Pilgrim in Reverse

A Pilgrim in Reverse

Greetings! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, too long. My wife, Jo, and I have retired, moved into temporary housing, and are in the process of emigrating to England. I’ve retired after 28 years in teaching and Jo has retired after 44 years in healthcare. We’ve downsized, sold our townhouse and we’re currently house sitting. What’s left of our Earthly belongings are in storage. Yikes!

My ManyTrails blog will document our adventurous transition with photos and words. Please feel free to reply or share stories and or pics of your life’s journey.

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Why Cornwall, England? We feel it’s a good time to jump the puddle for so many reasons. They include: My Visa application has been approved (that was a fun process); as a result of Brexit, we get more pounds per dollar, making it a good time to purchase real estate; Jo was born and raised by the sea in Cornwall, England (see earlier ManyTrails Blog for previous posts), Therefore, the sea is in her blood; It’s stunningly beautiful there and we’re looking forward to trekking through fields and along the coastal footpaths as we investigate the fascinating ancient (Bronze Age, Druids, stone circles) history; Cornwall has a rich artistic culture;England_Admin_Counties_1890-1965

Cornwall, the ‘Toe of England, way down at the bottom

We will be near Penzance, with the Pirates!Map-of-Cornwall

Jo has been in the States since 1980 and it’s only fair we spend some time with her family; Jo’s mother would appreciate our company (I hope!) as she proceeds through her Golden Years; Jo has an identical twin sister and a niece in Cornwall; we love to swim together and Cornwall offers open water swimming opportunities (In a wet suit. The water is cold!); I would like to live by the sea; Europe has embraced renewable energy and other aspects of sustainable living; I’ve recently taken a keen interest in photography and would like to learn more from professionals there; we will be purchasing a camper van or caravan (small camper) to tour the UK and Europe; I plan on writing more and sharing our adventures/lessons on my ManyTrails blog.;

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The Cornish Coast

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The village of Mousehole. Think Doc Martin or Poldark

I am also in the process of gaining certification as a Mindfulness in Education Consultant and England has some advanced training to offer; I love to sing and plan on taking more lessons and singing in local choirs; Finally, the USA has reached a new low in politics with so much intractable divisiveness, zealotry, and insanity (England has its issues too, but not so much in Cornwall); Corruption, ideology and ego run so rampant in our government that seemingly little to nothing gets done for the common good anymore.

We hold no illusions. This is a huge change for both of us as we adapt to retirement and a different culture. It rains in Cornwall and the winters are wet, just like the Pacific Northwest! America is so big and England is so small. Nowhere is perfect. I am a bit nervous about being so far away from my family and friends here in the States, but we intend to come back for visits every other year or so.

 

Stay Tuned

Sacred Earth

My wife, Jowanna, and I went for a Sunday hike around one of our favorite local spots this past Sunday, Round Lake in Camas, Washington.

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It started out as a cloudy, rainy day, but we decided a walk was still in order.  As we walked the sky cleared and the sun lit up the forest.

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As I began to walk more mindfully, focusing on the sounds, light, smells, and sights, the beauty moved my soul to realize my connection to the Earth is so much more than just looking after it, preserving resources for future generations.  I am more than a manager of the Earth.  There is a spiritual connection to the Earth that’s needed.  The Earth is truly sacred.  There is a miracle in every moment, indeed in every leaf!

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Don’t get me wrong, our actions are important and living lightly is critical for our sustainability, but without a spiritual connection, we are destined to continue our life of separateness from the Earth.

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Walking to the Ancient Wishing Well

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The ancient wishing well is located just outside the village of Madron, in Cornwall, far South West England. This well, along with the nearby sacred Celtic chapel, is a place of magic and healing.  Christians and pagans alike have visited this site for baptisms and blessings for hundreds of years.  It’s only about a one and a half mile level walk to the well and chapel.

The earliest reference to this site was in 1640, when it was recorded that the “cripple John Trelill” came here and bathed once a week for three weeks in May. He then slept on a mound nearby called St.Maddern’s Bed (the location of which is now not known) and was cured. “

In the 19th Century, an old dame, An Kitty, (An Katty) used to attend the baptistery (or well) in the Springtime to instruct ‘the gentry’ (who were then beginning to visit sites such as these) on the correct rituals to perform at the well.

Robert Hunt in 1871 recorded that maidens went there in May (the first three Thursdays being the most propitious time) and made a cross to float on the water, the number of bubbles indicating the years before matrimony. This custom continued right up until the 1st World War in the early 20th Century.”

(source; CASPN)

I began this walk on a beautiful September afternoon by stepping over a granite stile.

Granite Stile
Granite Stile

Humans can easily step over them but cows can’t quite negotiate the task. Many of the public footpaths in Cornwall cross through farm land and around farm structures. One must always be mindful to close any gates and be respectful of the farmer’s land.  Sometimes you’ll encounter cows along the public footpaths. Cows are no big deal, but bulls can get a walker’s blood pressure to rise a bit. The trick, I’m told, is to act “natural” and  “Walk like a farmer.” That usually works but not always;-) My wife and I learned this the hard way a few years ago.

We came across a herd of cattle along the footpath, in the middle of a field. We tried to act nonchalantly, until we noticed the bull staring us down as we passed him by.

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Maybe not a bull, but close enough!

I said to my wife,  “Act like a farmer.”  The bull didn’t fall for it.  Maybe it was the red sweatshirt I had wrapped around my waist, hanging down behind me!  We picked up our pace a bit. Unfortunately, the bull also picked up his pace behind us.  We finally panicked and ran for a nearby Cornish hedge.

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Jo Walking Next to a Cornish Hedge

Just before the bull reached us we leaped onto the hedge, narrowly escaping with a few scratches but no major wounds.  We managed to scramble down the other side of the hedge and make our way to a dirt road.  To this day, I don’t wear red on public footpaths.  I bet the farmer had a good chuckle watching us from the farm yard.

Anyway, I digress.  There were no cows on this particular day in September. However, there were some lambs grazing in an adjacent field. They were not quite so scary.  A Shepard was busy counting his flock.  A sheep dog patiently waited behind  for a signal.

Oh Good Shepard, Count Thy Sheep
Oh Good Shepard, Count Thy Sheep

This trail meanders through green pastures and along thousand-year old Cornish hedges’.  Wind blown hemlock trees, crouched like wise elder souls, line the hedge tops.

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In the distance the rocky hills rise. Abandoned tin mine shafts are silhouetted against the sky. Cornwall, is a place of many dramatic shades of light.  The effects of this unique light upon ocean and land paint the many moods of  Cornish geography. This light has drawn artists to the area for hundreds of years. Yes, geography has moods too!

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John Miller original artwork captures the Cornish landscape

Beyond the fields the trail goes through a tunnel of shrubs and hemlocks.

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I saw no other people, just felt spirits.  Archives of journeys, and depth of memory, were palpable. There were areas to the side of the trail that appeared to be magical places for fairies to live.  It felt like something was watching my every step.

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Fairies might bath in the sun here

As I approached the Wishing well, a tree decorated with colored strips of cloth and other significant items appeared. This is where people hang strips of clothing of the afflicted, and of those in need of prayers.

It reminded me of the tobacco ties of the Southwestern United States Native Americans, where prayers of tobacco were put into small bundles of colored cloth and suspended near sacred sites.

The relationship between man and earth  has no boundaries. Power spots on earth are like planetary acupuncture points. You know them when you feel them.  Leigh lines are like meridians of chi on the land.  Many of these form an interlacing pattern across Cornwall.

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The Wishing Well Prayer Tree

Upon closer examination of the Prayer Tree I found, besides the strips of colored cloth, other items were suspended.  They included: baby shoes;dog bones; crystals; and small items of significance.

Ian Cooke said:

“Children were stripped naked and plunged three times through the water ‘against the sun’ to kill disease and then passed quickly clock-wise, nine times around the spring to restore good health, no words being spoken to break the spell. A piece of cloth had to be torn from the persons using the well and left nearby for ‘good luck’.”

“The chapel and the baptistry is about 200 yards from the well and although parts of the lower courses of masonry are thought to be pre-Norman the building has been dated to about the 12th century, unfortunately the building was considerably damaged by Cromwell’s supporters during the period of the Civil War.”

(source; Antiquities of West Cornwall)

I said a prayer of thanks and blessings to the memories here.

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Have you visited a place that stirred your soul and taught you lessons?  Please share your thoughts when you are ready.

Sleepwalking In Awe

mousehole930x405                                                                   Mousehole, Cornwall, England


Have you ever had trouble falling asleep? I have. Instead of taking pills, reading a manual, or wandering around the house like a ghost, I try taking a walk in my mind. You could try this too. Pick a favorite walk and visualize each step, each turn, and each landmark along the way. I bet you’ll be asleep within a few minutes. It works for me!

One of my favorite “sleep-walks” to help with insomnia is from Mousehole to Lamorna Cove. This is a 2.5 mile (one-way)section of the magnificent 630 mile South West Coast Path, in Cornwall, England.  My wife is Cornish, so I have access. We’ll be retiring there soon. This blog is partially a place for me to process this transformation. Cornwall is the Land of Poldark, (settle down!), Doc Martin, fishing, artists, tin mining, pasties, King Arthur and The Pirates of Penzance! I think I covered it all. Penzance is way down in the far southwest of England, in the “Toe of The sock.”

England_Admin_Counties_1890-1965Map-of-Cornwall

Why do I choose this walk? It’s simple. Read on.

My intention here is not to provide a detailed trail description. For the more mundane aspects of the South west Coastal Path go to http://www.southwestcoastpath.com/. It’s really quite a good website. My goal here is to present the more affective and aesthetic aspects.

This section of The South West Coast Trail is only about 5 miles (8KM) round trip, however it is rated as ‘difficult’. Like life, it has its ups and downs. In fact, the last time my wife and I hiked there, we came across a solo hiker who had broken his leg on the narrow rocky decent into Lamorna Cove. He had to be rescued by Coast Guard helicopter, plucked off the hillside! Not a good way to end a Holiday!

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Jo Negotiating a Descent
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Solo Hiker with Broken Leg Being Airlifted

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There are several ways to begin this walk, but my favorite is starting in the village of Mousehole (Mow-zell), of ‘The Mousehole Cat’ fame.

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Stargazy Pie!

I suggest you have a cup of tea or coffee and some Stargazy Pie before you leave Mousehole. Bring water! It’s a stiff climb up Raginnis Hill Road to the actual path, but the views of the village and sea are phenomenal behind you. That’s life. On the way up the hill, take a breather at the Mousehole Bird Sancuary. http://www.mouseholebirdhospital.org.uk/ Chip in. They provide a good service.

Once you’re to the top of the road, the first section of the trail is level, along fields and tunnels of short trees, with glimpses of the sea.

IMG_0252There’s a bench not far along with a beautiful view over the ocean. This is a great place to stop, close your eyes and breathe in the salt sea air. Feel the wind. Listen to the waves. Be in awe. Slow down. This is usually where I begin to drift off with a smile in my “sleep walk.”

The trail curves down and snakes along the shrub shrouded hillside toward Lamorna, getting close to the cliffs at times. Somehow the seagulls here are a bit mellower then the city seagulls. They don’t threaten to take your lunch!

As I walk, I wonder who helped create this trail, merchants or warriors, or both. How long ago? So many steps, so much history is alive, from druids to me. I become egoless here.

About half way to Lamorna you’ll enter a patch of stunted pines that wrap themselves around you. This is a National Trust site called Kemyel Nature Reserve. It’s sheltered and filled with good chi (life force). It’s womb-like. At this point I am almost always asleep in my sleep journey.

getlstd-property-photoJust a short distance beyond the Nature Reserve the trail gets close to some rocks. This makes a great place for a break on a sunny day. It was here I realized thoughts are like waves. They come and go, sometimes troubled and sometimes serene. Just wait a bit as the tide always changes. Accept what is. We can’t hang on to the waves or the tide.

Anyway, this is our favorite spot to sit, drink tea, eat an apple, read a book, and be rejuvenated.

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Notice the cubical rock formations, the colour (no, I didn’t misspell color) of the lichen on the granite and the sky. No wonder artists love Cornwall and its light. I swear that there is something about the friction between the elements of water and the elements of granite that creates a palpable energy, motion meets mass, an elemental soul massage.

The trail continues, climbing granite steps until at the top, Lamorna Cove comes into view. By the way, there’s a café in the cove and a pub awaits, just up the road a tad. More on that later.

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The decent into Lamorna is a bit rocky so watch your step. This is where the gentleman broke his leg! You’ll pass by a few vacation cottages and enter Lamorna Cove. Many artists of the past and present have been inspired by this area.IMG_2110 IMG_2111

IMG_2112 UKLamornacove

Here is a good place to have a cup of tea and lunch or, if you don’t mind a short walk up the paved road, you’ll find a fine pub called The Wink. Have a pint and a ploughman’s lunch.

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http://lamornawink.co/

If you don’t feel up to the trek back, you can also catch an infrequent bus back to Penzance from here. There are two great alternate trails back to the Mousehole area, making for a fine loop walk.

What a great walk! Do you have a journey to share? Please feel free to post here.
So, next time you have trouble sleeping, take a walk. See you down the trail!

Welcome to Many Trails

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‘Generations’: South West Coast Path: Cape Cornwall, England

Friends, Roamers, and Countryside Trekkers, lend me your tales.

Let’s journey together.

Do you have a journey you’d like to share? Have you ever had a walk with such overwhelming beauty it moved you to tears or laughter? Have you visited magical places that taught you life-affirming lessons? Then you know a trail can be much more than an aerobic way to get from one place to another. If we walk mindfully and engage the senses, trails can be transformational storytellers .  Trails are capillaries of memory and life force running through landscapes of time. Every step is an opportunity to connect to the earth and to those who have preceded us. The landscape informs our souls. By writing down our souls, we heal ourselves and others.

ManyTrails is dedicated to those of us who have been inspired by nature and sense of place. It provides an opportunity to slow down, get grounded and reflect upon our relationship with the Earth and share the awe.

At ManyTrails feel free to post the simple beauty or a profound message. Where were you? Were you inspired to write a poem or a song, or stop to take a photograph? Why?

We are all related- Mitakuye oyasin

We are nature, too.

Thank you and walk lightly.

Rich

PS- Before you post to ManyTrails please T.H.I.N.K., is your post: True; Helpful; Inspiring; Necessary; and Kind?

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‘Next Generation’- South West Coast Path, Cornwall, England

Friends, Roamers, and Country Walkers, lend me your tales.