#2 Along canals and windmills

Windmill for generating electricty

Windmill for generating electricity

Pieterpad, Eenrum to Winsum

Last week’s section of the Pieterpad route started out in the mist again. It is a stretch of less than 5km that I bicycle regularly, but walking it was a revelation. From the beginning, the familiar world just broke open into all kinds of new perceptions.

Maybe it was the mist, maybe it was the quiet which made everything more mysterious. It was wonderful to just hear my own breathing in rhythm with my footsteps, the bird song, some distant highway noises. Not rushing by on the bike brought all the details into focus- the plants pushing up in this early spring, as well as all kinds of subtle things about the surroundings. It was amazing to me to be out on the road early in the morning rather than concentrating at my work table or the computer. The sense of freedom was awesome.

Above are various impressions of the kind of landscape this part of the path goes through. They are mostly old roads running alongside 2 lane highways, and almost always next to water. You can see the mist gradually lifting during the 2 hours I was on the road.

The walk took me from Eenrum on the paths above, through Mensingeweer, a small charming village where there is a beautiful little footbridge. There is also an old fashioned windmill there, still used for grinding grain, as far as I know. The bottom part of it is a café open in the summers. The little boy saw me taking photos and wanted me to take a picture of his new work gloves!

The longest part was a straight section along the N361 from Mensingeweer to Winsum. I hit a nice flow on that strip, and the mist started to lift. On the outskirts of Winsum are some houseboats, as well as another modern windmill. I decided to let windmills be a visual theme running through this journey, since they are a stereotype sign of Holland and there are so many different sorts.

By the time I arrived in Winsum, about a 2 hr leisurely walk, (the bus I always take does it in 15 minutes), the sun had burned the mist off. It is a lovely little town, looking clean and sparkly in the spring light. I stopped at this inviting outdoor café and had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Then to the bus station, got off in Eenrum where I’d left my bike, and the 20 minute ride back home.

The next section, Winsum-Groningen is 19km, I haven’t yet built up the condition to do that in one go. And there is no pubic transport to some of the logical stopping points, so that will be a challenge.

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#1 First steps on the Pieterpad

another traveller

Another traveller

Pieterpad, Pieterburen to Eenrum

For the introduction to this (hopefully) 481 km journey, please click on the heading,’Walking the Pieterpad’ in the black bar above.

This is what I had in my mind’s eye when I decided to walk this path- a solitary, contemplative journey through my adopted homeland.

I started out on March 29th this year (2014) on a morning that promised to be fine weatherwise. It was a bit misty and cold, and early in the season, so I hoped I wouldn’t encounter too many other walkers. The path fortuitously for me, starts out nearly in our backyard. I took public transport  to reach the starting point, the village of Pieterburen.

Other Pieterpad walkers disembarking

Other Pieterpad walkers disembarking

On the bus were several couples, all with the Pieterpad guidebook. I’m normally social, but this was a personal ritual and I didn’t feel like getting caught up in a chatty group. Luckily they all stayed on for coffee and cakes in the village, and I set out alone.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have a hopeless sense of direction, so managing to follow the guidebook and signs is already a victory for me. It’s great to start the walk on familiar terrain also for that reason.

There will be pictures of Holland at its most charming, of course, but it is important for me to show the reality of life here and not just tourist snapshots. This, for example is a typical farm for our agricultural area here in the north.

new grain

This mosaic gives a feel for the kind of landscape at the beginning of the path.

The other walkers eventually caught up and passed me. The walk was only about 5 km and pleasant. Below is the view of the church in Eenrum (pron. Ayn’rum) upon arrival there. I walked another kilometre or so to pick up my bike and cycled the 10 minutes home.

Church in Eenrum

Church in Eenrum

What did I love?

I don’t promise coherence in this post, it is an early morning (public) musing. I do it here for lack of a conversation partner at the moment, and because this blog, as opposed to artcalling, has only a handful of followers, most of whom understand the context of transition and the place between stories.

Recently, on a friend’s recommendation, I ordered David Whyte’s, ‘Crossing the unknown Sea, Work as a pilgrimage of identity’. I’m halfway through it and what I’ve read so far is spot on for me at this point in in my journey to a new story.

One thing he says is that in childhood, we  have all had an intimation of the work that would fulfil us as adults. Whether we are able to keep true to that vision or not is something else, of course.

For the life of me, I can’t remember wanting any profession at all (this in itself is a key!). Though, for a brief time, inspired by my love of horses, I wanted to be a vet.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawing and painting. I never aspired to be an artist because I already was one. Working with my hands and creating informed every part of my life.

I think the crunch for me and my work came in the way that purity got overlaid once it interfaced with the world. I was fortunate to have parents who nurtured this direction and gave me every encouragement to follow that path. But they and their friends were a bit in awe of artistic ability, so immediately I felt special because of my  ‘talent’.

Too early on, creating beautiful things became my sole source of praise, and self-worth. I think it took me an entire adult life to start to reclaim my art for myself, and disengage it from the outer trappings of approval. David Whyte speaks about diving deep down to the core of our work where we are engaged in larger conversations with unknown forces hugely distanced from the usual criteria of professionalism, income generation and success. He says that without this larger conversation, nothing will nourish us, we won’t find the passion or renewal needed to progress and grow and become fulfilled in our work.

When I think back, though to childhood, what did I love? Certainly art materials, I still rejoice at the colours in a new set of oil pastels or paints. But I equally loved being outside in every season, and playing  in nature. And I adored and still do adore horses above all other animals. I loved playing by myself, making up stories, writing them down and making little books, cards and other gifts for my parents. I wrote poems a lot. I made doll’s clothes. I made jewellery. I crafted a tiny desk and chair for my mother who loved miniatures. I specialised in calligraphy in high school and college-  encouraged by father who loved my handwriting.

Now, I find, I am happiest being left alone (figuratively) in my studio to do what I want. I paint, and sometimes I write, sometimes I make crafts as gifts, I actually am inexplicably stockpiling a number of finely crafted tiny books, pin cushions, and crocheted hearts to give away. Why is yet to be revealed. After decades of concentrating so desperately on generating an income from my art, gift giving is becoming an increasingly prominent activity which I find fits who I am now and is extraordinarily fulfilling.

Aha! the insight, this is what I loved best to do in childhood! I’ve paid the dues for 40 years, (and they were often fulfilling and enervating years) doing work on commission, meeting deadlines, haggling prices, administrating my freelance business. But these activities all took the joy out of creating.

And now I am free to follow what I loved most as a child, to just make stuff and occasionally give it to people. But also to be outside much more, to garden and walk and go and visit the horses down at the end of the village.

I still feel an approaching vocation that I sense will find me when the time is ripe. It will be exciting and meaningful in the new context of social engagement and ecology. It will be collaborative without a doubt. It will use all of me, not just the making things with my hands part. And it will demand that I contribute who I am, who I am becoming,  and not just what I do.