My Christmas’s (Christmases?) were pretty epic growing up. I was the spoiled youngest daughter of three and I can’t say I had a bad Christmas… like ever. I remember the Christmas Eve visits we’d drive from grandmas, to aunty’s and to more grandmas. We ate cabbage rolls, perogies, Mennonite food I don’t know how to spell and a butt ton of cookies and chocolate. (I said butt on purpose.)
And Christmas mornings… I remember waiting on the top of the stairs, the glow of the Christmas tree, anxious to see if Santa left his footprint in the fireplace bed of rocks like he did every year right before he took a swig of brandy we always left him. (Yes brandy, we skipped the milk and cookies in our household.) Grandma and my Great Aunty Vicki would come over early and then we could open gifts. Grandma always handmade our nighties, and my parents (most likely my extravagant father) was responsible for some pretty memorable gifts.
But it if I was truthful, the most memorable thing about my Christmas’s growing up was the music. We had an old organ that my dad would play; he would play German carols, your standard Christmas carols and all the silly ones inbetween. We would sit and sing, my dad and I, and we’d listen to Boney M, Roger Whittaker, and then later Mannheim Steamroller. Every Christmas Eve we’d fall asleep to gentle classical music played on CBC and if we woke in the middle of the night, it would still be playing to remind us it was a special night. In the morning we listened to Handel’s Messiah, later in Bible College I had the privilege of singing Handel’s Messiah with a mass choir, my parents drove 7 hours to see that. Music was always apart of my upbringing, but Christmas in that regards always took the cake. (And not the Christmas cake… can’t stand the stuff.)
My favourite as a child though was always John Denver and the Muppets. Miss Piggy, Kermit and all the gang singing and making us laugh. As of late my kids and I have been listening to it on repeat, and I thought I’d share with you.
Christmas is just hours away and we’ll soon get ready for an Eve of romantic lights, good food and wine with family. And the music will play, and I’ll think of my dad and how he always brought light and life into our holidays.
Christmas as is coming and we are already filled up, but still making room for more….more memories, more laughter and more love.
…And no Kevin, the title of this post has nothing to do with you. 😉
There are some things you just aren’t allowed to process out loud. Whether it’s the circle you are in or greater society, shame still has its hold over certain topics. And I am squirming, my kids see it, my lover sees it and I see it.
I remember after my mom died I had this acute awareness that there was very little time to mourn in the respect that life continues on. Kids have to be taken here, suppers need to be made, eaten and cleaned up after, and work needs to be attended to. Life doesn’t stop, even when you want to cry, scream and stomp your foot. Life is relentless, until it isn’t and we all know that side of things isn’t necessarily any better.
So here I am processing, wishing for time, wishing for space. It’s a cross between wanting to run away, wanting to hide and well… wanting to punch someone. You see, I will always be that person, that carries just that little bit, that edge of sadness in her soul. Someone who picks at her wounds, who ruminates, who stores pain in her soul. It’s not something I consciously choose, it’s not even something I enjoy, but it is who I am, and today even my 9 year old could see it. That hurt a bit too.
When we walked the West Highland Way it was hard. Like real hard. It didn’t matter how long we walked that day, whether 12 km or 27 km, with 2 km to our destination for the day to go I wanted to die…like every fucking time. You’d come around the bend of some winding path and hope that this would be it, here would lie the Mecca… the bathtub, bed and respite for the day. And the disappointment, when THAT bend, was not THE bend to signal the end of the journey for the day.
I don’t think I am 2 km’s from my journeys end, not by any means (I mean not that I know of!!!!). But I keep coming around the bend, hoping for respite, and feeling pain and disappointment, discomfort and sadness. Hope squelched… for now.
So I sit here, on the side of the road, aware that hope can look like it’s missing, aware that just like the bends that came and went that brought no end to that day, obviously eventually came. Otherwise how could I be here, literally.
I keep hoping that one of these lessons in hope will stick, one of these lessons in pain will stick. And that the other shoe, that it would stop dropping, or… maybe I just need to be a barefoot kinda girl, cause I’m running out of shoes.
We spent so long counting down the days till our departure for Scotland and now here we are counting the hours before we’re back home with the rest of our families. For me this means tears due to endings and goodbyes. But endings and goodbyes seem just the way of life.
Someone told me after we finished the walk that it may take a few weeks to understand the scope of what we accomplished. But as I walked and spent hours in repetitive hip swings, knee lifts and awkward foot placements. It was easy to see why so many metaphors around life involve talking about hills, valleys, and ups and downs.
Many times I thought about the quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” by Lao Tzu. The very first day I thought this as we hadn’t even had more than a few hundred metres under our belt and then subsequently at the beginning of each day with each groan of muscle and joint from the previous day reminding how far we had come and how far we still had to go.
I told Kevin near the end if I finished this then I feel like I could near do anything. It’s a feat of sorts that challenges body, mind, heart and soul. I placed a rock upon another rock in honour of my mom, I cried (out of pain and process), I wanted to quit while short of breath on steep uphills but persevered. So did Kevin, with a bad knee and everything making such a trip more meaningful having him along, not always by my side but cheering me on with a kiss around the bend. Forever grateful.
My love to you who shared this journey… we’re on our way home soon.
I’ll be brief, unlike our 28km hike today through rain, wind, sun, rain and sun again. (Ok so I never do brief very well…)
We made it. All 153 km and some extra to boot… we have lost all civility after climbing three flights of stairs with our luggage to an amazing BnB with an incredible view. (I mean Kevin climbed all the stairs, I winced and tried not to stretch my calves too much walking up the stairs…the right one currently has a permanent Charlie horse.)
We’ll post more pictures soon, but for now know we are safe and sound (and slightly more crippled than when we last saw you.)
Scrambled a bit this morning, we woke up to what we walked through yesterday, a shit ton of wet. Our hosts in Ballachulish were tremendous, drying our belongings and doing a load of laundry for us as well. We have about 15.5 km to go today, up up and up the steep devils staircase on the way to Kinlochleven.
The mountains have been covered in cloud, the paths wet, the rocks occasionally slippery but never have I wished not to be here.
My muscles have adjusted, though they still hurt the worst at the start of every morning, like I had done hundreds of squats the day before. I suppose I have been. Nursing two blisters that seem to be healing despite the continued walking, layering to be as most comfortable for the weather as possible and realizing what very little (besides clean underwear and water) that you need up here.
Ok… typing while being transported to our next starting point is making me nauseous on this windy road. Plus I’m missing the view of spectacular mountains and overflowing rushing streams due to all the rain.
I don’t even know where to begin. Ok yes I do. Add 19+21+25+20 kms and that’s how far we have walked since we started in Milngavie 4 days ago.
I’m not sure I can process the last 4 days yet. It’s been challenging to say the least. I am not as fit as Kevin and I am slow. I think at one point I said to Kevin that I was always the kid who was way behind who everyone had to wait for, and then by the time I got there, they were rested and we all took off. (When do I get to rest?!). That’s unfair… I rest lots. Mostly to pee. I have peed on everything between Milngavie and Tyndrum …including my hiking boots.
There is nothing that’s off limits when you are doing such a walk you know. Today after lunch I asked Kevin to walk ahead, he said no, I said, “walk ahead Kevin,” he said no again. So I finally turned around and told him to walk ahead…he did. Later I explained how badly I needed to fart, and I was just trying to be kind. Next time I’ll just let er rip. Peeing, pooing, farting … all fair game.
Today we reached the half way mark of the Westhighland Way. I think I yelled, “I never thought I’d make it this far!” In romantic ville I saw me making it to the end. The pragmatic me basically surrendered to the fact being 43 and having an often uncooperative body I would have been out by now. But hey mom, I’m still here and have thought of you lots.
There have been blackberries galore, ferns and more ferns, mist across my face, moments where I thought I was walking a stream bed instead of a path and today our path was often lined with the end of summers heather blooms. There have been rays of sunlight through forest that highlight mossy stone walls and tiny red mushrooms littered across our path to Crianlarich today. I wish I could bring you all here to show you… WordPress on the best of days doesn’t load pictures well.
I need a shower…and to stretch my muscles… I heard wine helps with that.
We got to Milngavie in the on again off again rain this afternoon. Lugging 43 pounds of suitcase plus a pack was not exactly fun through all our transportation issues/difficulties but when we wake up tomorrow morning our suitcases will be someone else’s problems. We’ll pack our day packs (and not forget the rain cover for our day pack of course) and leave our bags with a baggage transfer company who will take them to our next stop. I mean while we walk through hurricane hooha and attempt to make it to Drymen. Dry…men…. dry… m… get it? <ahem>. We won’t be dry man or woman and may return to Canada one big prune.
We arrived at the hotel today and the clerk asked us if we were walking The Way. She made a cringe face when we answered yes…even the Scots know the weather is a wee bit awful.
Cause let’s all be honest. Jacquie is a bit of a princess. She likes nice things. She likes warm things… not cold and wet things. But she got it stuck in her numb skull that she had to do this. One can only hope there are bathtubs to warm up along the way. PRAY THERE ARE BATHTUBS ALONG THE WAY PEOPLE!!!
Here’s some reading you can do while we hunker down and eat and sleep for our start at 9am tomorrow morning start (that’s 3am for most of youse at home).
…. they cancelled our flight. Not like cancelled cancelled. But like, put us on a different flight 5.5 hours later which would leave us missing all our connecting flights to Glasgow. So we raced to the airport, and damn all I could think about was Home Alone! Thanks to Christa our speedy ride, and Maria, Cristina and Katrina from Air Canada we were booked immediately on two flights to see which one we could get to first to make our connecting flights in Toronto.
So obviously we made it…
Kevin was much more calm than I. It probably took me two hours to come down from that adrenaline rush… to land in a delirium of realizing I had been up for over 24 hours from coming off of a night shift. (I left without shower after work, without sleep, without food, …and barely packed…. and yes fuck, a few things were left behind from racing to the airport 3 hours earlier than expected.)
Two layovers later, several back breaking contortionist airplane seat sleeps later we arrived in Glasgow and have slept on and off since. Jet lag is a bitch coming off of already being awake from working nights. #justsayin
Just barely made it to breakfast this morning. And are now checking out late, and Kevin is telling me to get off my phone and to look out the window because it would seem the hurricane season has arrived in Glasgow. We…are so fucked.
Wish us luck as we find our way to Milngavie. The start of the Westhighland Way. … where impending doom and epic stories will continue.
The closer I get the more scared I get. And it’s irritating me. Almost as much as my achilles is irritating me in fact.
What is with the fear? It is a motherfucking joy stealing turd that’s what!
Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Kevin shared this with me a few weeks ago, and although yes it came from a movie (an epic one at that) I don’t think its message is any less relevant. Travelling along the road of fear leads to places closed off from love, compassion and joy. The exact opposite of places I want to go.
So many lessons I have learned and places I have gone and people I have known remind me of the message that I want to live all in. Not to deny the fear, but to not let it suppress the joy either.
I realize I am not climbing Everest, but this is my Everest. Just like in relationships where every day in puts you further invested in one another, every preparatory act for this hike/trip brings me more vested in the outcome. I want to succeed, but also afraid I won’t and then my spirit wanders the messages going round my head. Some ok, some not so ok.
Me and my body/brain/heart have been practicing a bit of mindfulness. Practicing reorienting my ruminating, acknowledging the feelings, letting them enter my head, then letting them exit. Like watching a leaf float down a stream. A sports psychologist friend of mine once shared that with me and I have been using it as of late. The goal here is to enjoy the moment and still responsibly prepare for the next. The goal here is to live to the fullest capacity that I was created for and not lopsided in the realm of suffering and foreboding.
So much to learn, so much to process … SO MUCH FUN AND ADVENTURE TO BE HAD!!! And we’re on our way in 5 more sleeps.