1 September 2020

What’s your thing

Picture of Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine

Recently, I met with a friend after the publication of her first book, The Memory Pool (New South Publishing 2019). The book’s an anthology of stories about Australians’ memories of pools and their significance. The notion arose out of author Therese Spruhan’s love of swimming.

Like many Australians, I love to swim and I have my own ‘memory pools’. However, swimming isn’t my thing. When you encounter someone who has identified their ‘thing’ and embraced it, their enthusiasm can be very engaging. At some stages of life, one’s ‘thing’ is obvious.

For a new parent, an employee with a demanding career, an individual caring for a loved one with a disability, life is very focused and challenging. However, passion enriches life, so it’s worthwhile I believe to explore one’s inclinations and find one’s bliss.

Caroline Jones writes of the joy dancing brings her:

Dancing is one of my best experiences of being fully alive. When I am dancing I feel beautiful and free. My body, mind and spirit are integrated into a focused, harmonious whole. I feel at home in myself. I am happy … I feel that I could dance my way into eternity. (An Authentic Life: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Everyday Life ABC Books 1998)      

St Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is [wo]man fully alive.”

When Caroline Jones writes of the enrichment dancing brings her, and when Therese Spruhan describes the solace and release swimming offers her, I believe each is sharing nothing less than a spiritual experience, an experience which illumines the glory of God.

So, finding what enlivens you – and doing it – not only enhances wellbeing, it’s actually good for the soul!

A pastime that enlivens me is walking. I also enjoy champagne, a spot of retail therapy, a thought-provoking movie and writing, but on a daily basis, with very few exceptions, I walk. I guess it began when I walked to school, as almost everyone did. Everybody walked then, or maybe cycled when Christmas brought a bike.

Dad was a keen walker, particularly when a visiting grandchild could accompany him in the pram! He and I often walked around our town together, and the conversations that occurred ‘on the road’ were different from kitchen table or driving conversations.

If you had told me even 10 years ago that I would walk across northern Spain, carrying a pack, wearing rather ugly boots and using two walking poles, I would have laughed. And yet, five years ago, opportunity knocked, I opened the door and walked out, so to speak.

The decision to walk the Frances Camino from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela involved a degree of anxiety, endless lists (even though one carries as little as possible!) and most of all, a commitment to train so that I could walk an average of 20 kilometres daily, for five weeks (with occasional rest days).

One of the legacies of walking the Camino was a renewed commitment to walking daily. It doesn’t need to be a particularly scenic route (although on my regular route I sometimes spot a wallaby skittering away) because the benefit is as much spiritual as physical; as much about the soul as the soles!         

If I’m trying to resolve a problem or concern, or seeking inspiration for some creative pursuit, or needing a focused chat with God, chances are it will come on the path.

While walking can be an entirely solitary pursuit, requiring no special gear, it also establishes connections. I have come to know Keith entirely through walking. I would see him walking his greyhounds and we would exchange pleasantries. Eventually we exchanged names. Then, for months, I didn’t see him at all. With only a first name, and no address, I had no way of enquiring about him.

Eventually, we met again, although Keith had lost so much weight post treatment for cancer that I hardly recognised him. His walks are shorter and slower and he can’t manage the dogs anymore, but he’s been given a new lease of life.

Then there’s Ron, who walks early and briskly on his own before a second walk with his two dogs whose bounding days are over. And Zina … but I don’t know her owner’s name. Yet!

When I’m travelling, I try to keep up the ritual of an early walk. It can orient me in an unfamiliar area and offer a framework for the day to come. It can also be an opportunity to chat to early rising locals and to watch the sun rise from new vantage points!

Our lives are a pilgrimage and sometimes we choose to walk a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage. Renowned walker and wise woman, Ailsa Piper, writes, “Pilgrimage is faith in motion. You just keep turning up. Whether you want to or not. Whether it is the way you pictured it, or not. Keep walking, and the spirit flies even if you don’t know where. Keep turning up.” (A Piper Sinning Across Spain Victory Books 2012)  

So, what’s your thing?



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