2015 and I’m In Ireland again…and it’s like visiting an old friend. You can pick up just where you left off with no judgment, just great joy in being together again. Yet, there are all those new conversations and experiences to be embraced, bringing an added depth to the joy.
Gil and I are on the “holiday” part of our month long stay. And speaking of new experiences, we have set off to explore Northern Ireland, in and around Belfast. We’ve walked through part of the ancient forest of Tollymore, wandered around the ruins of Inch Abbey where the ravens swirled above our heads, found a standing stone out in the fields around Audley’s Castle Ward, and enjoyed a fine supper at The Barking Dog.
In the Tollymore Forest, we walked among the trees along a sparkling, cascading stream. Gil mentioned the “baritone” singing of the stream and I began to listen with more imagination. I could hear the sopranos, altos and tenors where the water was running of the rocks in the shallow places. Then we came to a spot where the water fell into a deep pool… ah, there was the bass voice bringing a new rhythm and sound. Here was a rich place for listening. I wonder how many times I’ve missed the voices in my hurrying and “thinking” listening? May I remember to take time to listen with my imagination.
We spent the next day traveling by train to the Giant’s Causeway… a “geological wonder steeped in legend and folklore.” I dressed for rain and the chilling wind of the sea. The sun was shining almost all day so my rain jacket was tied around my waist and a ball hat was purchased to shade my face! We walked along the top of the cliffs with the sea and the lava formations of Mother Earth on one side and the rolling, 40-shades of green fields and farmhouses on the other. Every step brought a new stunning view of the magnificient Creator’s work of shaping and transforming the molten lava into gorgeous beauty for us to behold. I was vividly reminded how we must actively work to cherish Mother Earth and her gifts to us.
My pilgrimage continues… with the intention “to see and be seen.” One of my spiritual companions has given me some words to carry with me… “You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…” from Mary Oliver’s The Wild Geese.
Always we begin again…. loving…
Two years ago I traveled across Ireland via car as Gil's "support team" for his pilgrimage walk. Today, I reread my journal entries from that journey with new eyes having completed my walking pilgrimage. I had intended to read and reflect on those entries before I came but good intentions were not acted upon. Maybe that was a good thing and now is the perfect time? I wonder how I can continue to be more at peace with not completing the "to do list" and just be in the moment.
My reflections from two years ago were filled with anxiety, heartburn, paralyzing fear, and lots of prayers for HELP! My "want to" was strong to be Gil's helpmate so he could freely walk to fulfill his dream. I honestly find deep satisfaction and good feelings from caregiving and making sure others have what they need. I've been told problem solving is one of my strengths. But I was struggling.. big time!
Before this adventure began, I read Sue Monk Kidd's book, When the Heart Waits. She shares her struggle to find herself in the midst of her life. She describes how on a walk as she sat under a tree she saw a cocoon. She considered it a gift for her and carefully took it home to watch. This cocoon became an inspiration to her reflections and story.
And her story became my inspiration to give myself permission to "cocoon" whenever I felt the need on this journey. As a matter of fact, I named our little rental car, Cocoon. She and I had many lengthy conversations. While Gil conversed with the ravens, I was talking with my car. I did have to apologize quite a bit at the beginning for "scuffing" up her left side hubcabs. Good news, I never clipped her side mirrors. She was a faithful Cocoon and we had lots of road adventures together with no car trouble ever.
My plans to sightsee and shop and explore changed to quiet times of gathering myself after Gil set out, send a daily email to family, post Gil's blog, restock for our needs, stay 3 days ahead in bookings for our evening stay, check out local restaurants to get Gil a hearty vegetarian dinner, and always have a bottle of red wine ready. Traveling to the next "rest stop" at times had many challenges for me because we were truly on a journey of the road less traveled, which included many stops at farm houses, petrol stations, grocery stores, one grandmother at a Catholic Church who drew me a map on the back of her Lotto ticket, and even a fire brigade captain at a blocked road I need to travel down.
As my journey continued, I think I made friends with my demon, Fear. Oh, he was always there but somehow I learned how to get him into the back seat rather than in my lap. And a bit of fear is not always a bad thing. I paid attention better, sorted my thoughts and feelings more honestly, let go and began moving, and asked for help, frequently.
When the final day of Gil's walk came, it would be the longest day ever for him and me. I felt a new calm. And it wasn't because it was the last day because there were many perils still ahead on this walk. I did a few tasks that needed to be done and then just waited. I wanted to sit quietly, in silence... holding space to be still, and know the great I am. It was so peaceful.
On the Wicklow Way walk this year, my friend, Fear was very subdued. The anxiety I felt was more about "let's get started!" And everyday I saw butterflies.... lots of butterflies, flitting around me, ahead of me, encouraging me to spread my wings and fly. Everyday, over and over, the Divine was showing me to begin again... open up... let go some more... and all will be well.
Sitting and walking in silence has created open space in my soul... I wonder where these new wings will take me now? Pilgrimage as a way of life.... thanks be to God.
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
Hi. My name is Gil. I’m a writer. Unfortunately, I am not in recovery. Admittedly, I am addicted to writing. I crave it. Need it. Must have it. When an imaginative word, an artfully woven phrase, or a delicious sentence appears on the page, I get high, flush with the bliss of another emotional dimension. I’m a writer because I write. I’m a writer because I throw myself into the cosmos. For good or ill, I’m a writer because I secretly desire the critique of others. As a confession, my soul is always giddy when I see my work published. True, I am still depressed when I add another rejection letter to overstuffed box. But, I will never give up this addiction. Why would I?
But, I have another confession. Hi. My name is Gil. I pray. I’m addicted to prayer. I pray when I write. I pray when I walk. I pray when I give my dog a bath. I pray when I drive (of course so does everyone else). I’m a person who prays because I pray. I am also one of those weird praying people because I throw my prayer into the soul of God. Then I wait. I ache to hear a response from the Divine. When there is a whisper, a word, a sign of recognition from the Holy, I drift lightly above the earth, riding on the clouds of the Spirit. Though, mostly, I hear nothing. Then I am soul sick. But, despite the wrenching of my heart caused of silence, I cannot give up my addiction to prayer. How could I?
Ok… here is Cathy's confession…. I really, really, really, really, really want anyone who reads this blog to like me… and think I’m cool… and want to keep coming to our website to see what we are saying and doing… so this “wanting” keeps me paralyzed from blogging.
Does anyone out there wrestle with “looking good” and “OMGoodness, how flawed am I?” If I look deeply, I see FEAR hiding in the corner… smirking…
Recently, an inspiring friend of mine posted this on her website (by the way, check out her website at www.wholebeinginc.com)
Are just masks.
What is your
HEART saying that
the MIND feels it
needs to protect
My heart says, wisdom is not found in perfectionism. Wisdom just comes along as your walk your path and open your soul. Quit procrastinating… just blog.
Ok… so here it is… and I’m not going to ask if you like or not because I’m already cool as the one and only me!
As long as I can remember, I have loved learning. I love the intellectual workings of my brain grasping a new idea. I love the feeling of something creative being born in me. I love the sense of expanding my mind and heart and life. There is nothing better than an “ah-ha” moment when something clicks or illuminates or moves my perspective in a different way. Oh, did I mention that I have an insatiable curiosity?