I say good bye to my lovely hosts in Cullompton and backtrack slightly to visit Cafe Sustain and the Cullomprton Integrated Health Centre. This brainchild of Simon Mills has been on my radar for some time now and paves a way forward for transition health and well being. It combines a perfectly normal NHS heath centre with a centre for alternative health, offering everything from reflexology to herbal medicine to yoga, and has a herb garden which patients can be prescribed to work in, a cafe where people can meet. I am slightly disappointed to note that the cafe serves such things as fried egg sandwiches and wonder what the practice are doing to gradually wean their patients off such fare and to consider snacks of a slightly more healthy nature.
The symbol chosen for the centre is the green man, and beneath him is written
“Genius loci” – spirit of place.
There is information about this ancient Celtic god below him on the plaque, the whole commissioned by a sculptor, and based on the one commissioned by Prince Charles for his home; Viridios (green man), he is the symbol of the integration of the man within (his mind, body and spirit) with the man without (his surrounding environment), and I wonder who is the symbol of the woman’ integration, for we shall be needing that too!
I walk without rain today, and it feels so wonderful to be without the relentless wet of yesterday that I am quite delighted. I muse as I walk of the conversation Pat and I had as I ate my breakfast, of young people and how they can find their way to maturity in our world gone mad, without any signposts for them to follow. She talks of the experience she and Dave had of training young people for the Ten Tors (…) challenge and how they came out of it knowing how to work together and having developed a sense of maturity, and of her young granddaughter gone off to travel and work abroad, now picking kiwi fruit in Australia, and how important this is for a person to have had this experience of learning about life by working and learning new skills and how unequipped for life a person is who goes straight to university and then straight into a position of authority – with no idea of people or life or work or what any of that means, and I think about my travels in South America, and how they made me who I am today and the walk I am doing, how I am become story teller, story weaver, with no need for courses, for experts to charge money to teach me, how the living of it has taught me better than any teacher could hope to achieve, and JourneyKin is born.
JourneyKin is how I shall name my new project, and it is to be a scheme whereby people allow someone to stay in their home during a walking journey for just one night, 3 or 4 if the walk of part of a project they are doing and need the time to stop a while as part of that project, free of charge. If the person walking wishes to remain longer then the hospitality shall be offered in return for skills shared, work the household needs, a skill that person can offer, or their labour as they learn from another a new skill. I would start this scheme by offering space in my own home, and gradually let other people know and thus spread the amount of JourneyKin possibilities across the land. The first step; a home of my own where I shall be free to do this.
I walk without rain day and it is an easy walk, though long, 19 miles, but I make it in record time, and realise through this that my ability has changed, for when I set out the days I walked 20 miles made my feet tired, not sore or damaged, but tired, and now they are not, it has become a part of what I am able to do, and it feels good, I walk with ease, and my slow ambling has built up to a rhythm I never think about anymore, I just walk, and relish the time I have been given, alone, to reflect, without a clock as master, and it is precious and good.
I even stop for lunch, which is not something I have made a habit of, and I eat Pat’s delicious allotment grown tomatoes in the sandwiches she has made me, sitting on a bench beneath a willow in the middle of a beautiful garden in the centre of the pretty village of
Idyllic walk it is….till I arrive at Crediton at rush hour. No time to arrive anywhere, especially on foot, and I rush through it, narrowly avoiding being splattered by the traffic as it rushes headlong towards its destination as if in competition with the others to get there first, and in the doing so miss the church that stands on the cross point of the two ley lines that cross our land from west to east, or is it east to west, starting from Cornwall, or is it East Anglia, weaving within and without one another, like a giant caduceus (symbol of medicine, two snakes intertwined along the staff of Aesclepius, father of modern medicine) snaking its way across the land, the masculine and the feminine, the two energies that weave within and without us too when we are at peace with ourselves and the world and allow it to be so.
I follow the lane out of the busy working town, past the railway station, and sigh with relief to make a quieter road…or so I think. For the lane to Tedburn St Mary is like a racetrack and the cars zoom past, no recognition that this lane was never built for the likes of them, stopping in frustration to let one another pass, or to slow down if they have to, for me. Endless it seems, the final 4 miles, and it is with huge relief that I come to the even narrower lane that leads to St Mary’s church, set off far from the village, and along which Christoffer de Graal, my host for the night lives. Here the traffic dies away and it is quiet again, and I relax back into an appreciation of the landscape again. It is wooded and beautiful.
I get to Christoffer’s barn home, and it is lovely to see an old friend, and we drink herbal tea and sit by the woodburner, the first fire lit of the Autumn he says, and we cook our supper over it, chopping the vegetables where we sit and throwing them into the pot. Then we sit back and wait the lentil soup to cook atop the hot surface of the burner, which it does, in no time at all, whilst the evening draws in, and Christoffer asks about my story, the story I am weaving, and what it has meant, records it on his video camera, and in exchange plays me a song accompanied by his guitar, in his beautiful voice, a song composed then, right then in the moment, his beautiful voice, his beautiful playing, exquisite as I have remembered it, and I close my eyes and am transported by it, in gratitude that this musician has agreed to play music to accompany me at the storytelling festival where I will tell at in a couple of days time.
He sings of a journey, and it is poignant, searching, calling out into the night, and I tell of my story. It is OurStory I say, the story of all of us, man, woman, poor, rich, old, young; all of our stories and it is to replace the old story of money and disempowerment and it is a strong story, for new threads are being woven into it all of the time.
And so the musician and the storyweaver sat, by candle light, and ate their supper, and talked of the big things, the ones that really matter, the ones that lay deep within, hidden beneath the surface.
And the storyweaver talked of her experience of feeling the magical sprit of Hay on Wye that she had been able to feel for a 6 mile radius all around the town, and the musician spoke to her of a special relic that is kept there, and said they could go there to see it one day and this felt good, and was agreed upon.
Once supper is eaten and darkness has fallen Christoffer takes me to the new retreat space he is restoring and where I can sleep. It is not quite ready but it is ready enough to spend a night in, a beautiful little cottage with a wood burner, which Christoffer plans to offer to friends and others to stay in and we are struck by how similar to my thought about wanting to offer hospitality to others, and to another story Christoffer has heard about a man who travelled around using twitter (the new social media) contacts and we realise this idea is one whose time has come, and it feels good.
We talk about being in the moment, and following our passion, and how it is this that will transom our world and keep things good. I stay to sleep, and Christoffer return s to his barn, and the night ends early, just as it should, with time to reflect on the day before sleep descends. And if you would like to hear Christoffer’s divine playing you can contact him through www.movingsound.com .