*This title comes from a book of the same name by Ram Das.
My imagination and concept of love has much changed these last few years.
I’d like to show you through these two short stories of friendship-love from beautiful long trails I walked in Scotland last year.
This first story picks up where my blog “Carried: Finding strength when you’ve none left” ended.
April 2018, Day 4 of the Cape Wrath Trail.
It was day 4 of my 16 day trek of the Cape Wrath Trail. I’d just finished the 30 km walk from Clunnie to Kintail, when I realised I had an additional 5 km road section to walk to get to my accommodation and to meet my friend.
My only focus had been getting to the road. That was enough. It was all I had the capacity for.
On the hill I’d fleetingly imagined that Lindsay would pick me up or that I could hitch hike. But now I’m here I’ve no phone signal. And there’s nothing. No one.
My flat, throbbing feet search for the soft cushioning of grass amidst what has become tarmac hell.
I plod on and pass a caravan park. Ah yes! I’ll meet some folks from the caravan park who’ll give me a lift.
A couple come into view, walking towards me. As they get closer I notice more: They’re maybe in their 50s but with an age defying outdoor glow. Sports casual – he in chinos and she in jeans, both fleece clad, walking a small dog. They must be staying at the caravan park. They must have a car.
“You look tired”, they greet me. “Have you come a long way?”
I tell them my route and acknowledge I’m tired, trying to look even more pathetic.
Pity me. Pity me. Offer me a lift.
And to my devastation they smile, congratulate me on my efforts and walk on.
For the first time on this gruellingly endless walking day I allow myself to feel despair.
I accept its presence rather than resisting. There’s scratchy feeling in my throat, the edges of my lips quiver and despair flows from my stomach to every part of me.
A tear rolls down my cheek and it feels like relief.
Then, as if the tear is her cue, she arrives.
She pulls up on the road side, leans across the passenger window and greets me in her wonderfully Lindsay way :
And all of a sudden, it’s all okay again. I don’t need to keep struggling. I don’t have to do this all by myself, I can lean just a little on another for a few hours.
She helps me take my backpack off and we drive to our ramshackle yet heavenly bunkhouse.
The 60’s style paisley yellowy-bluey carpet in the hall. An unnaturally warm temperature cranking out of the old-school storage heaters. Our bedroom is functional: bunkbeds, a sink in the corner and heavy grey curtains that aren’t aging well.
I slump on the bottom bunk. She allows this. And then:
“What do you need? Food, massage or a kit sort out? Your bag is way too heavy. Where do you want to start?”
“Kit please” I groan.
After 4 days of carrying over 15kg of kit, more than a quarter of my bodyweight, I can’t face another day of carrying that load. I can’t face another ‘today’ tomorrow.
And so, we pull everything out of my backpack. Lindsey ruthlessly yet lovingly helps me sort out my kit – like a mother ripping a plaster of her child’s knee – firm but with skill and care.
Sitting on the paisley carpet, too tired to question its cleanliness, we create 3 piles: Keep; Leave; Swap.
My book, my extra jacket, gloves, stuff sacks and long sleeved top go in a pile for Lindsey to take home. As do the spare gas cylinders and muesli bars. I keep the essentials and she swap some of my heavier items for her lighter weight equivalent.
(She texted me the next day to say the weight of these items came to nearly 4kg).
As I shower, she cooks veggie pasta. I walk into the kitchen to find her grating parmesan to top our meal. I’m not hungry and have struggled to eat all day but half way though dinner I notice I’m no longer forcing myself to eat. It tastes good and I’m coming back to myself.
By 11pm we are in our bunk beds, chatting and laughing at some silliness.
And as I drift off to sleep I know that this dear friend has picked up the broken pieces of me that she found on the road to Kintail and has put me back together.
She gave herself over selflessly to this task for no other reason that her own goodness.
As I set off early the next morning, back on the Trail, I have a new knowing. I know now what I didn’t know when I set out on this trail. I can do this. Although technically I’m walking alone, I’m not really, I’ve friends who love me and who are walking me home.
September 2018, Day 3 of the Speyside Way. Ballindalloch Station to Tomintoul. (15 miles)
The remote wildness of this spur is what I’d been waiting for. After two days of fairly easy walking today there’s a fair amount of climbing (two rises of 1800 foot) and very little clear path. I loved the feeling of being unseen. I felt a freedom that I’d missed on the more farmed and forested sections.
My plan is to stay with friends in the village of Tomintoul. I’m relishing the thought of a warm meal, a bed and company after 2 nights wild camping amidst the winds and downpours of Storm Ali.
My old foot injury has become very chatty as I leave the hill to start on the monotonous tarmac section which will take me to the village. I’m no longer present – I’m longing to be there already.
In the distance a man and a dog come to view. As I draw closer their image become clearer. Is it? It can’t be. The man and dog have become Simon and Taiga. My good friend and his beautiful collie-cross. They’ve come to walk me home.
As we blethered I forget about my foot and in their home Simon and Kerry show me such kindness:
A hot shower, delicious food, stories, clean sheets and a duvet, a fluffy towel, a toilet. Things that seem ‘normal’ in everyday life become extraordinary after a few nights in a tent.
Come the morning, Simon drops me off for my next day’s walking. I step into a heavy downpour:
“Thank you so much for your kindness” I call.
“It’s normal” he shrugs.
“I can’t name the day when I suddenly realised that that the lack of love in my life was not a reality but a poverty of imagination and a carelessly narrow use of an essential word.” (Krista Tippett).
These two stories of being walked home are my clearest memories from last year. They’ve made home in my heart. They are the perfect antidote to my love related cynicism.
The Greeks had about 30 words to describe love. Eros is about romantic and erotic love, and this is the one that I, in the good company of most of western culture, have singled out and put much focus and attention. But the Greeks have 29 other words for family love, for flirting and playful affection, for love of humanity, for self-respect, for friendship and shared experience.
In my search for romantic love I couldn’t see the loving kindness hiding in plain sight.
I can’t get back the time and energy I wasted feeling I lacked love. I did the best I could at the time. But I now see I was lacking imagination. I reduced love to something small, narrow and rare.
But it’s not a thing, it’s not a name, it’s a living and a doing. It’s there in the car rides, the rucksack cull, the grated parmesan. The fluffy towel. The walk home.
Thanks for reading my musings. I hope this expansive view of love resonates with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I leave to trek the Pacific Crest Trail in the second part of this year (2019)…(excited squeal!!). Which I wouldn’t be doing without the love and belief of friends and family.
If you’d like to work with me on finding freedom and contentment, I’ve 3 main offerings running until June 2019.
Women’s Treks for Wellbeing (where we are led by Simon mentioned in the second story);
and The Unstuckifed Retreat (where Lindsay from the first story is my co-host),
And I run a one to one life coaching practice in person or online.