It gets harder. The excitement of dealing with the difficulties isn't over but I am getting tired. So much is happening every day. In the beginning the experience of spending a cold night under a raincoat in a cornfield was something I enjoyed because it was adventurous. Twisting my back was good because it gave me something to find a solution for. Loosing my coat gave me a story. Everything is a story. And there is a danger in that.
When I am on the road I sometimes get lost in finding words to describe what has just happened. The walking already became a story. Sometimes I find myself thinking about the story instead of looking around me.
"If you allow yourself to become a writer, the catastrophy will be like an avalanche, whereas if you keep walking you might be ok."
I keep coming back to W.G. Sebald.
It isn't the walking that is difficult. Nor the many meetings, the cold nights, the heavy bag. I've got my house on my back, there is plenty of space, I can stay wherever I want and the people I meet are always willing to help. The difficult part is the planning when I know I have to get moving, when I count my days and know I have to catch a train or get a lift somewhere. The knowledge I will be in a big city again, the time pressure. If only I could be walking only, every day again, having no goal ......
Today I am walking with a young woman I walked with before. We carried books through Belgium during a walking project called Sideways. She refused to take photos. She wanted to experience the things, be in the middle of them without trying to catch them. I understood.
Today I feel heavy. There is a long and complicated road ahead, big roads to a big city. I only have 15 days left and it is time to move deeper into the south. Public transport is difficult, finding people to drive me somewhere hasn't happened. So I will walk the big roads to Autun today, more than 25 km. And tonight there will be more rain.
I wanted to stay here, in my cosy gite d'etappe but I have to get walking again, the walking will change things, the road will become my life and I might even enjoy it as much as the other days. And when things are difficult, I realise I am not on my own. There are people thinking of me. And there are these words. The words Amanda wrote to me, under a different name, a nickname I won't use here because I am not sure if I can, but I embroidered that name in my suit this morning.
She wrote to me: "On the day I accompany you, I will go outside and offer a dance in your honor. I hope the rhytm of my steps will echo in your ears, giving you energy to continue walking. I hope the thought of my bare feet on the earth will be a humble reminder of the beauty of simplicity. I hope that maybe the vision of a dancing body will evoke fond memories of a final Sideways celebration: bonfire ablaze, roadside carpet transformed into makeshift dance floor, bodies swaying with reckless abandon, a feeling of joy, a feeling of freedom. I will offer all this to you in a dance."
When I fear the day I think of the people accompanying me and it helps. It changes things. Although I am all alone, we are all in this together. And I don't mean my own small project.
And writing this makes me feel grateful. For having people in my life like Amanda. For being able to be out there on my own and walk this road.
When the road is difficult today I will think of it as a dance. I will dance my way to Autun.