The Pieterpad and its varied paths

Below:  path surfaces from Gramsbergen to Hardenberg

These collages are from my most recent 4 day 50km walk between Gramsbergen and Hellendoorn via Hardenberg, Ommen and Lemele. Travel logs for those days are blog posts 10,11, 12, and 13. But while I was walking, I kept seeing how interesting all the different surfaces were that my feet (said feet make a few cameos in the photos) were continually making contact with. So they are just as important as other visual records of the trip.

Above, you can see that it was rainy, and that the walk was more on roads than through nature reserves and woods.

Below, Hardenberg to Ommen, Ommen to Lemele

And finally, the last leg, from Lemele to Hellendoorn.


#9The path is always changing

path through dunes

path through dunes

We had a window of good weather, so I cancelled or changed several appointments and went walking.

I have to admit this leg was more difficult than previous ones for various reasons- I was carrying  heavier pack and was breaking in new walking shoes. Then the bus broke down- it was only 12 minutes from the stop where I’d left off last time, so I decided to walk it. I even found a place to rejoin a part of the Pieterpad I’d done last time. Bad move. It took me a whole day to get back to the place I needed to be, the weather was overcast, plus all the other factors just mentioned made it less fun. It was hard finding a place to stay, it got late, I was exhausted, etc etc. All part of long distance walking, I guess. In the end I did find a place with wonderful people hosting, and was able to rest, eat and have a good night’s sleep- all of of which take on heightened importance when on the road.

A nice feature I’ve run into a few times now are the ‘rest points’- unmanned little havens especially for hikers or cyclists, where you can at least make a cup of coffee or tea, and where there is often a toilet too. You just leave the money in a little dish.  This one was especially welcoming and had a guest book  full of appreciation from people who
had used it.

rest point outside

rest point outside

rest point interior

rest point interior

The next 2 days were great, but I will go back to my smaller, lighter pack. Walking with that weight on my back ruins the whole feeling of lightness and freedom these walks usually mean for me.

Leaving beautiful Drenthe, I crossed over into a new province- Overijssel (over EYE’ sill). The landscape became flatter again, less trees, the path was varied. It ran along canals and roads, through industrial parks, next to a windmill park, and down along the sides of highways.

The season is clearly changing, there were nuts, buckeyes (Pittsburghese for horse- chestnuts), and yellowing leaves on the paths. Farmers were bringing in the hay and grain. The midsummer fresh green was turning to a duller olive, the sun was lower. Usually I’m sad to see the summer leave, but it was such a rarely beautiful one that I can move, with acceptance and with nature, into autumn.

Commitments are starting up again, so it will be harder to get away for a few days in a row, but I’m determined to at least do some fall walking. And I’m curious about what the next section of path holds.


Larger conversations, searching for the soul in my art

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. And that this level of work is 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.

I’m finding it increasingly harder to keep on with my oil painting. It seems to me so entwined with the old forms of art making, but not in the positive sense of craft mastery. Rather that, once finished, whether I see it that way or not, my painting becomes a product. It belongs to the market value system simply by existing.

I think if my work sold effortlessly, I wouldn’t get so hung up on the promotion aspect of it. If people bought my work for who I am, and not who the gallery is, and this work was seen to be a necessary part of someone’s life, or of the community,  I’d just keep keeping on.

This is my latest still life, I like the tippy-top band of colour best.

Tanny's bowl

Tanny’s bowl

I have been wondering how/if my painting is connected to my soul, to my heart’s path….It still seems to be about doing something well, and the very real joy of mastering  technique and using it expressively. But it has no context. I don’t feel part of the artworld or akin to my fellow painters who are trying to live from their work. It is made in a vacuum and stays there. It is something I do, but not who I am……..

But maybe I haven’t dived down into it deeply enough. I can’t seem to find the ‘passion’ or ‘renewal’ to go on with developing it. [Later: I reconnected to my painting again and there is so much delight in just the doing, and in seeing the progress, and getting closer to my vision of how I’d like to paint. The reward is in the joy of doing and discovery. So though there are ups and downs, I won’t be stopping anytime soon.]

On the other hand, this little laying out of objects collected on my last 2 walks does make my heart beat faster. It feels very close to who I am and who I always have been.



The little grass ring was woven while waiting for the bus to go back home, it has since been pimped up a bit with wool, pine cones and feathers, I’ll add a photo of the finished object later. (On this photo, inside the ring is a pinkish disc of lepidolite given to me by Rende). The wonderful weathered sticks are each from a different nature reserve- Gasteren Duinen, Balooërveld, and Sleenderbos.The flint is also from the sandy paths of Ballooërveld.

All my life I’ve been collecting feathers, sticks, shells, stones, seedpods. And weaving baskets from grasses and laying out collections in various configurations. I’ve never linked these activities with Art. It seemed too personal, like my own intimate rituals which had nothing to do with anyone else.

But it seems that this urge is more widespread, and that it is an expression of a new kind of art, linked with nature. So I’ll share it here, and so doing, feel to be part of a larger community also working with natural materials for healing, connection, meaning creation, peace, and the simple pleasure of it.










#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.