Prose and passion

For years, one of my personal mantras was the E.M. Forster quote Only connect!

Recently, I took the trouble to read “Howard’s End”, and learned that other words followed.

Only connect the prose and the passion, Forster wrote, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.

Prose and passion.

At the end of a camino day, it seemed to me that walking provided both.

There was the prose – the sore feet, the roadside rubbish, the sweat, the search for a sleeping-place, the hand laundering, the scent of massed bodies in crowded quarters, the snoring, the self, and the other pilgrims.

Then there was the passion – the postcard vistas, the roadside flowers, the joyous reunion, the spirit soaring, the self and the other pilgrims.

So much passion…

Discovering a via Romana, a Roman road still intact after two millennia, raised above surrounding fields of faded stalks of wheat.

Ducking beneath the branches of low-hanging fig-trees, their fruit a syrupy sugar-hit to push me forward.


A snake crossing the path.

Singing without censoring.

History underfoot. Romans, Crusades, Franco’s wars.

Speaking poems aloud in time with footsteps.

Back in Australia, I say the same poems as I take mini-caminos.

I walk into a southern sunrise, striding my via Romana around Port Philip Bay, the smell of fig in my nostrils. A willy wag-tail flits past and I wonder how he got to be in Spain. A gull squawks. Worlds collide. I can’t stop grinning, and the early-morning joggers look at me with suspicion. They don’t know I’m on a road that dates back to Roman times. Out in the Bay, wet-suited swimmers look like dolphins.

What? There are no dolphins on the camino. No ferries to Tasmania either.

I pass schoolgirls in groups. They chatter and laugh, smelling of citrus and spring. One walks alone, her head buried in a book. Another bounces to her i-Pod. More groups, grinning, greeting.

All over the city, all over the world, caminos are walked, and connections are made. Prose and passion abound. And love is the height to which we all aspire.


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A mini-camino. A quasi-meseta.

This last weekend, I let myself walk along the hills of the Great Dividing Trail in central Victoria. Old goldfields country. Some of the path cuts through spindly eucalypt forests, where echidnas were probing the dry clay for just one more ant. Some of the path passes rolling hills and farmlands, waiting now for the autumn rains…

                              Along the Great Dividing Trail

As I walked, I kept experiencing that weird “two places in one moment” feeling. It’s not déjà vu, and it’s not in any way a premonition. It’s just a sense that I am in two landscapes simultaneously.

It often happens to me when I walk.

At the weekend, I was beside those fields you can see in the photo up above, and I was also out on the meseta in northern Spain. Dry clear air. A wind at my back. Golden light. And the memory of how, when I actually walked the meseta, I had felt myself to be in Australia as I plodded.

It was a kind of double palimpsesto. Layers underwriting layers of experience. Layers overwriting layers of memory. Odd, but reassuring. And in Spain, a land where there are so many stories underfoot, from so many centuries of questing souls, maybe it is to be expected.

There are stories carved and hacked into the earth here, too. There are songs that sing low on the whispers of breezes that find me between tree trunks.

We are opposites, Spain and Australia, in so many ways. But we are also mirrors.

My heart seeks the similarities. So do my eyes.

Look at this and see if you don’t too…

                                                               My meseta

Walk well, wherever you are. And keep your ears peeled for stories.

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