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publication of my first book

This is the post excerpt.

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This is my first blog since the publication of my book KIWI ON THE CAMINO: A Walk that Changed My Life. It is listed on BalboaPress.com and Amazon.com (also Amazon.ca). An e-book will soon be available.

The book is about the 900 kilometre (500 miles) journey I undertook, with my husband in 2014, along the medieval pilgrimage trails of the Camino de Santiago and the Camino Finisterre. We walked the French route from St -Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to the sacred site of the cathedral in Santiago where it is reputed that the remains of the martyred apostle St James are laid. We then walked the remaining 100 kilometers (68 miles) to the beach at Finisterre on the Atlantic Coast where it is believed that St James’ disciples brought his de-capitated body to be buried. The journey took us seven weeks and we met interesting people, made new friends, had lots of fun and laughter, and experienced pain, hunger, thirst and distress. The walk took us over mountains and through valleys and across the great Meseta, the breadbasket of Spain. Overall, was it a great experience. Absolutely.

I have tagged the wordpress blog site “Whereisbrianna” for that blog follows our journey along the two Caminos. I came up with the Name ‘Brianna’ as a combination of my husband and my names. I no longer use that blog site, but you may be interested in having a look. My blog entries were the notes I used to create KIWI ON THE CAMINO

 

Below is a short excerpt from near the beginning of KIWI ON THE CAMINO.

“Throughout the Camino, our pace will be set by our wills, our bodies, our mental state and perhaps even by events unanticipated at the start. We will be living for seven weeks without the so called essential trappings of a contemporary western lifestyle: no television, advertising, or purchased entertainment, life stripped down to what is necessary. My life on the Camino has already become simplified to what I carry on my back, the food, shelter and drink we might need and how and where these might be found. While longing for adventure and the spiritual, mental and physical challenge of a long walk, I know I also need to step outside the complexity of contemporary life, to let go of being over-responsible, to slow down to human speed, to notice and enjoy how my five senses respond to my environment. Moving at a human speed will help me remember that it is the small things of life that are important. I need to be more fully engaged in the present moment instead of constantly thinking ahead. In so doing, I will enjoy the gift of life which my normal frenetic activity precludes. I know I want to spend most of the daylight hours outside, among nature, experiencing what is lost to me in my predominantly indoor city life. I am yearning for solitude in a physical and spiritual space where I can hear my own thoughts. I want to be able to relax into each daily decision. My Camino and pilgrimage is about letting go and becoming. In my sixtieth year, on this pilgrimage, I have the time and space to reflect upon my life, to consider what might lie ahead and how I might best live whatever length of life I have remaining to me on this precious Earth. I want to trust and have faith that my journey will unfold in the way it needs to.”

Travel well through your life

Vivianne

 

 

 

The Frenetic Pace of City Living and the promise inherit in a rainbow fragment

I’ve been in the city for a month now and can see and feel all around me the frantic pace  and resulting stress of the city dwellers. I notice the resignation and/or frustration on the faces of strangers sitting in cars that are stationery or moving so slowly, taking 30 minutes to drive what would usually take just 5 minutes. The slowness of traffic  just adds to the overall pace of life.

I have become aware that it is not just solitude I need on a regular basis, but also stillness. One of the things I have taken from my pilgrimage along the Camino Francis is the understanding of the importance of stillness. Solitude and stillness was available to me even while walking. A frantic pace of life makes it difficult to find times of solitude and stillness. We all too quickly adjusts to being super busy and living at the pace required to keep up the adrenaline rush.

Classroom teachers talk of their concern that young people today are unable to be still long enough to engage with their learning. They are so used to being in environments of stimulation and entertainment.  John O’Donohue in anam cara writes, “Pacal said that many of our major problems derive from our inability to sit still in a room. Stillness is vital to the world of the soul” (p. 234). He also writes that our lives are restless because our minds are always elsewhere, either in the past or the future. What I notice about myself, is that my mind is often not on the task at hand, but thinking about what I need to be doing. Lists help me here, for once something is written down, I no longer have to think about it – to remember – and I can later take the time to plan the task or accomplish it – get it ticked off.

So in my time in the city, where I currently find myself – and I am grateful I have the flexibility in my life to be in the city right now to give family members support – I need to take the time for stillness, to be prayerful, to be grateful, to be quiet, to be still.

With the above in mind, I went for an early morning walk (although not so early because of the extended daylight saving hours and the later time of the sun’s rising) and spotted a small strand of colour in the sky. I couldn’t see any rain at all, but took heart from the encouragement of the band of colour. There was promise for me in that band of colour. May my life continue to have purpose and contribute to the well-being of those whom I love and  the others who come into my life.

faint rainbow in a rain free sky

A Moral Imperative to Find ongoing Meaning in Life

I have just finished reading When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi with an Epilogue by his widow, Lucy Kalanithi. Paul was a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist before his death from a very rare form of lung cancer (and no he was not a smoker) at the age of 37. In his last year of life, he became a writer. The above book was published posthumously and I recommend it as a powerful book of integrity.  Paul looked into the eyes of death with fortitude and grace. He wrote as a doctor and a patient.

His writing triggered my thinking yet again about the meaningfulness of my life now that I am two years post working for ‘a living’. I had been having another one of those days where I was wondering – yet again – what is my current life purpose? What am I doing that is of value? I find I get into this kind of existential space when I seem to have unspoken for time on my hands. I don’t like to ‘waste’ time. I want – I need – to believe that I am using time in a meaningful way. Just living for pleasure, or yet another experience  is not enough for me. I have people in my life who love me. I am so grateful for this and yet I still need more. I need to have purpose and be giving beyond those who love me.

After finishing When Breath becomes Air I wrote myself some questions:

Am I living my life with integrity and in doing so, facing my inevitable death with grace?

Why do I wonder about such things so often? I am well and strong. My parents are elderly and perhaps this is a reason for my wondering about life and death and the balance that exists between them. Thinking (reluctantly) about their deaths necessarily has me consider my own leaving of this current life.

Or it is that I now have time to reflect – to think; one of the changes I hoped for post my pilgrimage across Spain?

While I still have agency in my life – which I continue to believe and accept as a gift to be shared – I dare to hope that my days will be full of meaning and purpose beyond the contribution of grand-parenting activities, important as these are.

Prayerful-ness, reading, reflection and writing sustain the hope for purpose and meaning and have me believe my life has meaning beyond myself.

Perhaps some of these wonderings lie within my hope to be daily living the principles of pilgrimage in my everyday life.

 

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An Irony – and Unforced Rhythms of Grace

The entrance to the Tairua Estuary with a strong-ish Nor’ester blowing in

the Tairua estuary

Driving over to Tairua, to give the second of my three author talks on the Coromandel Peninsula, I was thinking about how busy my life had become since publishing Kiwi on the Camino: A Walk that Changed My Life. I think I have commented before about the unexpected work that self-publishing a book produces in the marketing of the book. In writing this blog, it now occurs to me that even authors who publish through traditional publishers ‘hit the trail’. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my trips about the place meeting such interesting people and making new friends. I like this aspect of my new life since publishing Kiwi on the Camino. It is just the irony of thinking about my second book with the working title A Slower Life: Living the Dream on the Coromandel and my concern about keeping busyness away.  And the reality is, there is no comparison with my former city life.

The comparison I am making, is my current life, with my life of hibernation – of living on my own for four months and just writing. What a luxury that was. Time just to be in the zone of writing. Few authors get that kind of space. I now need to learn to be disciplined and set the time aside each designated working day to write.

Leaving for Tairua, with the worry of busyness once again taking over, I made sure I left home early enough to be able to stop and relax. So I did stop at the rest stop to have a look across the water to the islands. I did take the time to walk the short path to the end of the bluff to get a better view. And after my talk, which threatened to not happen – I didn’t realize I need to take the data projector from the Thames Library across to Tairua – but the local printers came to the rescue and unearth their machine –  I found a picnic spot beside the estuary and watched the waves, the seagulls, greeted the few people as they passed by, and watched the speed boat head out across the Bar only to turn back. Such a sensible decision to turn back when the going is too rough. I will take that picture with me into the coming weeks. That it is okay to change my mind sometimes. To turn around in the face of too big a challenge.

How important it is to me to take the time to still myself and to reflect upon experiences. It is in the reflection that I integrate the various events in the experiences and thread them together with Meaning. It is in the reflection that meaning becomes possible.

So thank you Tairua Library staff for inviting me to meet and talk with you and some others. And I am thankful I was able to take time afterwards to walk upon the shore, smell the salt air so much more vigorous with the waves pounding upon the sand and wave to the boatie as he returned to the safety of the Tairua harbour.

It is in the reflection that meaning is made of experiences. I am looking forward to this coming winter where I begin to shape my notes into manuscript number two.

Buen Camino for our daily pilgrimage through our ordinary lives, which are afterall, pretty extra-ordinary.

 

 

Storm Battered But Still Afloat. A metaphor for human life.

I’m not one for new year resolutions, but I do begin each year with hope for a year where I live my life well. I hope for a life that will benefit others and be creatively fulfilling for myself. I continue to want to live the principles of pilgrimage on a daily basis and hope to remember to live my life prayerfully, simply, thankfully and with gratitude. To do so, I need to live my life slowly. To remember to avoid buying on impulse as most things I will be able to do without.

I am aware that there will be some rough times through the year. That is how life is. We had a storm last week and many people’s homes were inundated with sea water. The Thames / Coromandel coast road was heavily battered and undermined. Once again, communities were cut off as road crews worked to move debris so people could be on the move. We had just returned our dingy to its dingy shed some 24 hours before the storm hit. Bruce checked the shed and dingy early in the morning, before high tide, and said there was a little damage, but all was fixable. Little did we know, the tide would come surging in, an extremely high tide with waves driven against the shore by the storm strength winds. A man later told us he saw the tree trunk that a wave picked up and hit our shed.

We visited the scene at low tide to discover that the shed is no more. The pieces are scattered across the rocks waiting for us to collect them before the next super high tide can sweep them away to become a hazard to boats. Our dingy was lying on the rocks with one side destroyed.

battered by the storm

This is a dingy that we have had for many a years. An old wooden dingy that is a good size for our use and one Bruce has reinforced so it can be dragged over the rocky shore. We were not sure it was salvageable. At the next high tide, when we went back to retrieve the dingy, to our amazement, it was floating. Storm battered, but still afloat. Because Bruce had reinforced the bottom of the little boat, it was able to float on the now still, calm water. Yes, we are going to restore this little boat. How could we not? The one post and top of another, are all that remain of the dingy shed which housed this sturdy little boat.

battered but still afloat

Humilty

Such an old fashioned word, but one I have been thinking about recently. Two events have brought this word to my attention. To start with the second one first.

Today, I spent some time with one of my granddaughters walking around the art shops here in our small fishing village of Coromandel. When my granddaughter talked with the artists we met, she impressed them with her questions indicating a flair for art. Some of them have gave her a small gift of their art as an appreciation for her talent and interest. Occasionally, the artist looked to me for an answer, and I just suggested they ask the young girl – for she had the insight, not I. It was humbling for me to be with my granddaughter and to witness her obvious passion and talent for artistic beauty. I just do not have it to that degree.

The second event has come through my reading of a book called “Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins. I realise the subject of composting human manure can be a very challenging topic for many people. For me, however, the idea of recycling all our ‘waste’ seems to be a natural progression from my decision to move away from eating animal productsto eating a plant based diet. This decision to eat a plant based diet, came about after walking the 900kms along the Camino de Santiago and Camino Finisterre in 2014. At the end of this journey, I was far more aware of my responsibility to live care-fully on this only home we have, that is our treasured planet earth. I write a little about this in my book Kiwi on the Camino.

The second event – my reading about how to compost human ‘waste’ – which I no longer call waste as it is recyclable – is the other link to my thinking about the notion of ‘humility’. Bruce and I have been recycling our food scrapes for many years so are familiar with composting processes. We are in the beginning stages of planning to build our new home, here in Coromandel, and are are thrilled to have a builder and an engineer who understand our requirements to recycle both the black water and grey water we produce on a daily basis. Thus, we have a builder who is familiar with installing a commercial composting toilet and an engineer who is familiar with recycling all the water from our washing machine, dish washer, shower etc. We will also have solar panels on our roof which we hope will generate all the electricity we will need. I will not have a clothes dryer as we will use solar energy (i.e. an external clothes line) or in wet weather, dry our clothes by our wood fire. We obtain our fire wood from our property.

What has recycling our human ‘waste’ got to do with humility? Jenkins – in his book Humanure Handbook – writes of a time he met with a community of nuns called the Sisters of Humility (see p. 69). He writes that the sisters said that the word humble and  humus come from the same semantic root. They also suggested that human is related to these two words. Therefore, they, as sisters of humility decided to recycle their digestive products. They suggested that recycling the by-products of digestion is an act of humility. I like this idea and have decided that recycling the by-products of digestion is an act of acknowledgement that I am a small part in the cycle of life. Also recycling is an acknowledgement of the debt I owe both to the planet, the growers of my food, those who provide for my daily needs, and above all to the Creator who holds all things in His love and provision.

I have still much to learn about how to recycle all our ‘leftovers’ safely and well, to ensure that all pathogens are destroyed, but I have confidence we can do this and that the planet, our neighbours – both human and animal – as well as ourselves, will benefit from our attempts at humility and care.

Changes with the change of season

Bruce waiting for Norma to be pulled out

Summer is so very welcome. I’ve had a view days back in the city of Hamilton, NZ, and what a difference the sunny warm days have made. Usually on my morning walks, no one greets me. After a few days of warm sunshine everyone looks at me and smiles. Even those riding their bikes and who come up from behind me greet me as they pedal passed. They all smile. The weather has been so wet for so many months and now, everyone I meet has raised faces and look happy.

And Bruce and I are now back in Coromandel. We are so blessed and are grateful we live in such a beautiful place. The photo is of our 100 year old single plank kauri launch. She is on her trailer waiting to be towed out of the water. It is time for her six monthly water-blast and anti-foul. There are not many old wooden boats left in the country and we have many hours of fun aboard our old boat. Thank goodness we have a ‘real’ summer again after years of rainy, windy summer days.

Review of my book – Kiwi on the Camino

I am excited to have the review from Flaxroots. It can be found on http://www.flaxroots.com/flaxflower.

The other good news is I have begun writing again. I have had an article accepted for Walking NZ and look forward to seeing that in print.

We have plans to build me a purpose built little writing house where I will have grand views of the Coromandel Harbour and of the bush. How fortunate I am to be married to a man who is enthusiastic and supportive of my writing endeavours and believes in me so much he is prepared to build me a detached writing space.  I will post photos once we have begun the building process.