On the eve of my departure, here is what has gone into my backpack. The absolute minimum!!! And it's coming in just below 8 kg. Not too bad, she says hopefully. I'm heading for Biarritz, then two buses (the train is out due to track problems) to St Jean Pied de Port and a comfy wonderful refugio that provides dinner. I'll try to blog from time to time as I make my way across Spain - first the Pyrenees! - but I can't make any promises. I'm nervous and excited and thrilled and nervous. Into the unknown. Now must go stick the Canadian and Irish flags on.
Only two more days and I am off on pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James. It is also called the Road of Stars as they say it follows the Milky Way. Magical. I'm in the final stages of packing and testing my haversack. The last time I went travelling with a backpack, I was 18 years old, hitch-hiking around Canada and the western seaboard of America. It's been a long time!!! But I shall think of that adventurous young woman as I walk and I shall call on her spirit to keep my much older body going. I'm very excited and also nervous. As Bilbo says, it's a dangerous business going outside your door. You step onto the road and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to!
Here's the heather bed in Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre (www.jampaling.org) where I brought Humpty Dumptina (me) to put herself back together again. It was a great month. I laboured away each morning among the heather: building a rockery, planting new shrubs and plants, weeding, and removing the plastic and rocks that were blocking the older heather from spreading. Took tea and biscuit breaks with the other volunteers and staff (Buddhists Workers Union) and ate the most delicious vegetarian meals cooked by French chef Marie and second chef Zopa. Then I spent the afternoons finishing the script of The Hunter's Moon which I've been trying to finish all year. Done and dusted and already being read by producers! Of course I was also attending and leading the daily pujas/practices and meditations. Last but not least, had wonderful talks with Panchen Otrul Rinpoche, my teacher, and Ani-la, the wonderful nun who founded Jampa Ling. Thank you, my spiritual home!
I've been very bad at keeping up my blogs lately, chiefly because I haven't been writing since this time last year (!). I've been all over the shop - visiting friends in Clare, Derry, Monaghan and Cavan. Also gardening here, there and everywhere - Jampa Ling work weekend and up in the Wicklow Mountains. When I'm not writing I get either sluggish and morose or madly restless and footloose. Which leads me to a serious commitment I have made to one of my bucket list items: the Camino Santiago. Si, I will be heading there soon. More about that anon.
March 10 is the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The uprising failed against the overwhelming forces of the Red Army. His Holiness the Dalai Lama went into exile in India. The destruction of the nation of Tibet continues today with the policy of mass settlement of Han Chinese to make Tibetans a minority in their own country. Tibetan language and culture are suppressed while the Tibetan people suffer discrimination, arrest and torture. It is a crime to display their flag or images of the Dalai Lama. Western countries show friendliness and respect to Tibetans and the Dalai Lama but they do not stand up for Tibet against the Chinese with whom they are all doing business. Commercial interests win out over ethical concerns and human rights. Today I joined fellow Buddhists and Tibetans in a show of support for Tibet on O'Connell Street and a march to the Irish government buildings. It's important that we do not forget.
This be a longer journey than most but here's something I wrote a while back after waking in the middle of the night:
What do you do when your world is falling apart? When you see the chaos coming? When you are assailed by worries about your child's safety? Your finances? Your future?
You accept the truth. In all its stark horror. That there is no security, no safety, no permanence. We live on the edge of catastrophe every day of our lives.
Once we accept this - and push past the terror - we can reach a state of calm. And we can begin to love. Love all around us. Be kind. Be gentle. Love people, animals, plants, insects. Love every second that we live and breathe. Cherish every moment that we are here. For this life is a 'brief sojourn' between two great mysteries:from where we came and to where we go. We don't need to live a big life ... only a life with a big heart.
Apologies for not keeping up my blogs. The latter half of this year has been quite difficult for me and I've been slow to do any writing at all. Hopefully that will change in the new year. Meanwhile, I am busy with Christmas preparations. By way of a Yuletide card, here is a beautiful photograph sent to me by a Finnish artist I met during the summer. (Photo credit: Sirpa Pyykko)
I was born in Ireland and grew up in Toronto, Canada with my seven sisters and two brothers. Left home at seventeen to live in a commune, then headed off across Canada with my pal, Carole, and we hitch-hiked around California for months, then back up to Vancouver(Van as we called it then) and across Canada with two more pals, Linda and Peggy. A year later, headed off to Malaysia and Borneo with Jeunesse Canada Monde/Canada World Youth for a year. Baik-lah! Back home, went to Trinity College at the University of Toronto (posh blokes) while also joining the Canadian Naval Reserve as an Officer Cadet. Trained on the east and west coasts of Canada every summer. Great fun. Then what? Hmm. Started to write books, dodgy personal life (that's personal but let's just say it's been a long time between drinks) started to wander around the world, had a darling daughter, settled down in Ireland, wrote more books.