Holiday Nostalgia, Journeying and the Path Ahead

Sometimes something makes me reflect on the impact of past events. One such is that Facebook brought to my notice that Journeying is thirty years old next year. That struck a note with me because the first holiday I went on with what was then Pilgrim Adventure was on their tend anniversary. That means that next year is twenty years since I first holidayed with them. Not that I have holidayed with them ever since.I haven’t but we are not getting ahead with the story let me go back to the beginning.

I booked the first holiday less than a week before leaving. This is not my normal style, I do slow planning. However, that year I desperately needed a holiday and had not got one organised. I suppose I should say something of why but forgive me my brevity there are long stories and confidences involved. About three years earlier my boyfriend had turned out not to exist. If that does not make sense to you, that is fine; it does not really make sense to me after living with it for over twenty years. I also was supporting a friend who was being stalked and there was a break down in relationships around us. I was also working full time and doing church-related study. The church-related study might sound silly but it was also the main way I got support from outside of the tight-knit group around my friend.

At my friend’s suggestion, I got hold of the Retreats Association publication that listed many retreats.  I am a Reformed Christian. The Reformed tradition does not really get ‘retreats’ as a whole. It does, however, get walking particularly walking within the natural environment as there is a strong environmental streak within the Reformed psyche. On the back page, I saw a small advert for Pilgrim Adventure and it clicked with me. So I think I must have emailed them and then received an email back saying there was a space on a holiday less than a week later. The next week was frantic with negotiations going on as to where exactly to meet up with them and trying to locate the necessary accommodation. My boss made an emergency trip home to pick up a sleeping mat for me the day before I left. But a week late I was staying in the tent below in the Lake District

In those days camping was fairly normal, indeed they owned the tent. The holiday worked for me in a number of ways. I found I enjoyed camping though I was cold, my sleeping bag really was not up to camping in a typical English Summer i.e. cool and damp and the sleeping mat was minimal although if I recall correctly one camper did not even have that. The camping enjoyment was two-fold; I found being forced to be away from tech good, my day job means I am always using tech, and I had my own space in the tent.   I enjoyed the walks although my fitness level was relatively poor. The group was unusual; fortunately, nobody who wanted any more than light friendliness with me. I was not ready for close friendship, there were Pilgrim Adventure stalwarts and a number of maturer Anglican women who seemed new to the organisation. The reasons that I remember it is twenty years is that I can remember the conversations about this being ten years.  For a variety of reasons, we must have been an odd group but a lot of the time I was floating and not being drawn into subgroups. I was sorry to go home at the end. I can remember sitting on a style and just not wanting it to finish but knowing it would. I am not going to pretend it was perfect but if it had been perfect it would not have suited me as well.

Not surprising the next year I was back. Firstly there was a camp at the end of June and then I think a holiday in Ireland or was it the other way around?

The following a trip walking St Cuthbert’s  Way. I can only date that because it was the year  Mary Low published her guide with Wild Goose. There was something really special about walking that route.  I am struggling to explain the holiday. It is probably the most influential of the holidays I took with Pilgrim Adventure. The crossing over to Lindisfarne by the Pilgrim Path is something special, in part captured by the piece I wrote last year after walking St Cuthbert’s Way by myself. Yet at the same time, it was a difficult time for me and cracks started to show. I had not yet learnt that I need to regulate myself similar to Lindisfarne. There are times when I enjoy being with people but there are also times when I need to be by myself. Maybe just maybe, there was something more complex yet going on. Whatever it was I ended up ill and needing some time out.

I think the year that followed,  for the only time in Pilgrim’s Adventure/Journeying history there was a Northern Group, that complemented the core group around Bristol and did weekend walks and such. The North is a big place and getting together for a day walk can be difficult. The next summer ended up travelling to Shetland. The time was fantastic for wildlife including being called over by one of the leaders to stand inches from a sleeping otter. One thing these holidays taught me is that if you want to see wildlife you need to be out for long periods of time. The year after I went to Ireland again but things did not work well. I ended up struggling with lactose intolerance (I think the Irish put milk into a lot of their bread) and being peopled out. Pilgrim Adventure was now usually staying in hostels or B&B and that meant sharing a room.  It was not that I needed my own room, it is that I need alone time and travelling with people, sharing meals with people and sleeping without the freedom to head out in free time just exhausts me.

Did I go on one last camping trip or was that the end. My memory serves both stories. Whatever it was life, was moving along.  I was now doing a masters degree in Sociology at the OU and then start my PhD (finished two years ago). I would go through burn out with my involvement in my local congregation and then spend a summer volunteering on Iona (shared accommodation, shared meals but in time off I could disappear whether to St Columba’s bay or just to my bed to sleep).  Finally, my Goddaughters, who I would have been guardian too if anything happened to their parents, moved to Scotland and I need to use my holiday to keep in contact with them.

Time moves on again, the PhD is finished and my Goddaughters are growing into young women and no longer need me as a guardian. This could be just an exercise in nostalgia only it isn’t. The last three years I have been getting myself fit enough to solitary walk and last year I walked the Northumberland Coastal Path and St Cuthbert’s Way. This year I walked the Cleveland Way from Helmsley to Whitby. The experience of walking a route with my pack is something I relish. There is something very deep about the moving a walking pace from one place to another with all you need in your pack and meeting fellow travellers on the way. There is something special about receiving what the path brings you as gift. As you have to be out regardless, I carry full waterproofs, you are out in the most spectacular of weathers.  Yes, I am already beginning to plan me walk for next year, the next challenge. I am not yet up to carrying camping gear as well.  I know there is something in me that really want to. I ask questions about how I would cope as just over fifty is different to just over thirty. So I book myself beds for the nights but I am happy as long as it is somewhere to sleep.  So even if I am not going on one of Journeying’s holidays next year, the holidays I am doing are still shaped by them

Jack the Hunter

As the swallows gather on telephone wires
I wake out of my summer slumber
and start to trace the lines of the breeze
while I drift among the trees
cupping the leaves within my hands
I  breathing on them
turning this one red and that one yellow
they remain a while glowing in autumn sun .

 

When they start to fall
my shadow stalks
in twilight airs
careful not to step too heavily
on rain-sodden ground
I linger amongst the  bare trees
wary I listen
caressing  the grass
til each blade is outlined in white
waiting until the ground is quiet
and then on a clear night
I fall.
White traceries mark
my touch down
but seeking
the  resting place
of the dew waters
I dive deeper,
until I have
the earth
in my grip.

 

This poem I published in  “Scissors, Paper, Shadow, Stone” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2012

South Rhins

I turn south at the isthmus
and move into the fog-laden peninsula
as I approach
scavenging rooks rise
from roadkill carcass
trees grasp overhead as
the road clambers onto the ridge
the curlews call from below
along the rock-strewn shoreline
while in single road villages
fuchsias flower on flat-topped walls
sparrow crowds cling
feeding on pampas seed
and when they are no more
beside the white pillar gate posts
marshmallow roses bathe
in Virginia creeper claret.

This poem I published in  “Scissors, Paper, Shadow, Stone” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2012

List Making

In the time
that does not exist
between me getting in
and having to be out
I am planning
a list of jobs
that I will
postpone.

This poem I published in  “Scissors, Paper, Shadow, Stone” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2012

Shrove Tide

Between the lighting of
a candle and
the beating of
batter,
at the barren bound time
when the cold iron air
hits the hard flint
earth
a spark
is created
that will light
the spring fire
of the coming year.

This poem I published in  “Everything Looks Green From Here” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2010

Ice Ages

Sprite child on sighting snow
dances with delight
at a miracle not seen before
each precious flake hoarded
to build an eight inch
snowman

Students delight in time
out of school, vying
to build the best igloo
or using compressed handfuls
in their own power
struggles

Adult involved in balancing
complex priorities, choosing
between the demands of safety
and the necessary tasks
deciding what to let
slide

Elderly trapped within
the icy waste around
their own secure home
unable to step beyond their
front door for fear of
failing.

This poem I published in  “Everything Looks Green From Here” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2010

Deer

Seaward driven by winter’s hunger
twig thieving from a barren hedge
our headlights capture you
a frightened harbinger of snow.

I published  a different version of this poem in  “Everything Looks Green From Here” a collection of prose and poetry from Broomspring Writers in 2010