I am on an evening walk. It is dark but not too dark. The full moon shows its face every once in a while through the clouds that are gently drifting in from the south-east. Walkin in the dark is very different from walking in day time. You walk in a more feeling way, more in a hearing way. It is quieter, I can hear my breathing. Sometimes there is a rustle in the leaves. The light of the moon in winter time is different from summer time.; softer and more quiet. It colours the trees en the shrubs and the leaves on the path in many different shades of grey. In me it gets quieter and more still as well. The moonlight that colours everything in these beautiful, soft shades of grey invites me to look and listen inside as well, to the grey shades of my own body and soul.
I was at the IDFA festival today with my colleague coaches, where we saw the documentary “Sheep Hero”. A hard headed sheep herd who has to stand up to cutbacks and reorganisations. You also saw straight away that his stubbornness was the reason that he couldn’t make any choice other than following his heart’s direction, untill the inevitable end. We heard and saw him making his stubborn choices and we could predict the end of his story from the start. You can do that because you have some distance to him. I wonder who can predict my choices, who can already tell the river of my story; gently, softly, with all the twists and bends. Who can tell your choices and story; gently, lovingly, almost without questions?
John O’Donohue writes a beauftiful piece about making choices in his book ‘Walking in Wonder’
“That is one of the fascinating things in going through the world -you wonder at destiny, at the way that life actually flowes and moves and grows. I have a great suspicion of of an awful lot of what is paraded as moral decision and moral rectitude and moral recognition, I think there is a beautiful morality of possibility to be written, because placing all the emphasis on moral choice is very limiting. Choise is always about loss; you choose one thing over the other several things. And maybe the soul doesn’t want to do that. It is a very interesting question: whether in the course of your life, you had to choose one direction, if in actual fact, in the unknown area of your life, your other unchosen lives might not actually travel with you as well. Maybe one of the great surprises we will get in the wonder moment of after-death is that when we wake up and straighten up in that new kingdom, we will find that all our unchosen and unlived lives are there to welcome us as well”.
It’s an early Sunday morning. The first frost on the fields slowly disappears under a clear, cold sun. Geese huddle together. Enthousiastic church bells try to lure the last of the faithful to the service. In the forest, two woodpeckers signal each other from a distance. The last of the yellowing leaves hold on to the branches. It’s a very different atmosphere from what I remember from my childhood. The evening fell quicker then, maybe because there was less light and less business in the evenings, maybe because I was a child. The headlights of my bicycle beamed through the mist and the dynamo made a zooming noise. But the reception of St. Nicolas hasn’t changed. With my school class behind the band to the big hall in our village, where a few children, the very good or the very naughty were seen by St. Nicolas. I was never one of them, always with the majority in the back. Not that I minded, I wasn’t looking for attention. St. Nicolas was still a severe albeit just person and Pete was still the helper with the rod and the sack. I was more afraid of the severity of Nicolas than of Pete’s rod. And then, in fairy tales it is always the younger brother, the unnoticed and the servant that turns out to be the real heroe. At the end I would walk with a brown paper bag in which there were an orange, some ‘pepernoten’ and a marzipan frog to my aunts’ house where the adults were watching the first black and white tv set. The rope that I had dangerously slung across the road in front of our house in my youthful ignorance however did make into the Saint’s red book. In a house call he made I had to confess and promise never to repeat this. I then got a handful of pepernoten from Pete. Yes, Saint Nicolas was very Catholic in those days; do penance and receive a reward.
People now want change, I hear and see. People long for change and safety in an uncertain world, a feeling of home. For some that is going back to their childhood, for others it’s a place in society. I have no longing for the days of my childhood. My longing is for belonging and love in the world of today.
Yet I find beauty in the way people project their longing for and the safety of home on Pete. Not on Nicolas the Saint, but on Pete the helper. As in the fairy tales it’s the helper that becomes the symbol of everybody’s hero. An encouraging thought.
In the afternoon the suns slowly disappears in the lowering clouds. It gets chilly and a bit darker. The forest floor is strewn with fallen leaves, the same colour as the trees surrounding me. Sometimes it feels like there is no up or below, only my feet that intermittendly touch the ground tell me that there is a path. Now that I can’t see the sun anymore I easily get lost in the forest. All of a sudden I realise that I am back at the same point where I was an hour ago. I have walked in a circle, even with the red/white markings to guide me. Later, the autumn light turns to a milky grey covering the fields and the forest. Everything becomes one-dimensional. It brings me back to my walk through the vastness of Germany, three years ago. It was a deeply unhappy time. On rainy and even on cloudy days I felt the loneliness and sadness pulling me almost irresistably toward a desperate and dreadful void. I needed every ray of sunshine to distinguish my path. Lots and lots of sunshine and a big dose of willpower helped me get to Passau that year. Some days you really need the sun and your ego to go further than just walking, even if it’s a lonely journey..
The morning starts with a hazy sun over the heather at Hoorneboeg, the moors south of Hilversum where I start my walk towards Amersfoort, some 30 kilometres. Colours fade in this light, they become soft and diffuse. So different from the bright sun that lights everything up, that marks and distinguishes the colours. Today they mingle, interact. Today I feel the colours rather than seeing them. It makes me think of the how we often use the logic of words to differentiate. The flowing of the colours lets me feel and shows me how we may also use words to connect to a place where everything comes together in softness and oneness. No more ‘you or I’, no more ‘this or that’, but a place where that distinction is no longer needed, no longer exists. It is slow language, I notice when I try to use it. We are so used to use words for protection, for attacking, for differentiating; afraid as we are of loosing ourselves. Words that connect, that takes searching, explaining, hesitating. Looking for my vulnerability again and again because the connection can be so naked and I stumble into my protections so easily. Slowly I am learning it; the soft language, the nakedness and the vulnerability. Also in my masters study, where I am allowed to reflect softly and read a lot about inclusive language and servant leadership. I still get this feeling that sometimes it is being used as a method, an instrument. Words like ‘excelllent’ and ‘outstanding’e are used a lot and that makes it sound distinguishing to me. (There may be a slight allergy towards authority and pride here on my side ;). A law in constellation work tells us that everybody has their place, everybody is unique and nobody is special. When there is a place for everybodey, for you and for me, then there is no need for distinguishing, then everybody is ‘excellent’. Servant leadership takes place where the connecting is, where softness and oneness are allowed.
The grey and the diffuse, the loneliness and the connection lie close together today.
The very last day of summer. There always seems to be a new last summers’ day these days. I am walking along the little river Linge, surrounded by orchards and trees on fertile soil, left behind from the times when it was still flooding the surrounding lands. It’s a friendly river now, we have tamed its’ wildness long ago, the way we tamed much of the water and the landscape here. Water is the source of all life. It feels like coming closer to that, walking here. Water can be clear and calm and inviting. It can also be frightful and destructive, as we can see in the images from Indonesia these days.
Things that are tamed have their energy controlled, lessened. I wonder, where does the original or excess energy go? Does it evaporate, does it disappear? Or does it go underground, to the shadows, as I’ve learned from my own taming in childhood. To come out with destructive force, when we least expect it. We have for so long been trying to tame this source of abundance. To rule and regulate. I recognize what it brings us, this taming; more prosperity, contentedness, longer lives. But does it also have a downside? Is it possible that we control largely out of fear for death and sickness, where they are part of life? I compare the flow of water with the flow love, also an energy that we have tamed by subjecting it to rules and regulations. If you take away the flow, you take away some of its’ original and unique qualities. It grows stale, like a pool of water that has no outlet.
This glorious autumn day also has an uneasiness about it. It scares me a bit how I almost take this for granted, this beauty and golden autumn, knowing full well that this is also a sign of things not going well. The ploughed lands are dry, grey from lack of moisture. It’s not how it should be, we know and are told daily in the news. The beauty of the day also makes me feel uneasily privileged. It’s always the ones in power that seem to escape the brutal facts of life, and it makes me one of them. How about the people affected by floods, earthquakes and hurricanes? It makes this day feel like the calm before a storm. What can one person do about this? Oh yes, I support in little ways. I hardly eat meat anymore, buy seasonal veggies, but they are still wrapped in plastic. I don’t buy vegetables from far away countries, but I do fly to the UK regularly for work and study. My heating is off most of the time (which is easy with this type of weather). If I can’t solve it for myself, I am also not going to criticise other people for doing what they do, but it’s a hard to solve dilemma and I know we are not doing enough to stop the storm.
It would seem like mother Earth is revolting against us. We have tamed too much, maybe. Maybe there is a price for taming and preserving. Christianity holds the belief that we are stewards of the earth, but we behave presumptiously like her masters. In the Andes, according to the ‘Pacha Mama’, people see us as her children. I like to think we are intrinsically part of her. Much like Goethe wrote: “Would the eye not have sun like quality, it would not be able to see the sun”. Or take our dreams, where our feelings are translated into images for us to understand. Maybe in the same way our senses experience the earth as a translation of the energy she and us essentially are. Mother earth will survive, I don’t doubt that at all. But will we? Will we still be here to admire her beauty, be fed by all she has to give and show us?
It’s not hard to imagine with the prospects of climate change that the Riders of the Apocalypse are near, according to some. Yet I would say they are not coming to us from the outside. They are inside us, coming out of us, like the untamed parts of ourselves. In contemporary language, their names might be righteousness, arrogance, contempt, and indifference. We all have parts of them inside us. You can’t fight them with their own weapons. All you can do is bring untamed softness and love into the world.
At the end of my walk, on a terrace in a small town, I treat myself to an icecream. It’s good to be kind to oneself as well 🙂
We have been promised warm and sunny weather today. Maybe the last warm day of the year. I took a whole day off for this, a whole day of idling through the dunes and the forest. It is still early when I arrive, a bleak almost full moon shows up in the western sky. There is quiet, all you hear are birds, the forest breathes morning. My lower back and leg muscles enjoy the movement and my spine happily moves along.
A couple of kilometres down the path, a man is intensely busy taking pictures of a bunch of mushrooms. He lights the scene with a lamp. I can hear the repetitive click of his camera. How many pictures can you take of a bunch of mushrooms? He doesn’t notice the walker. A schoolclass also comes into the forest, under strict guidance of their teacher telling them to behave, I imagine that if they still want to have fun today, they just have to be naughty. At ten o’clock I hear churchbells on the wind, they don’t sound like funeral, more like wedding bells. The path is strewn with early and unfullgrown acorns. They are still falling where I walk. How big is the chance that one will fall on your head? How much chance do you have that a bird shits on your head? Or that you get a tick bite? None of which has ever happened to me. The one of ticks may be viewed as a small miracle, seeing as how I walk so much and rather carelessly through shrubs and forests. The chestnusts are also early this year. I gather them for my chestnut dinner later, in November. They are also rather small thanks to a hot and dry summer. A summer that as far as I am concerned could have lasted till Christmas. On the free roaming path for dogs I meet my eternal adversary; dogs and especially their owners always get to me.
Thoughts come up; about the choices that I make, about how I am going to shape this intensive masters that I started, about customers that I still need to contact. They come and flow away again. Some emotional ones stay and ask for a bit of attention.
In the afternoon I find a nice hill where I stretch my legs and almost naked enjoy the warmth of the sun. There is quiet around me, only in the far distance can I hear the shouts of children. It is a conscious joy; this could be the last warm day of the year, after all. Late in the afternoon, when the shadows grow long, a stillness comes over the dunes. A deep stillness, a golden stillness in which you don’t have to think or judge anything anymore. I listen to it. Slowly it permeates my skin and settles in my inner being.
I leave the dunes before the setting sun reaches the point where loneliness begins. And luckily also just before a large gang of loud (male) MTB’s makes their presence known.
I am in Utrecht today and I realise suddenly that there is one little piece of idling left behind. It is the walk between Werkhoven and Wijk bij Duurstede that Anke and I didn’t do for lack of time. Today is a great day for that walk. It takes me along the kromme Rijn (curved Rhine), which today is a small river that meanders in the direction of Utrecht. In the days of the Roman Empire, this used to be the boundary of their realm, a river that was four times broader then it is now and lookin more like the river Rhine as we know it from Germany. Almost strange to realise that this river becomes a small stream to end up in the Norh Sea near Katwijk. It feels symbolical to human life; to start off as a fizzy mountain stream, to become a majestic, busy river in midlife and to end up again like the small stream it was at the start.
It is a lovely late summers’ day, you can feel the warmth of the sun between the high flat clouds and a warm wind makes itself felt. Nature that was in autumn clothes just a month ago has recovered, the meadows are green and the treas have grown new leaves. Almost so as to spite our short news-orientend brains.
I am still not sure about the idling. I have noticed that I do need a goal to start moving. Without a goal the walking is slower and less far. That shouldn’t be an issue for real idling but I am not toally satisfied at the end of the day, some days totally not satisfied. It seems that for me having a goal is important and it is equally important to enjoy the walk while meandering towards that goal.
Today I thoroughly enjoyed the meandering path along the curved Rhine.
A short walk today, near my hometown Baarlo, after visiting my mother. It is windy and much cooler then the weeks and months before. In its place come huge beautiful clouds and the threat of a thunderstorm. It doesn’t come closer than one flash of lightning and the fierce rumbling of thunder.
Being here also brings me back to my youth and my first real girlfriend. There were no dating apps or relation sites. You just had to walk into someone. Most of them were succesful, I notice, looking around me. I read in todays newspaper that dating gives you the opportunity to broaden your scope and heighten your chances. You are no longer restricted to your social circle or the 30 people at the pub, they say. I read with mixed feelings. First of all it would stress me out, so much choice. And it is not like there weren’t any loving relationships from the lesser choice before the app. I am now in a situation where friends council me to date. I hesitate, shiver is a better word for it. I too have, like most of us, the longing for connection and intimacy that even a loving friendship doesn’t bring. But it would have to be someone who is in tune with my 60 years of full living and experiences. I imagine it would be someone who likes long walks and can be deeply attentive. Being attentive prolongs time and slows down, hence the long walk. The movement of the walk then creates a feeling of connection and contact. Ideally followed by one flash of lightning and a rumbling of thunder. Does that fit in an app?
So beautiful that it just had to be shared….just, or rather feel the music if you are so lucky not to understand the Spanish.
But for those who would want to understand the words:
Singing’s full of meaning, full of meaning, understanding and reason
and good pronunciation, good pronunciation from the instrument to the ear
Look at that lily, over time it fades, and there’s spring that makes it blossom
You are the lily, ah!, give me your perfume, for I am the spring, so let me live
The caged heron doesn’t sing as it is used to sing in the skies, and the sleeping sea
it’s song in chaines is a song of death, why then do you, Lord insist in prolonging its song?
What am I doing alone in the field, what am I doing alone in the field, what am I doing out here alone
I’m not falling in love or singing,I am nost singing or falling in love.
The breeze is sighing, sighing far away and it opens a white rosebud
The larva comes out of his silken prison and turns into a beazutiful butterfly
Singing’s full of meaning, full of meaning, understanding and reason
At the end of a day that started and ended with rain, with cloudy skies in between. Over river dikes and across orchards. Stealing fresh and lovely apples. At the end of that day lies the quietness of a clear washed sky.
The morning at the farmers’ camp site starts at 6 with the feeding of the cows, who were already for some time asking for that. Still, I manage to doze on in my cozy little tent, waiting for a reluctant sun. The days are already growing shorter, darkness comes earlier.
The muffled sun accompanies me as I walk across the heights that guided the river Rhine westward, long ago. Dry leaves rustle under my feet and in the wind. There is a musty and stuffy smell in the forest. A sad and sorrowful early autumn feeling. It feels like someone or something has furtively taken away the summer. It is busy on the paths; mountainbikers, hikers with and without backpacks, families. I am the only one to feel this way?
At the market place in Wageningen I treat myself to a sandwich, that later on noisily tries to leave me. My stomach is good at enduring, something that at least now is helpful. The sun now stings through the high clouds and I walk sweating on the Rhine dike. It may look like hardship, but I actually enjoy this. Or is this just another type of endurance?
Later that afternoon, with a low sun, the wind rustles the leaves of the poplars near the river. It is a rustling at a time that never fails to give me this intense and deep feeling of loneliness. Where it comes from, I don’t know. The natural pool at the little camp site brings relief and chilling.