going for a walk
Last week I posted the above sentence without thinking too much, not realising it was more true than I realised at the time... When I was in Holland last week I bought a beautiful pair of hiking boots, sturdy, waterproof, they just needed some practice and a walk through the Dutch polders would do the job. I thought. 16 kilometres later I was limping through the Dutch meadows, cursing endless lanes with no chance of shortcuts unless you jump over 2 metres of water, with two huge blisters on my right foot! Couldn't use the boots for at least 3 days and got stuck with a lingering blister injury between my toes. Don't ask me how you get a blister there, no idea. But the Summer activities went on relentlessly, so off to a family gathering in Yorkshire, UK. Woke up in the middle of the first night there with a roaring toothache! The unhappy crown that had been niggling for about two years, decided to play up a week and a half before the Camino start! The kind dentist who was able to schedule me for an emergency visit, had good and bad news... a small cavity was filled quickly and expertly, but the real problem was a dying and infected tooth --> root canal treatment needed! But when? And where?! I had two days in the UK left, after that 5 days in Holland and then 3 days in Luxembourg until departure. In a panic I called my dentist in Luxembourg and was told he is going on holiday one day after I get back to Luxembourg next week. I have an appointment scheduled, and we shall see if I have to delay the start of the walk. In the meantime the antibiotics that the Yorkshire dentist gave me have kicked in like a dream. No more worries about toothache. Apparently you really don't need nerves in your teeth, what a bad joke in design that was then! And the medicines may fix the blisters as well, who knows? And so tomorrow all my ex-colleagues are going back to work, and what am I doing? Horse riding with my daughter, and the Dutch weather forecast predicts glorious summer weather! Counting my blessings and while the nerves are building up for all that's coming to me in the next months, let alone the dentist's verdict on Wednesday, this journey is an adventure so far, and dealing with it! Inshallah!
There's nothing like a 9-day yoga teacher training with David Swenson, to help you forget about the job you just quit and get rid of all the horror scenarios and anxieties about an impending Camino adventure. David is wise and funny, and studied for years with a very wise and funny man, Sri Pattabhi Jois, who taught Ashtanga yoga for about 70 years. Yoga students of mine may have heard me quote him: "Body not stiff. Mind stiff." David quoted him with: "too much mental". Jois has a totally down-to-earth approach to yoga and life: "Practice, practice, practice, and all will come to you." He didn't say it would all be good what was coming to you, but I was feeling a bit unmoored and needed some anchoring, which the practice provided. It was hard work, and I found 9 days of it a pretty daunting prospect, but by the 5th day my life had narrowed down so much, that I was happily living in Copenhagen, and reporting for duty every morning at 8.30am for another day of practice, teaching and learning. Without a worry about past or future, I was present. At the 7-11 shop where I picked up my morning coffee they knew my face. Did I say 7-11? My first 7-11 corner shop experience was in the tiny village of Pak Chong in Thailand, 1995. It was the only shop in town that vaguely looked western, and we loved going into it, despite knowing it was not western at all. Sticky sweet buns with green bean goo in them, yoghurt cups with durian flavour and other crappy snacks, not to mention the useless toiletries, like 5 different colours and sizes of paper tissues. Back to 2017, the 7-11 in Copenhagen: paleo sandwiches, raw food, smoothies, wonderful coffee, and yes they also had donuts and crisps, but only hand cooked. Copenhagen! Hipster capital! It makes Portland's reputation fade into insignificance. In Copenhagen the hipsters walk the talk! I saw more young men with babies in slings on their belly or their backs, carrying kids on a 'bakfiets', or in a sporty buggy, than women! Add to that Christiania, a tiny hippy free-state; cool design (everything in Denmark is design), and the fabulous cycling options: the Danes cycle exactly as frequently and everywhere as the Dutch. I managed to rent a bike, pay for it, locate the nearest one, find it, unlock it and be off. That's all ok, but... all of these things with just my phone! The Louisiana Museum, half an hour up the road from Copenhagen offered R&R in the sunshine by the sea. Fortunately, they had a retrospective of Marina Abramovic with hands-on experiences. Squeezing yourself past two naked people with about 40cm space between them may not be such a big deal for Danish and Dutch people (I bet the Americans and Brits freaked out about that one), but "The Artist is Present" activity was less popular. I was led to sit opposite someone, a stranger, and we looked into each other's eyes for about 10 minutes. No speaking. It was wonderful and calming, and the magic was that we were communicating, but did not know where we were from, or which language each of us spoke. Still I felt close to her. 'Too much mental', just be present. Look. Walk. One foot in front of the other.
I am not sure if I am in serious denial about undertaking this crazy walk, or whether I am correct, when I calmly tell people that if pilgrims in the Middle Ages could do this walk in sandals and a stick with knapsack over their shoulder, then surely I would not need to spend hundreds of euros on the right rucksack, walking sticks, water bottles, rain gear, merino t-shirts, wicked trousers (no not wicked cool, but wicked to absorb moisture) and glow in the dark laces, right? They didn't book their albergues ahead, did they? There is a nagging little doubt of daunt about this walk, which is perhaps what makes it all the more exciting. The Camino forum adds to the excitement, and not always in a positive way. A woman got flashed by a naked guy in a balaclava. Yikes! People die on the Camino. When I am in the right mood it is a wonderful philosophical idea, to walk The Way and allow life (and death) just to happen along it. When I freak out, I can not imagine ever walking calmly through a forest without looking over my shoulder every 20 metres... In many ways this will be an amazing challenge for me. A challenge to be fearless, but not reckless. A challenge to allow life to happen and take a chance, but not be flippant. Balance. So how am I going to respond when this balaclava guy jumps at me? Run? Laugh in his face? Ignore? Perhaps sit down and start meditating, remove myself from the scene. Or just stop thinking about these things and get on with life. Last four weeks at work, and it is very very easy. Tying up loose ends, preparing the handover, learning some new tech tools, and of course teaching my yoga class. I am already mentally saying farewell to this community, that for 5 years has been a comfortable yet often frustrating place to be, like an old pair of jeans, that wears thin in unacceptable places.... looking forward to a year without structure, but with freedom to be productive and engage in activities that are uplifting and rewarding.