On Maundy Thursday this year, my beloved husband washed my feet. His gentle touch, the cool water spilling over, the comfort of a dry towel softly caressing, and then his prayer of anointment on each foot. He lifted his head to gaze into my eyes with a slow, sweet smile and said, "Just one step at a time.
Tears welled up in my eyes as my soul filled with peaceful hope that my desire to walk the Wicklow Way would be possible even with the many doubts, worries, and physical obstacles arising with the many "steps" to get ready.
Little did I know how immensely more powerful those Maundy Thursday words would be on the walk. Miles and miles and miles of steps...up and down steep rocky mountain trails, along narrow paths across hilltop ridges, on grassy tracks through the dark forests, through open fields with old wooden steps to cross the fences, and even walking asphalt roads to arrive at the next destination.
Little did I know how deeply exhausted my feet and body would be at the end of each day along with the amazing memories of absolutely breathtaking scenery. Every grueling up, up, up, up was met with a view to take your breath away...God's creation in such magnificent glory. Every down, down, down led into lush Irish valleys with gurgling streams. Just one step at a time to drink in every glorious moment and fill my soul while pushing my physical and mental stamina beyond my imagination.
Little did I know somewhere along the way of the next to last day, my right knee would begin screaming at me...with every step. Every step needed focus on where and how to place my foot, how to use my walking sticks, how to adjust my body, and most importantly how to not give up. Little did I know how inspiring and encouraging and helpful my fellow walking pilgrims would be. They were the ones who gave me the strength and courage to keep taking, just one step at a time.
Little did I know that when I awoke on the last day, I could hardly stand yet alone walk. So close to the finish...only one more day of the walk...but, how can I possibly do this for 14 miles? Just one step at a time... there's no hurry... there's no "right way" to do this... there's immense help from Gil and Alicia and Phil... and if I really can't, there's no judgment.
So I began the last day of the Wicklow Way walk from Shillelagh to Clonegal... just one step at a time. And what I saw and thought about and felt will resonate in my soul forever....ah, the work of transformation... just one step at a time.
Still walking... Cathy
Walking the Wicklow Way is my teacher. Here are some lessons She is offering to me. Now I have the choice to learn or not....
• Wherever you go, there you are. How can I be distracted from my pilgrimage when I'm hiking up, up, up, and down, down, down for miles and miles and miles? For 4 days now? I find myself worrying about others on the walk with me... worrying that they are ok... worrying that I'm not doing what is expected... worrying about what others think about me.... and yet, they are very much into their own walk and their own "taking care of themselves." Why do I feel the need to make sure everyone is okay and happy? Ah, my demons of perfectionism and "is everyone happy?" are alive and well even in the extraordinary landscapes and most amazing companions who are walking their pilgrimage without my "help."
• There is such great joy in saying, "I've seen a photo of this view" and now I'm standing there. And yes, there is always a photo taken of me standing there. My beloved has walked the Wicklow Way 2 times before (hence the photos). Even in my imagination there was never a thought that I could do this. Until last year when I asked Gil what he wanted for his 60th birthday and he said, "To go to Ireland." Then the Divine opened my mind to think, "I wonder if I could walk the Wicklow Way with Gil?" Ah, the Divine is always there, ready to open our minds and hearts to our imagination.... I wonder what else I can imagine?
• My beloved daughter and her loving husband are walking the Way with us. There have been such easy, soulful, much time for conversation or just silence as we walk together. This presence together may be the most precious gift of the Wicklow Way. Hey, I've learned a new card game, 31 which is always bring back these memories of being together. I wonder how I will create space for such soulful interactions with others, especially with my family?
• Ah, there is so much more to hear, to experience, to let go of, to open myself to... to just be. Wicklow Way, I embrace your teaching... I want to be a learner open to the Divine and her holy work of transformation. I wonder what will be next?
Wondering during the wandering... Cathy
Today I did something I have never done. I walked 16 miles from Dublin's Marlay Park to Knockree Valley, up and down the Wicklow Mountains. Somewhere during this extraordinary walk, I thought of Annie Lamont's book about prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow! It was a day of prayer beginning with "Help me as I walk today... may I keep remembering it's just one step at time." Then as that first climb out of Marlay Park seemed endless, with heavy breathing, "Help me" was all I could think since I didn't have any breath for anything more.
And then, I came out on the top of this long haul and had a stunning view of Dublin and the Bay. WOW! It was very easy to pray, "Thanks."
As the day continued, it became the rhythm of my walk... Help, Thanks, Wow! not necessarily in that order. Trust me the Wows! were numerous followed by a deep soulful Thanks.
Maybe I need to walk everyday in this way... totally present to when I need help and asking for it, mindful of the wows as help is provided, and deeply grateful the Divine is always moving in me, before me, behind me, and all around me.
On the way... Cathy
In October 2013, I asked Gil what he wanted for his upcoming 60th birthday. Without hesitation, "to go to Ireland." That response was no surprise for me. What did surprise me was how those words stirred my soul. Several days later at breakfast with Gil, I found myself wondering outloud (a very common thing for me).... Do you think I could walk the Wicklow Way with you? I watched a slow, sweet smile come over his face and he said, without hesitation, "Yes, and the preparation begins now."
And so I began... losing weight (30 lbs lighter now), walking and working out everyday (well, there were a few days off), overcoming setbacks with my health (like a broken toe just 4 weeks before leaving for Ireland), mentally working on believing in me just as much as Gil did, and soulfully opening myself up for the Divine to do her work of transformation.
Last week as Gil and I hiked in Prescott, I finally felt in my body, thought in the deepest part of my mind, stirred in my soul, and voiced outloud the words.... "I can do this!" And Gil offered his honest encouragement... "You are good to go!"
Stay tuned.... there are many more stories to tell.... outloud.... right here!!
2Wisdom's Way..... Cathy