Jan 022018
 

 

 

 

“There is no song more agreeable to the heart, than the slow even breath of the pilgrim, learning to bless and be blessed by the mystery.”

Stephen Devine

 

The Camino wrecked me for an ordinary life.

I’d pretty much failed that test anyway, however walking 32 days straight for more than 900kms – for all its agonies and ecstasies – left me with one giant impossibility: I never wanted to come inside again.

No matter how beautiful the home, no matter precious the objects in it, no matter . . . (fill in your story), none of it compares to a wild sky loaded with stars at night, a gentle creek at dawn, a farmyard restless with feeding time, a surprise eclipse stealing the midday sun.

Even when life is at its most desperate discomfort – the heat of late summer paddocks, an endless rain hammering frozen fingers, a bed not forthcoming at the end of a long day’s walk. These are small prices to pay on the pilgrim’s road, even as they loom large at the time – because no matter what the external circumstances, when one is outside walking the soul is soaring. And we all know that when the heart is happy, life is good.

Writing too disrupted my life.

The longing to write that took root in my heart became a crescendo, and despite the crescendo still I ignored it. It was like having a symphony orchestra show up in your kitchen and acting as though you were listening to music through the speaker on your phone.

One day the cymbals in that orchestra shattered all I thought I knew and I walked out of my life. I had no idea what I would do, exactly, but I knew that I wanted to write and I did not want to die wondering.

Some time later I hit the pilgrim path to Santiago de Compostela and vowed to make no decisions until the day came when one more step, just one more, would take me off the pilgrim road to . . . deep down I knew. I knew I would write.

And there we have it.

Walking. Writing. Walking and writing.

They teach fearlessness. They teach commitment. They teach endurance. They command us to wake up.

Walking and writing both, rattle our bones and shatter our self-importance until we pay attention to twin human realities that define the soul willing no longer to settle for less:

* the longing to share our story

* a hankering to walk the turning wheel that is the world outside our door.

Wherever, you are – cities, factories, apartments, farms – walk. Walk when you can. Step it up, step it out. Let your eyes take a wander with your spirit, tune your ears into life broadcasting all around you. And one day, one day, shove a pen and small piece of paper in your pocket, and begin.

Walk while you write, write while you walk. Rest and write. Walk.

And as you begin to write your story, you will learn a profound pilgrim lesson: as within, so without.

Walking, writing: so many mysteries, revealed.

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 January 2, 2018  Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Why walking and writing wrecked me for ordinary life
Jan 022018
 

 

“Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.”

Unknown

 

The unknown is good for us.

I know, right? It’s terrifying! At times, anyway. Even those of us uncommonly drawn to the Unknown, and its life partner Change, suffer moments of holy f***, what am I doing here! Or, its sadder counterpart, ‘why me?’

Walking and writing are leaders, both. Where one leads us through the landscapes of the physical world around us, the other leads us inwards, through the landscapes of our own interior. The knowable unknown. The unknowable known.

Journeys, either way.

It’s no surprise to me that many (most?) of the people walking The Camino, the mystical road across Spain, are women and most of them around or well over 50. The children gone, their lives shaped by this and other losses, the longing to walk the turning wheel of life becomes greater than the need to ‘stay home’.

It’s equally no surprise that most people who come along to The Write Road writing workshops and courses are women around or well over 50.

Whether walking or writing, the interior is calling.

Whether walking or writing, there are a hundred, a thousand, a million reasons to ignore the call. As many reasons as you need, actually.

And then, whether walking or writing, take one step towards the longing and what you most fear will come to pass: everything changes. It has to. Because, whether walking or writing, you have opened the door to an inner strength that previously held no sway, has been silenced, has been patiently biding its time for the light.

Walking and writing lead us into the unknown and for this reason they change lives. They change lives precisely because in one moment a decision was made to step forward, rather than hold back.

Courage, either way.

And that’s why the unknown is good for us. It makes us brave. It brings us to life. We have no choice but to surrender. No choice but to meet what’s right before us in this moment. No choice but to call on all the personal resources we’ve gathered along the way through this life and put them to work on our own behalf.

Through walking and writing, we meet beauty.

We meet life.

As it is. As we are.

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 January 2, 2018  Tagged with: , , ,  Comments Off on Walking and writing are great acts of courage
Jan 022018
 

“I write because I don’t know what to think until I read what I say.”

Flannery O’Connor

 

There’s no two ways about it – writing is good for us.

I’m not speaking now of the writing of a book or a blog or whatever writing project is calling to us, although for many reasons tending to this calling is fabulous for our wellbeing.

I am speaking of journaling.

Journaling is the art of building a relationship with ourselves. Yes, plural, we all have many selves 🙂

We are all many different people, depending upon the situations in which we find ourselves and the human beings around us. Some selves we adore. Others we despise. Some we love and others despise. Some humans and situations bring us great joy. Enliven us. Inspire and embolden us. Other humans and situations disempower us. Shrink us. Disappear us.

Who we are and how we behave is most often entirely dependent on where we are and with whom.

This doesn’t mean things always have to be this way.

You do in fact have everything you need to create a new way of being in your world. And an effective, cost-neutral tool is right there at your fingertips – pen and paper.

Journaling is the art of building a relationship with yourself. It’s a fancy way of saying that with a pen and a piece of paper, you can download the toxic experiences that have you at their mercy – and then use these tools begin to navigate new ways of handling people and situations.

You need another reason to start?

How about this: these experiences are living in your body – in your blood and your bones and your flesh and your organs – and that’s not good for you. You doubt? Here’s a quick experiment: close your eyes and think of something or someone you love. Now, eyes still closed, think of something or someone you loathe.

Pen and paper ready? How did each of those thoughts make you feel? Write it. Download it. Download all of it. What are the stories that go with the feeling? Where is the feeling lodged in your body? If that part of your body had a voice, what would it say to you? Write. Write it all. Write it out.

Empty yourself of the noxious stories living in your body. And then do it again. do it as often as you need, in every situation you need it. And use journaling as preventative medicine, a tool for ensuring new stories don’t take up residence on the inside.

BUT – and there’s a big but if we are to tell the truth of our existence as we experience it in any moment.

If we are to tell the truth, which we must if we are to empower ourselves and claim the lives we were born to live, then the fact is we must write things we know in our rational mind to be unreasonable, or know will be incredibly hurtful to others if they found it and our intention is not to hurt, it’s to heal our own hearts and minds and bodies.

What if I die and they find my journal?

What if that’s all that’s left of me and a momentary flash of toxic anger defines my life?

It’s a common question in our journaling workshops.

What if . . . ?

Here’s what if – burn it.

Your writing downloads don’t have to have form on this Earth. You do, however, have to tell the truth to yourself if you are to heal, rest, renew and live the life you most long to live. The writing doesn’t have to exist on paper. But it does have to leave your body.

Burn it. Shred it. But write it first.

Write.

Because no matter who we are or where we are, we have a right to a relationship with ourselves. We have a right to the truth, even if it’s just in the privacy of our own heart and mind.

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 

 January 2, 2018  Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on But what if I die? . . . tip #1 for meeting the great challenge of journaling
Jan 022018
 

“When you are in a car, beautiful places are a moment; when you stop the car, they are a cluster of moments. When you walk, beautiful places are an eternity carved into the soul.”

 

I remember exactly where I was when I wrote that.

I was walking through a backroad in Croatia, heading for the five-kilometre stretch of coastline that was sketched out for Bosnia in a relatively recent peace deal, on pilgrimage with my son (who was mid-way through an epic journey, by foot, from Canterbury to Jerusalem – 7000kms, 16 countries – like I said, epic).

The backroad was blocked to Westerners. That would be us. Only workers with the appropriate paperwork were permitted safe passage through the border. I was all set to turn around and go the long way round to Bosnia’s little stretch of coastline, but my son held his ground. He was, after all, only half way to Jerusalem and an extra hundred kilometres was not in his playbook. Me? I was walking anyway. It didn’t matter where. Besides, I wasn’t up for arguing with authorities in countries with relatively recent peace deals.

My son held his ground and with the help of a woman with good English and a phone we discovered that the locals, pissed at being blocked on a road that had been theirs for millennia, had martialled their tractors and carved a new road up the mountain and down the other side.

And so we did what pilgrims do best – we walked on. It was late afternoon. The mountain was ahead of us, the road flat, surrounded by autumn fields and shimmering waterways lined with reeds and stone houses and the occasional ancient canoe tied to an equally ancient jetty. As we met the mountain road, the dying light lit the stones beneath our feet bright white. And then the moon rose high above the treeline, swollen and full, and lit the fields and the waterways below us with shimmering blues and golds and between the last rays of the sun the silver rays of the moon the whole world bloomed the colour of roses. The walk was steep. The road hard. My legs ached. My shoulders screamed blue murder at the 20kgs on my back. And the world around me bloomed the colour of roses.

Walking and writing. Capturing a heart bursting with the wild moment on a scrap of paper scrunched in my pocket, over and over the words bubbling out in little bursts. Without the walk, there was no writing a world the colour of roses. Without the writing, there would be wonder . . . bereft of the writer’s challenge: finding the words that express something that’s already been said ten thousand thousand thousand times.

Walking and writing. Together, they are sublime.

 

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road and Walk and Write are dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 January 2, 2018  Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on Perfect match – why walking, why writing
Jan 022018
 

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ursula K Le Guin

Pilgrimage has taught me many things and chief among them is this salutary lesson: There is no ‘there’.

Twice I’ve set on Very Long Walks – once, 900kms along El Camino, the mystical pilgrim road across Spain from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela (where – disputed fact – the head of St James is buried in the great cathedral built atop sacred pagan ground); and then, two years later, 1500kms across Italy and through the Balkans, Rome to Tirane, the then-broken (and perhaps still broken) capital of Albania.

And twice this lesson has been my saviour and my guide.

There is no ‘there’.

It is as true for the writer as it is for the walker.

There is no ‘there’.

What does this mean?

There is no destination.

There is no destination because the destination is irrelevant if you don’t pick up your foot, right here, where you are now, and put it in front of the other one. And then pick up the next foot and put it down in front of the other one. Repeat ten million million times. Or pick up your pen and write a word, then place another word directly after that one. And so on. Ten thousand thousand times.

Walking and writing are sublime journeys.

Both will transform you for this simple reality alone, the fact of putting one foot in front of the other, one word after another, over and over and over again. Both will disrupt all you think you know about life and your place in it. Both will frustrate and delight; immeasurable, colossal life in your hands.

Both will reward you will the immense satisfaction of the journey complete, a voyage of discovery well-earned and hard-won.

At which point, having marked the moment, you will set out again, your heart aflutter with frustration and delight at the unknowable unknown journey ahead, your eyes on the horizon of another ‘no there’, your heart packed and ready to roll towards the light calling you home. Again.

 

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 January 2, 2018  Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on Lesson #4 of the pilgrim road
Sep 292017
 

Photo courtesy Pixabay

“Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.”

Amelia Earhart

 

There is a calling within you to write. You know it. You long to tend to it. You ignore it.

You are not alone.

In more than three years on The Write Road this I have learned: just about every human being longs to write. (And just about every single one of us needs guidance, encouragement and support to start . . . but that is another story.)

We long to write. With all our heart, we long to write a story of some kind. Whether we want others to read it or not (and most of us do, whether we are ready to admit or not . . . that too is another story), whether we write for ourselves or write to share, the fact is we have stories inside us bursting for release.

And still we hold them back. We deny ourselves our right to write. We deny the world our story. We withhold. And we shrink. And not only do we not grow, we cannot grow.

And yet . . . the soul longs to grow. And no doubt about it, writing will grow us. Writing expands us, leads us places we did or didn’t dream exist, takes us on an excursion into our own interior that will surprise, delight and break our hearts. And still the soul will grow.

Abandoned, however, the soul will haunt us. The longing to write will not leave us alone. No matter where we turn or who we turn to, sometimes soft, sometimes unbearably deep, the incessant nagging will follow along with us. Because the soul longs to grow.

Writing grows us.

Writing grows us because it takes courage to step up and claim our right to write. And it takes a funny sort of confidence to believe we have what it takes to put pen to paper. And it is a sublime act of lunacy to believe others may want to read what we write.

And in the end none of it matters – except that we did it. We wrote.

We wrote for no other reason than the soul was calling us to write.

We celebrated for no other reason than . . . we grew.

We grew and we knew peace.

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

 

Walk & Write The Camino

 September 29, 2017  Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on The Soul Longs to Grow – why writing won’t leave you alone until you do it
Sep 072017
 

Walk and Write Stephanie Dale on pilgrimage in Croatia

“The longing is the path.”

Anna Davidovich

 

There’s nothing like a long walk to get to know the voices in your head. It’s hilarious really . . . until you realise those voices are shaping every moment of every day of your life.

Some years ago, I walked across Italy and through the Balkans. I was heading to Istanbul – imagine that, walking from Rome to Istanbul (I sure did! imagine it, that is) – but the thunderstruck, snowbound mountains of Macedonia pulled the journey up short in Albania.

I was in my late 40s – 49 to be precise – and in the end I walked a day for every year of my life. That’s 49 years of being hammered and tonged through life on Earth. That’s 49 years of voices clammering for attention over 49 days.

I had 20kgs on my back, far too much for a woman of my stature and age and condition, but there was nothing wasted in that weight – hell, I wore the same clothes for 49 days! My feet were like concrete at the end of every day. My shoulders ached a good deal of the way. My physical state was nothing compared to the mental and emotional exhaustion of the clamouring voices.

49 years of incessant blah blah blah for company – other people’s opinions and judgements and stories and ideas rattling their way through my body, shaping my own opinions and judgements and stories and ideas; my own stories and judgements shaping their world in turn; our interconnected lives a riot of reaction and response.

For 49 days I buckled under the weight of the voices – because on pilgrimage, the only thing you are actually ‘doing’ is putting one foot in front of the other . . . for as long as it takes – the voices that are usually silenced, snuffled, smothered by the busy-ness of everyday life had finally found their moment to shine.

The writer, friends, is also on pilgrimage.

I was following my son’s lead, walking with him for the middle leg of his own, much longer, pilgrimage – from Canterbury to Jerusalem (I mean really, imagine that – 7000kms, 16 countries).

My son led me through countries and landscapes I would not have ventured into on my own, particularly ‘the Balkans’. Once we entered Bosnia, the voices in my head had me convinced I’d tread on a landmine and lose a limb. I peed on flat rocks to avoid treading on unturned dirt and ignored the small splashes on the legs of my trousers. As for Albania – my body was a frozen riot of death as we entered this unknown dark state.

My head was a double riot because of an email my son had received from our couchsurfing host in Albania’s capital, Tirane, an American Fulbright scholar. She had said we should stick to the highway in Albania, which is flat and straight and safer than the mountains. She had said that if we avoided the mountains, however, we may miss out on an ‘adventure’, because ‘Albanian hospitality in the northern highlands is unmatched’. She said that according to the Kanun, the ancient northern Albanian code of customs and ethics, a guest in one’s home takes the form of God and that people would treat us like royalty. Those who break the custom of hospitality would be killed, she added. My son liked the idea of being treated like God.

My mind was full of it . . . the mountains . . . Albania . . . Macedonia . . . strangers . . . fear . . . lives on the line.

And this was the moment I truly understood the power of story. And the unpower of giving credit to the riot.

The fear and anxiety were all made up, products of my head. They had zero substance outside of me. For weeks I had been entertaining made up stories. Fairy tales. I had been giving power to imaginary sagas based on . . . ? Fictions, that were living in my body, defining my life, shaping my experiences, creating what I see around me and all round doing their best to sabotage my fabulous walk from Rome to Istanbul.

In that moment I learned to ask a question: am I safe now? Errrrr, yep. Now? Ummm, yep. What about now? Sure am.

Stories.

The writer faces the same challenges.

Set out on the book writing journey and, not only will your writing lead you to and through places you’d never go on your own, the unmet voices will start up. Their demands will be simple at first: there’s dusting to do (even for women who ‘don’t dust’), the car needs washing (for the first time all year), the garden needs a water (even though it rained yesterday).

Make it to your pen and paper and the voices will begin to get nasty, usually with variations on the following themes:

* you’ve got better things to do (you’re wasting time)

* you didn’t finish school (who the hell do you think you are?)

* who’d want to read it anyway? (I am not worthy of being a writer)

* what I want to write is so bland (only special people with talent should do this).

These voices are standing between you and a deep, deep longing in your heart to write. Like a woman on pilgrimage through foreign lands, you have a choice: go nowhere, do nothing. Or face up, stare the voices down, pick up your pen and paper – and write.

Do it. Do it anyway. Dance with the voices. Invite them to dinner. Entertain them. Ask them questions. Get to know them. And learn to ignore them and get on with your heart’s desire (which, if you are reading this, is to write).

Because here’s what else: every moment of every day in every single thing you do, these voices are shaping your life. They are keeping you small. They are making sure you will never ever ever even try. To do. The one thing. You long to do. More than anything else.

Write.

And here’s another what else: step forward despite the voices to pick up that pen, and you will get brave.

Very, very brave.

 

Stephanie DaleWritten by Stephanie Dale, author, journalist & traveling writer; founder of The Write Road and Walk and Write.

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a fondness for walking and writing. She is a passionate advocate for the visibility and voices of everyday people and focuses on supporting new and unpublished writers to write and keep writing. The Write Road is dedicated to empowering people to tell their stories, their way.

Walk & Write The Camino

 September 7, 2017  Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on The Voices in Your Head – why writing can make you brave
May 082012
 

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA

 

This big house in Augusta, Georgia is my now-home.

The room on the right with the open windows is mine.

The house belongs to my publisher, Lucinda, whose welcoming smile and southern sense of hospitality have carved out a space for me that is all mine.

All morning I wrote a speech, getting ready for tomorrow, the first true book event of my US tour, a couple of hours down the road in Atlanta.

This afternoon I took a walk down to the Savannah River rapids. If I’d heard that name, Savannah, when I was pregnant with my daughter she’d be named for the power, grace and beauty of that word.

Like maintenance free communities all over the modern world, the wild places in Martinez, Augusta are to be found in scattered weeds, pine needles that refuse to be hemmed by trimmed lawns, treetops and puddles.

The temperature is perfect. Warm and humid, the breeze bringing stories from the east.

I find the river and sit on a low rock wall listening to the shush of the water over the stones I cannot see. I long to go down to the water’s edge, but the fact I left my windows open in that big Georgian house is pecking at my brain – I swear mine are the only open windows in all of Georgia and, after all, it’s not my house.

I walk back the way I came, for a moment scissored between clipped urban woods, a mile or so back up the road. In the house, I follow the darkened corridor to my room, the slow fan twirling on the ceiling, afternoon sunshine shooting through those wide open windows, and I close my door against the chill of the air-con ranging through the rest of the house.

. . . there’s a reason warm and sultry places throw up warm and sultry women.

 May 8, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »