#7 Passing a threshold

Pieterpad, Rolde en route to Sleen (via Schoonloo)

For the introduction to this (hopefully)480 km journey, please click on the heading,’Walking the Pieterpad’ in the black bar above.

Sign along the Pieterpad

Sign along the Pieterpad

This leg of the journey I was accompanied (figuratively) by Robert MacFarlane and his, ‘The Old Ways’. I’m in the middle of reading it and it is a delight. He writes of his own wayfaring, always with an eye to how walking is linked with meaning creation, local myths,and personal stories.

I was on this section of path for 3 glorious warm and sunny  days. Time to sink deep into one’s own rhythm and thoughts. The path wound through several nature reserves, and while I love wooded sandpaths best of all, I have to admit it got a bit repetitive.

Still, there was variation- going over streams, the path breaking out into open fields, heather bogland with wide peaty ponds, and the occasional paved road. Being late July the birds are very quiet. I didn’t see many in the woods and missed their songs. Actually I was feeling quite starved for other signs of life by the second day, and was so pleased to find a young cat on the path near Schoonloo (Dutch pronounciation – double oo is pronounced like our long o in ‘snow’). And once when I stopped by a field with cows in the distance, I looked up and they were all coming toward me, all curious and snuffly. One got close enough for a nose kiss- what a big, black, WET nose! The horses were being boarded by a friendly stables I passed at the end of my second day. The place I was staying was 2km off the path and I did 16km that day.

An important part of this experience is surely the encounters with people on the way and those in whose homes I rest at night. There is a network of private homes which host only hikers and cyclists for a low fee. The one I stayed in this time couldn’t be beaten by a 4 star hotel in my eyes. I had a little private suite in their beautiful home, and they were very kind. Here was the breakfast served in ‘my’ sitting room overlooking the garden. And I got a packed lunch for on the way.

bed and BREAKFAST!

bed and BREAKFAST!

While I walked, I mused on a Joseph Campbell quote I have in my travel journal:

Whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the Call rings up the curtain, always on a mystery of transfiguration- a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.

Joseph Campbell in conversation with Michael Toms,‘Notes from an Open Life’.

The walking seems to have a lot to do with this kind of life stage. I can’t explain it concretely, but it is in itself a ‘Call’.

Here is what Robert Macfarlane has to say about walking as a way of creating meaning:

 …it seemed that every month I had been walking the old ways, I had met or heard tell of someone else setting out on a walk whose purposes exceeded the purely transportational or the simply recreational, and whose destination was in some sense sacred. Thousands of these improvised pilgrimages seemed to be occurring, often unguided by the principles of a major world religion, and of varying levels of seriousness and sanctity.

-Robert MacFarlane, ‘The Old Ways’

I’ve covered 100km now, on my own two feet, one step at a time. And encouraged by an account of Robert MacFarlane’s-  some of it done barefoot. The first thing you notice is temperature, after that as he notes as well, there is a feeling of reciprocity you get the second your skin directly touches the Earth’s skin.









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