zaterdag 28 september 2013

Day 40. Walking with my mother & father

The end and the beginning. I had feared this day. But only in the last couple of days, because for a long time there had been no end and no beginning apart from the beginning and the ending of the day.
I had been enclosed in the day, lived the day like you live a life. Getting up in the morning, smiling, a full day ahead of me. Packing, moving my feet, a new road, new people, new stories. The smells, the sounds, the unexpected events. Things going wrong, things going right by going wrong, jumping, stumbling, embracing, standing still in the movement.

This last day was reserved by my parents. And it made sense. They gave me every day of my life, they gave me the end and the beginning. They taught me how to walk.

My mother had sent me an e-mail yesterday. Asking if my grandmother could come along too. Of course she could. In fact she was there already. And today they were all there. My mother, who at her heydays had 32 cats and a couple of dogs (amongst other animals), was there this morning when I woke up in the lonely forest, still wondering where on earth all those dogs I had heard were located and discovered that across the small path a cat and dog pension was located, hidden behind the trees. My grandmother, who loved flowers, when I started walking and entered the village of Auriol and saw the sign "ville fleurie", flower village. I petted all the cats I saw, drank my coffee the way my grandmother taught me to drink it. Bought a map. Remembered the man from Cuges-les-Pins whom I met last week just when I was looking at my route and who told me that I wouldn't be able to cross the mountains. They were too high. He said I should walk around them.

But I was walking with my father today. So there was no way around it.

I crossed the mountains. It took most of the day. My bag was heavy because I had collected some extra things in the last days. It was hot, I had to carry enough water. But I walked as if I had only just started walking, as if there was nothing on my back.

My mother stayed at the foot of the mountains. My father went all the way to the top when I decided to walk on after the Col de Bertagne. My grandmother accompanied me until the sun set and I saw Cuges-les-Pins in the far distance.

It still took me another 2 hours. And before I walked into the Nomadic Village I stopped and sat down at a bench in the middle of Cuges. I waited. But I wasn't sure what I was waiting for. For something to end or for something to begin.

zondag 22 september 2013

Day 39. Walking with Anton Tellegen

Last breakfast with a mountain

First stop in Châteauneuf-le-Rouge where there is a line in front of a shop on the village square. I approach and see a shop window with the most amazing cakes and pastries. Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't eat any birthday cake. And more important: today I am walking with Toon Tellegen's father, Anton Tellegen. It is his birthday, and I don't know anybody who is more keen on cakes than Toon is.
The moment I sit down, sip my coffee, take a bite, open my computer, an e-mail arrives. It is Toon. He must have smelled the chocolate cake.

I asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell me about his father. He writes that his father was a kind man.

I walk on. Walking with a dead man sometimes makes more sense than symbolically walking with somebody who is alive. You know that that person is somewhere else really. But the dead person isn't anywhere, so he can just as well be there with you.

I like spending time with kind people.

I thought the walking would be difficult today because the map showed big roads but the map is only a map and it didn't show how empty the roads are, how much space there is for the walker. It is an eerie landscape, now and then I look back and see the mountain range I walked through yesterday. Table mountains. I think of Cape Town, South Africa.

Sometimes you encounter strange things on the road. I bump into a black panter, lying on top of a pile of shoes. The panter is harmless, the shoes are old. There is a lot of rubbish aside the road anyway. It always makes me sad.

After les Michels it is forest again. Breathing space. I walk until I arrive at the Vallon de l'Homme Mort, the Valley of the Dead Man. I walk through it and at the other side I see the last mountain range I have to cross. It sounds cliché but I think about the promised land. It looks like it. Maybe it is the light, maybe it is the 40 days, maybe it is the name of this Valley. Anyway. Almost there. I feel happy. I feel sad. I try to stay in the almost.

The last night out on my own. I want to sleep in the wild. I find the perfect spot on a hill under an olive tree. The sun sets, I eat the leftovers from yesterdays birthday diner, pizza with eggplant, parmigiano and herbs, red wine, fresh figs from the trees around the corner.

At night I wake up because I hear something, someone, stumbling around in the bushes next to my tent. I know the smallest animals usually make the biggest sound but it does feel like a creature with a reasonable size. In the night I am not afraid of animals, only of human beings. A snoring sound. It is only a wild pig. I fall asleep again.

zaterdag 21 september 2013

Day 38. Walking with Monique Besten

I celebrate today in the company of a mountain. We changed colours this morning. I felt softer. He looked tougher than he did yesterday. He didn't move, so I stayed too. I came closer even. And thought about leaving by staying, moving by only closing your eyes. Whenever I look up from my ipad I see him. Her. It.
This morning I stared at the peaks while eating my breakfast. I sat in the grass. When I stood up two small snails had crawled onto my trousers.

Mont Sainte-Victoire. Cézanne's mountain.

Happy birthday to me. (And thank you Albert for giving me a day for myself.)

vrijdag 20 september 2013

Day 37. Walking with Dix for Teun

I don't plan ahead. I wake up. I look at the map. I walk. I arrive somewhere. I never really know where.
Today I circled a mountain. Throughout the day I saw all sides of the mountain. I saw it in different lights. From different perspectives. With different eyes. I thought I'd seen it before. But I didn't think too much about it.

The forest I woke up in the morning was empty. I was on my own. The sound of my walking stick on the dry earth. In the far distance gunshots. Hunting season. I made sure I stayed on the paths.

There were signs saying I wasn't allowed to be in the forest after 11.00 because of the dryness and risk of fire. The signs saying there we hunters about were getting more prominent. But there was no other way. I continued.

My walk today was a birthday present. Somebody asked me to walk because it was his friend's birthday. I wondered if this friend thought about me, envisaged me walking, heard my footsteps even. I didn't know anything about this man, about Teun, only that today was his birthday. I thought of him. While approaching the mountain. My footsteps were his present. The view of the mountain.

No coffee in St-Marc-Jaumegarde. More people on the road. I thought it was because of the lake. The Lac du Bimont. I crossed le Barrage.

The mountain was beautiful. It looked soft. Its surface was grey and pink and a greyish green and some black dots. It looked as if it wanted to be stroked. But I was too far away still. My eyes ran over its sides, reached the peak.

And then I saw it.

Mont Saint Victoire.

My eyes ran over my map. And there it was in small letters. Refuge Cézanne. And I saw the mountain in my head. I saw all its colours, all its sides. In miniature. In frames.
I kept them closed for a long time, tried to forget. And then I opened them again.

It was huge. It was a mountain.

donderdag 19 september 2013

Day 36. Walking with Mimi Allin

She asked me to walk with the moon and I chose a full moon day. In fact the moon was full in the morning and I already practised yesterday night, sitting outside, sipping my wine, being seduced by the moonlight. I can never resist a full moon, I have to watch it, I have to be out in the open. And I was tonight. Alone in the mountains.

I didn't walk as much today as I normally do. I took a train from Orange to Avignon, from Avignon to Cavaillon. There I took a bus to Pertuis. And from there I walked. The city was bigger than I expected, bigger than what I hoped for, big roads, fast cars, difficult walking, but I managed. And anyway, my journey isn't about walking the beautiful paths, the wonderful nature. It is about walking, moving, getting there, putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I wondered if I was even allowed to walk there. At this strip of concrete where cars where rushing by.

I arrived at Meyrargues, I walked into the forest, I found a quiet spot. I waited for the moon but it took so long and I fell asleep. And I dreamt of the moon. In fact there where three moons in my dream and I knew I had to choose one, I knew there would be no use in trying to focus on three moons. I didn't know which one was the real one, the best one, the one I should focus on but then I woke up and the forest was silent and the light was overwhelming. I sat in front of my tent in the moonlight. I thought I saw a deer and I bet the deer thought it saw me but we both weren't sure and we remained still and looked at each other's moon shadow. I don't know how long I sat there, it felt as if the shadows got shorter, the wood got lighter, the moon got bigger, I got smaller.

Until I disappeared.

woensdag 18 september 2013

Day 35. Walking with Vera Ketelaars and Renée van Marissing

I mentioned it before, the Sideways Festival I walked in last year. Actually Dee, with whom I walked yesterday, was the author of the project I was involved in, the Walking Library. This library was carried around on the backs of Walking Librarians. The library consisted of books chosen according to the following question: what book would you bring on a long walk if you would only be allowed to bring one book?

I chose Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. The book has everything. After I carried it around in Belgium as part of the library, being read by many people, I took the book home  to reread it myself. Not the words though but the traces people had left. Stains, folds, cracks, tears, dog ears.

When I got a tattoo, I chose a font with a similar name as one of the Invisible Cities: Euphemia.

Vera and Renée didn't know all this when they sent me the last part of the book to read on their day:

The Great Khan's atlas contains also the maps of the promised lands visited in thought but not yet discovered or founded: New Atlantis, Utopia, the City of the Sun, Oceana, Tamoe, New Harmony, New Lanark, Icaria.
Kublai asked Marco: 'You, who go about exploring and who see signs, can tell me towards which of these futures the favouring winds are driving us.'
'For these ports I could not draw a route on the map or set a date for the landing. At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passersby meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put 
together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them. If I tell you that the city towards which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop. Perhaps while we speak, it is rising, scattered, within the confines of your empire; you can hunt for it, but only in the way I have said.'
Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions: Enoch, Babylon, Yahooland, Butua, Brave New World.
He said: 'It is all useless, if the last landing-place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever- narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.'
And Polo said: 'The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.'

 Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

The things I saw that day and remembered are many. I might have to invent new words to write them down. I might need to place them in the context of 40 walking days. Take that day out of the row and rebuilt it, construct it with the memories of other days as a basis. I will do that. Once I've arrived. In the temporal village I am heading towards.

dinsdag 17 september 2013

Day 34. Walking with Dee Heddon

Two people walked with me. They were both real. But one was really present and the other one wasn't.

I hadn't seen Simon for more than two months. We met in Sweden, exploring the pioneer life and both trying to find out how we could simplify our way of existence. He lived not far from my route, he arrived in a car with the words "buurt slagers" removed from the side but still clearly readable. He had no idea it was Dutch. Or what it meant. Neighbourhood butchers.

We walked from Prévenchère through the mountains. We talked a lot and we kept forgetting to look for the proper signs. It didn't matter too much. As long as the direction was south.

Now and then Dee joined us. At regular points like a bend in the road, the bottom of a hill, the middle of a long, straight path. She had asked me to insert a simple action into my walk, she would do the same in her regular walking route:

1) pause and look ahead at the route to come and then 2) turn round and survey the route just walked. I want us to really see and notice where we are going and where we have come from. When we look ahead, we might imagine - project - an image of ourselves walking there. When we look back we might imagine what that place looked like a moment ago, when we were in it, moving through it.

Dee was wearing the hat she had been wearing when I last saw her. A t-shirt, walking trousers, walking shoes. I wondered if I walked with her in a suit. Considering she never saw me wearing anything else, I figured that was how she saw me.

At first when I looked back I saw myself repeating the movements I had made before. At least I thought I did. At some point something changed though and instead of going right I saw myself going left. Jumping over a puddle instead of walking around it. Running when I had walked slowly. And when I looked ahead I didn't see my back but I would see myself walking towards me, passing me without seeing me. Sometimes I was alone, at other times one or two of my companions joined me. There was one turn where I could almost hear them talking together. When I joined the conversation they were gone again. And when I looked back I just saw myself, standing still, listening to myself walking ahead.

We reached a town, just the two of us. Dee had gone. Back to where she came from. Or ahead, somewhere waiting for us. Simon went back along the same road. When he returned with the car I forgot to ask if he had encountered any of the projections of us.
We ate pizza without meat in the former butcher's car. Drove into the woods until we found a quiet spot. Camped under an almost full moon.

maandag 16 september 2013

Day 33. Walking with Alison Bell and Solla

I left Luc early, it was freezing cold. I sacrificed a pair of socks. I cut two small holes. Now I had mittens.
The blackberries were back and I ate them, I hadn't seen them for days which was good because I was getting afraid my blood would turn into blackberry juice. I can't resist them.

Two companions today. Alison Bell asked me : "Think of past lovers and the joy they brought into your life, think of this, for all of us out there who remember and smile."
Solla asked me to use my heart: "Ask for food, ask nature or people you meet, you can do it straight out or in a more delicate way and by giving something from your heart on that day." She asked me to really look at people, look them in the eye and see them from my heart.

Coffee in La Bastide-Puylaurent. I don't like asking for food or drinks. I payed. I looked the lady in the eyes. She smiled. I gave her a tip.

I had received so much already during this walk. Coffee, tea, pancakes, fruit, diners and deserts, wine and snacks. We had been generous, the people and me. Sharing stories, chocolate, attention, smiles, food, ideas, anything. Today was a day to remember that. And smile at anybody, even on this cold day, especially on this cold day.

I thought about past lovers, about love, about being loved. And it warmed me. And there is much to say about that. Not so long ago I read Barthes' "A lovers discourse", a shocking book in a way, but I realised again we are all the same, we do the same thing again and again. Love is never a new thing, it is the same thing always. And it is true what Bobin writes:

"... love does not fill anything, not the hole you have in your head, not the abyss that you have in your heart. Love is an absence much more than a fullness. Love is a fullness of absence, this is, I grant you, an incomprehensible thing. But this thing that is impossible to understand is so very simple to live ....."

and wearing my suit, my soft armour, my body, I thought of John Berger too:

 “To be so desired – if the desire is also reciprocal – renders the one who is desired fearless. No suit of armour ... ever offered, when worn, a comparable sense of protection. To be desired is perhaps the closest anybody can reach in this life to feeling immortal.”

I walked and the sun started to shine. The views were amazing. Finally I walked in the mountains without just looking at them from a distance.

There were no villages. And at some point the path I walked on turned into silver. There were hundreds of grasshoppers sitting in the sun and with every step I took they jumped up, showing the beautiful blue of their hind wings which is usually hidden.

I tried to catch the blue and I failed but it is in my memory and when I close my eyes I can see it.

I walked to Prévenchères where a friend was waiting for me. I looked him in the eye. He took me out for a very nice dinner.

zondag 15 september 2013

Day 32. Walking with Gert Boer

Today should have been the 58th birthday of Diny, whose favorite walking boots were flipflops. She died two years ago. I don't know her but a friend of hers, who is a walker and a runner, asked me to walk with him. He wrote me about Diny and her flipflops. He gave me a half marathon in euros.

So I start the day on flipflops and walk 211 steps. It rains and it is cold. I consider walking all the way on flipflops but I'm afraid I won't get far. 211 steps. With every step I imagine I cover 100 meter. 211 steps covering a whole life. Impossible.

I leave Pradelles and only when I already walked at least a kilometer and look back I see how beautiful the village is situated in the fields. I entered from the other end, big ugly streets, a lovely historic centre though. And a closed campsite.

Like the days before, the GR 700 joins the Stevenson route now and then, the GR 70. Stevenson (famous for his book Treasure Island) travelled this area with a donkey and he wrote a book about it, Travels with a donkey through the Cevennes. Most people I encounter walk his route. I see a lot of donkeys although nobody is travelling with one. They stand in the fields. Looking at the passers by.

Langogne. And on. On my way to Luc. It is the nearest place on my route with a campsite. I look in my guide book. I count the kilometers. Pradelles - Langogne: 5,5. Langogne - carrefour du GR 70: 3,5. And from there to Luc: 12. I am walking 21 kilometers today. Maybe even 21.1. But it might just as well be 21.4 or 21.7. It doesn't matter really.

I arrive in Luc. It is getting dark. And windy. The campsite is open, but only because there is no way to close it. A big open field. A small concrete sanitary house. A note saying I have to register at the bar in the village.

I install myself in the washing room. My 1.80 meter mattress almost fits in diagonally when I only inflate it partially. There is warm water, a socket to charge my ipad, a lock on the door. 4 walls and a roof. Luxury.

I read the e-mail Gert sent me again. Somewhere he quotes Friedrich: das Notwendige nicht bloss ertragen sonders ES LIEBEN! and he wonders whether there is wisdom in it and whether there is wisdom. I think of a Bobin quote:

"Savoir qu'on est vivant est tout savoir.", "Knowing you are alive is knowing everything."

zaterdag 14 september 2013

Day 31. Walking with Felieke, Jan and Felix

At the end of the day I am in a room with a poster on the wall depicting all the animals living in this area. I am delighted. I see some of the birds I couldn't name today. I see some birds I haven't seen. I 
don't see the hoopoe.

I didn't see it today, this bird Felieke, Jan and Felix asked me to keep an eye out for. But yesterday, when I walked with a different assignment, I saw a paper cup lying on the road with the word HOP printed in big letters on the side. Hop is the Dutch name for hoopoe. I thought it might be a sign. But it wasn't. It was MacDonalds. Later on I saw two more cups. Both saying HOP.

- the sound of the green woodpecker and the sound of a pheasant while waking up
- small birds, roaming around in the bushes, invisible
- the first one I actually see! but it is too quick, it is brown, that is all I can say
- a crow crowing
- a buzzard
- a falcon
- those little brown guys, what are they called in English? one is squashed on the pavement but most of them are up in the air
- a big one with a white tail (the poster says it is a specific type of buzzard)
- loads of swallows dipping into a fountain
- four geese trying to chase me out of a village
- a big one with black fingertips (another buzzard species?)
- kites, again and again
- a pigeon now and then
- more falcons, praying
- a single magpie
- a beautiful tune but I don't know what bird belongs to it

And at the end of the day I want to camp outside to hear the owl. But the campsite is closed and it is getting dark and cold and the gîtes are so ridiculously cheap here so I find myself under a roof again.

There is an owl on the poster though. But still no hoopoe.

I take my pencil. There it is. In a big tree.

vrijdag 13 september 2013

Day 30. Walking with Fee Plumley

I almost ruined it in the end. It was 7 o' clock, Friday the 13th. Fee Plumley had asked me to notice the things that went right today. It had been a sunny day but it was getting cold and dark clouds were coming in. The farmers were still working like crazy. I knew what that ment. Rain. I thought of what I would write, later on in my tiny tent, freezing. I thought how I would write that of course you can't expect everything to go right on a day like this. I was wondering if I might be too late already and wouldn't manage to unpack before the clouds would open up and it would start to pour. Because pouring it would. I was sure about that. How could it not? So I decided to stop, eat what was left of my bread and cheese, the last banana, the three lonely dried apricots- why on earth had I thought I would bump into some food later on in the day?- pitch my tent behind the stack of stones and call it a day. I sat down, ate everything, saw the clouds getting closer, becoming darker. But I didn't feel comfortable about the location. Too many houses nearby. Not hidden enough.

It had started well. I had slept in the youth hostel. Nobody was at the reception when I arrived but there was a man who had an empty bed in his room so he gave me the code and showed me the bed. I slept well. I woke up early to wander around the beautiful city, le  Puy en Velay. I bought some breakfast and sat at the cathedral steps to eat it. I got the Grand Randonnée 700 guide at the information office. I left the youth hostel without paying. I hesitated, wondering if it would create bad karma and also feeling sorry I hadn't asked the man who rescued me for his name, he had already left. But he passed my table when I was drinking a quick cafe au lait before leaving the city. Nicolas. I thanked him, offered him a coffee now and a bed if he would ever need one in Amsterdam. Clean conscience. Moving on. Nicolas showed me where to go. I walked in his footsteps. He came from the direction I was heading, he had walked the Stevenson Route through the Cévennes. The GR 700 follows some of the same paths. I would walk in Stevensons footsteps too.
Warm, sunny, lovely. Climbing. 635 meters at the starting point, over 1000 when I stopped to install myself in my tent. When I decided to walk on.

I walked on. I passed a loaded plum tree. I filled a plastic bag with beautiful purple plums. I passed a house. Two agressive dogs approached me but I escaped. The nearest village, 8 houses big, wasn't far. One house had a sign. Gîtes de France. I rang the bell. The woman showed me a lovely house. I payed 20 euros for the night. She brought me fresh sheets. She heated the water for the shower. She brought bread and ham and cheese and canned paté and a sausage and tomatoes and very tasty "cornichons" and coffee and a roll of chocolate princes. It didn't rain. Or maybe it did but I didn't hear it because I was listening to some music or sleeping like a rose in the big soft bed.

Man. I felt like the luckiest person on earth.

donderdag 12 september 2013

Day 29. Walking with Christian French and Cathy Turner

Some people I consider myself closer to than most of the people I call my friends didn't join me on my long walk. I don't mind. Friendship is never about obligations. And I figured I was walking with them anyway. Until I thought about it again today. And realised they might not be my walking partners after all.

I think they are my beacons. They show me where to go.

Today I started building a beacon myself. I didn't complete it yet, I mainly collected the material:

- lots of rope in blue, white and red
- some metal thread
- natural whistles (acorn caps)
- metal foil
- an old deflated balloon
- some stones
- branches with a bright yellow moss
- a plastic circle
- a bullet shell
- a tiny nicely shaped bottle
- red and white striped plastic ribbon

Everything in the colours of the trail I followed today, the red and white from the Grand Randonnée 3 and the yellow and blue from the Pilgrim Trail.

It will become a beacon for Christian French aka Transitman. I'm walking with him today and I've got a feeling he might need a beacon. Or maybe the beacon needs him to make clear what it is for.

I walked with Cathy Turner as well. Normally I don't share a day with two people but sometimes it is nice to make connections. Sometimes two walkers doesn't mean having to divide my attention but means having two times as much attention and energy.

Cathy brought in the beacons. I saw her carrying some through Belgium last year. We both walked in the Sideways Festival. The beacons Cathy carried were small, light and elegant. She left them at different sites, not knowing beforehand what would be the best place to leave them. Today she walked from Beacon Site to Beacon Site, starting in Exeter. She texted me when she was at the first one, called Beacon Heath to tell me there was no heath and no beacons.

I walked towards the mountains. Yesterday I saw them from my train window. This morning I saw them when I opened my tent. I knew I would be safe if I tried to stay close to them.

It was a long walk to le Puy en Velay. I had no idea what to expect. The small city was bigger than I thought. And it was built around two small mountains, two rocks. I climbed the stairs and steep cobble stoned roads to the highest part of the city. When I looked back, to where I had come from, the sky had turned dark and I saw the small mountain again, the rock with the chapel on top. Lighted now.

I realised some beacons are ahead of you, they bring you safely to where you need to go. You see their light from afar, they attract your attention. Some beacons are behind you. You might not even know they are beacons until you look back to where you came from. And see their light, the light you didn't see when you were near them.

And I am not sure if this makes sense but there is something I read in Dag Hammerskjöld's book Waymarks I had to think of.

"Perhaps a great friendship is never reciprocated. Perhaps, had it been warmed and protected by its counterpart in another, it could never have grown to maturity.
It “gives” us nothing. But in the space of its silence it leads us up to heights with wide insights."

woensdag 11 september 2013

Day 28. Walking with Robert van Heumen

Moving on. The strike is over but the train breaks down. Getting stuck the whole afternoon again. Arriving late in Vorey. 17.00 The wise thing to do is choose a campsite. There is one with 3 and one with 4 stars. But the mountains stare at me. I can't resist them. I walk. And find a place to camp with thousands of stars. In the middle of a corn field.

I always try to avoid the big "W"s. The Who and What for and Where and the biggest one of all, Why? But Robert van Heumen asked me why creativity and walking go together so well. He asked me to focus on the solitary and simple act of walking on a day that will be or might already be in the history books as one of the most disastrous days in history. And I had planned to walk, to travel by train yesterday and walk in the mountains today. But there was a strike and today there are delays and I spend most of the day walking in a city while waiting for the next connection, not having any creative thoughts, mainly thinking about my next steps, my next days, how to change my plans for today, how to still walk solitary and in silence, trying to do that in this big city but failing ..........

But in the evening there is nothing I have to worry about. My house is on my back, my feet move and nothing can go wrong. Before I end up in the corn field under the thousands of stars I think a thousand thoughts. So much has been said about this subject, so many people I could quote. I think Walser, I think Auster, I think Herzog, I think Benjamin, I think Thoreau. I move through different worlds, putting one foot in front of the other.

When I sit still, at home, it works in a similar way. But the thoughts pile up, there is chaos. And when there is nothing, when the thoughts don't flow, there is panic. Distraction is needed to fill the gap.
When walking there is always the walking. And the walking brings you back to the thinking. There is room for everything. For nothing.

It is said standing upright and starting to walk gave us a bigger brain, the walking made us human.

And something else. Something I am very aware of while doing this, being in the middle of the walking: reality often goes beyond your wildest imagination. When you move through it, things happen, things fall in place. Or get disrupted and everything moves upside down so you see it from a different perspective. When you just walk and keep your eyes open, you will see things, hear things, encounter things you would have never thought of. Or thought of at your table at home and considered too far out to put on paper.

Things change though when you are on the road for a long time. You get lost in the walking. The walking takes you, draws you in. You want to just walk and be in the walking. Other things start to matter less. Or maybe it is just your perception of time that changes. In the beginning every day is a single day, they are like beads on a necklace, they all ask for a seperate story. But at some point it becomes just one single walk. And the walk becomes your life.

I remembered a haiku Dee Heddon wrote a year ago:

step step step step step
step step step step step step step
step step step step step

And this makes me think of a quote by Brandon laBelle:

 "to step is to dream"

I never considered myself a dreamer, I always considered myself a realist. But maybe it can be the same thing.

dinsdag 10 september 2013

Day 27. Walking with Sylvia de Hartog

The day started with a song. It was a song I knew, I could hear it somewhere in the back of my mind but I no longer knew the proper melody. Sylvia, who had given me the song to spend the day with, used to sing it a lot when she was a kid. It was her favorite song, she loved the melody and for her a whole new world was hidden in it. The song is about a strange poor guy who was tired of walking and had lost his flute, the thing he loved most in the world. The person singing the song had found the flute. As simple as that.

She sang it for me when I woke up this morning.

I arrived in Autun yesterday, I had walked 27 km from Anost in the afternoon and planned to take a bus and a train in the direction of Le Puy this morning to be able to walk another 15 km in the afternoon. I left early, took the bus, arrived in Chagny and learned a new French word. Grève. Strike. They are good at that here. I had forgotten.
There would be a train in the afternoon but it was unsure if there would be a connection. I didn't want to be stranded in Lyon. So I decided to be stranded here.

I got the biggest place at the campsite, number 13. It had the most sun. And a beautiful tree. My neighbours borrowed me a chair. I heard the song in my head.

I sat in the chair in the sun for a while. Then I walked. Through the streets of Chagny. Old buildings, stone walls, small shops. I heard the song. I still wasn't sure what the melody was but I heard it. And another song. A sad song. A song about a young cow on an old farmer's wagon on its way to the market, looking sadly at the birds, singing and flying around freely. I heard my mother sing it.

There were three walking routes indicated. I took the shortest one, 11 km. The blue route. It was nice. Fields and hills and views, small and big animals, nothing special. I tried to find the right melody for the song. I kept hearing the other song. I saw the strange poor man walking past the wagon with the young cow.

I came home. Sat in my chair. The neighbours brought me pancakes with maple sirop and green tea. I charged my ipad in the sanitary block where the only socket was. Somebody invited me for coffee and chocolate. We talked for two hours. I returned to the sanitary block, plugged my ipad in again, sat on a plastic chair in my three piece suit next to a yellow sign saying "attention sol glissant", "take care, slippery surface". But the ground was dry. And I heard a song. But it was the skype tune. Somebody tried to contact me.
It was my mother. The wifi signal wasn't strong enough though.

I sang the song.