Here's a Christmas decoration I made in the metalwork component of my 2-year Art & Design course (loving every minute of it!). It's enamel on copper. Si, it's commemorating the Camino, my heart's adventure this year. I'm now signed up to be an hospitalera in 2016, i.e. a volunteer caretaker of pilgrims in the hostels run by Los Amigos del Camino Santiago de Compostela. I'll be training in Spain some time in the new year. Can't wait. Espana es el país de mi corazón. Meanwhile, may I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and happy new year! ps the red Christmas tree image was made by Finn, so this is a family Christmas image.
As mentioned below, after my long walk across Spain I was invited to my friends' gorgeous villa, along with Finn, for some sun, pool and summer feasting. Here's me with Dawn Thompson on the boat heading for the old town of Marbella. We did a little walkaround, ate paella, bought some presents for my family back home. Dawn is a producer with Diplomat Films, along with her husband Keith Thompson (Tudors, Vikings et. al.), a wonderful couple I've known for years. We hope to do a project together one of these days!
Absolutely thrilled to see the election results in Canada. They have finally thrown out American Tea Party Harper (not to mention the embarrassment for a Toronto Mayor, Ford)! Harper's attempt to swing votes with a nasty personal campaign against the charismatic Trudeau and a last-minute Hail Mary pass against the Muslims (pardon the mixed religious metaphor) failed spectacularly as Canadians remembered that kind of thing just isn't ... well ... Canadian.
I've always liked to sketch and paint and have to wonder why it took me so long to do something about it. (Too busy writing, travelling and child-rearing?) So I've enrolled in a full-time two-year art course in a college around the corner from me with classes in painting, drawing, textiles, metalwork, woodwork, desktop publishing and ceramics. Loving every minute of it! Was welding last week - terrifying but exciting. Here's my first attempt at painting after a few years absence: an acrylic on paper version of my favourite Canadian painter Emily Carr's oil on canvas Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky. (Haven't finished it yet.) Carr lived a lonely life in a cabin in the deep woods of British Columbia, along with her dogs. I read her autobiographical Hundreds and Thousands years ago. She was a great writer as well as painter.
Here's a great shot of the loooooonnnnnng road ahead. I was walking with three Scandinavians for several days - Louise from Denmark and two Swedish sisters, Anne-Marie and Annika (who lives in Vancouver and has a Canadian husband and kids). Had a wonderful time with all three. Shared a delicious meal cooked by the sisters - blue cheese and peppers pimiento and green salad to start, then spaghetti for the main course. I brought the wine and broken chocolate (handmade)from a chocolateria. My God, do the Spanish know how to make sweets. I first met Annika and Anne-Marie walking from Trinidad de Arre to Pamplona. Days (weeks?) later I met them again in Lorca (where we picked up Louise) and we walked together to Los Arcos and then on to Logronos. How funny it is that a 20-minute walk in normal life can seem too long - where's the bus? where's my car? - but on this kind of pilgrimage you walk across an entire country and it feels right!
Who's got a Joan of Arc complex? It was a brilliant day! At least 100,000 showed up for the anti-water charges, anti-austerity march in Dublin City organised by the Right2Water. That's me stepping out in front of family members - niece, sister and two brothers-in-law - aided by a walking pole for my post-Camino knees. Luckily the protest moved slowly as I'm still in no shape for a fast pace. Both quays along the Liffey were packed full as groups walked from Heuston Station on one end and Tara Station on the other to converge on O'Connell Street. The winds of change are blowing in Ireland. A lot of Irish flags and "we want our country back" and "the banks got bailed out, we got sold out" messages. Yes, our young are emigrating en masse and our middle classes are being impoverished but at last we are starting to object to the mass mismanagement of our nation.
Sleeping, eating, swimming in pool, and sleeping. It's a hard life. Recovering from my 'long walk' in the gorgeous villa of my friends and colleagues, Keith and Dawn Thompson of Diplomat Films. Will post photos when I get home which is soon.
Things I have lost on the Camino: 1) miscellaneous bag with clothes pegs, contact lens, and other items I haven´t discovered gone yet 2) my deodorant (not good in this heat wave) 3) rain cover for backpack (DISASTER). Things I have discarded: 1) blue leggings 2) sandals 3) orange survival bag (after Pyrenees, as promised to Finn) 4) footie socks. Uses for orange survival bag that Finn made me bring: 1) ground sheet to sit on when having picnics ("the orange sofa") 2) yoga mat 3) lining for backpack after it got soaked in the Pyrenees because I lost the raincover (sigh). I now call my pack "The Rock." It´s particularly heavy towards the end of the day and in the heat. Can feel like a dead body back there!
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.
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.