, dreading the “I” voice, as I did.

Publication, and the ensuing road-trip into the blogosphere, the twittoverse and the land of Facebook, as well as the adventure of talking the book at events and on radio and festivals with people I admire and respect…well, that has yielded fruits I’d never dreamed. Pains too. Anxieties and ego-dents. Minor abrasions, only! Mostly, a rucksack full of joys.

Now, here is the latest irony.

I find myself sitting at the desk, penning a monologue for performance to be given by me, the person who swore she would never act on stage again, at the Fairfax Theatre! I began writing a week ago and finished it – more or less! – yesterday. And incredibly, amazingly, it has not been torture. There is a monologue!

Putting aside the horrors of trying to learn and rehearse it in the next eleven days (AAAGGGHH!), the thing that remains a marvel is that it was possible to write it at all, after those attempts when I first came home from the camino.

But I woke this morning with a strong sense of why I’ve been able to do it.

Now that the book is out, I am free to make choices about what parts of the story seem theatrical or dramatic, because the whole story, the entirety of the journey, is in the world. I have honoured the road as fully as I was able, and now I can be selective, just as I was with the Poetica programme.

So the thing I couldn’t do, I am doing. Incredible.

But on the road’s timetable, not mine.

I can’t yet bring myself to think about performing it, but I’m hoping that somehow the road will bring me home to a place where I can manage that too, just for one evening.

I’m reminded of a poem, given to me by Louise. It is by Alice Walker.

 

When We Let Spirit Lead Us.

 

When we let Spirit

Lead us

It is Impossible

To know

Where

We are being led

All we know

All we can believe

All we can hope

Is that

We are going

Home

That wherever

Spirit

Takes us

Is Where

We

Live.

I live and work here, looking out this window and dreaming of things that might be, then being astonished to find that other dreams, bigger dreams, are dreaming me.

Sometimes, the sky confirms that.

 

If you want to see one of the great miracles of the digiverse, click on this link and then scroll down to the post by Johnnie Walker. This is what I mean by connection!

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/poetica/2012-05-05/3967108

I have been moved and grateful for all the comments there, but that one fair took my breath away. The world is endlessly wondrous.

Please feel free to download the programme and have a listen. It’s another aspect, another unpicking, expanding, re-examining of the story…

For the Sake of Strangers

 

Today, the edge called.

It doesn’t happen often. Mostly I can walk myself away from it.

But it was a persistent morning of blue.

Nothing more to be said. Except that when walking can’t shift things, I go to the only source I trust.

Poetry.

As I was leaving to walk the Camino Mozárabe, one of my ”poem friends” gave me this. It was true on that road, and today, although it isn’t actually true, somehow reading it is enough. I don’t need to meet strangers because I met the poem. And so I am found, just as it foretells.

Poems. The lived experience of others making sense of the world.

This one is by Dorianne Laux…

 

For The Sake of Strangers

 

No matter what the grief, its weight,

we are obliged to carry it.

We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength

that pushes us through crowds.

And then the young boy gives me directions

so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,

waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.

All day it continues, each kindness

reaching toward another – a stranger

singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees

offering their blossoms, a retarded child

who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.

Somehow they always find me, seem even

to be waiting, determined to keep me

from myself, from the thing that calls to me

as it must once have called to them –

this temptation to step off the edge

and fall weightless, away from the world.

 

I’m so grateful poems can find me, and I’m reminded that “blue” is a colour I love.

Maybe I’ll sit with it awhile.

And remember to look up…

 

That poem won’t be in the Poetica programme. There just wasn’t room for the entire swag! But the ones that found me on the road will be, along with those that made me walk, and some that were written for me.

Please join me in celebrating words, journeys, and the talent of the sound artist, on Radio National. The Poetica programme I wrote and performed is available now for Podcast. I was so lucky to have had such care taken with the making of it.

Details can be found here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/poetica/2012-05-05/3967108

Stop a moment and listen.

It’s like looking up…

Offerings…

If I could paint, this is what I would paint for you.

Lighthouses have become significant for me in so many new ways lately.

But they have always spoken to all of us.

And they speak in light.

Like music, it’s a language I love, but speak without fluency.

This is my attempt to speak with light.

An attempt to offer thanks.

My next offering is in the language of sound.

Not music, although music does play a part.

And there are some words.

I’m hugely excited to tell you that ABC Radio’s Poetica programme has made a companion piece to the book. It was produced with great delicacy by Anne McInerney and engineered by Angela Grant, and it highlights the poems that inspired me, poems that were written for me, and poems that found me along the road.

I’m indebted to Anne for making something so beautiful, and for giving me a chance to expand on one of the key themes of the book – the way that poetry shapes my days.

Please download and listen.

It’s free – and it’s absolutely for you.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/poetica/2012-05-05/3967108

Finally, I want to offer you some words written as an offering to a man who ran a bookshop in Barcelona.

A man whose family had run it for over 120 years.

A man of dignity and spirit.

This piece was an offering to him, and it is now for you, courtesy of Melbourne’s magnificent Wheeler Centre for ideas, books, words and all things good and great.

I’m lucky to be there, as I was for Debut Monday two short weeks ago.

Please have a read, and hold Señor Martinez in your thoughts for a moment.

Such losses are hard to bear.

http://wheelercentre.com/dailies/post/2ee069a28671/

And if you feel inclined to leave him a message on the Wheeler site, please do. I will be sending him the link so that he can read the piece, and know that over here in Australia, his kindness impacted.

Offerings.

Me to you.

I hope you find some sustenance.

Or pleasure.

My village

Often when I walked I was moved by the sense of community I observed in the Spanish pueblos. People in small towns battened down against the elements and the swirling forces of global economies, swapping tomatoes and jokes, bread and comfort, chorizo and chat. They knew each other’s most intimate details, gathered for births, deaths and fiestas, and committed to wading through the tough times together, and celebrating the joys.

The life of a village has always been seductive to me – the idea that we are all responsible to those within the sound of the church bell. Walking across Spain, there would be mornings when I would hear bells from all sides, in all notes, ringing out to me across the fields. I loved it, though it did occasionally make me lonely. I was reminded that in spite of kindness and welcome, I was an outsider, a pilgrim passing through.

It’s easy to forget that I inhabit a village.

Mine isn’t a picturesque camino pueblo with adobe houses, or white-washed walls, or a town square. It isn’t focussed around a church or a community centre or a bar. It isn’t in a physical space at all, although there are places where I can locate deep connection. Places where I have history on the earth, like the house in which I type these words, and the neighbours and shopkeepers nearby.

But that isn’t it.

My village is located in the ether. It lives in the space and time alignment that we call love. It has been forged through travails and triumphs and poems and wishes. It is often glued together by laughter, but tears have cemented much of it too. Loss has also shaped this village, so when there is a gain, we all rejoice.

This last week has reminded me of the depth and breadth and potency of my community. As the book began to make its way into the world, my village has been holding a fiesta! Photos arrived in my Inbox – people I love holding the book, shouting its praises to the skies, and spreading the word as though it was their own. And of course it IS their own! I’ve learned that my book is no longer mine. Maybe it never was. It has its own life, and to see it snuggling into the hands of my village, my beloveds…Well that is joy unexpected and unparalleled.

My villagers have become ambassadors, mailing information to journalists and peers, chirping to the twitterverse, group emailing their fingers raw, and waltzing into bookshops and libraries demanding they stock SINNING ACROSS SPAIN.

“Everyone in Claremont will want to read this book!” one friend said to a bemused bookseller.

Now that is faith!

I was even sent flowers for my opening night! Some of my village know the traditions of the theatre live deep in my bones, and that although there is no curtain or lights up, “attention must be paid.”

Well attention has certainly been paid.

I’m sitting here at my keyboard, the most confounding, wonderful, frustrating view I know, trying once again to suck words from the air to express my gratitude for the miracle of my village life. For the mystery of love, and that I get to wallow in so much of it. For the fact that my journey is your journey. That your days create my days – colour them, infuse them, light them. That we all hear a bell, and move toward a village square that exists in the space between our hearts.

We have a centre. A forum. A meeting place. We know where it is.

And we flock there. Every day.

Thanks for gathering for me this week. Thanks for ringing the bell.

I bow in gratitude.