The Long Distance Writer – the return home

bootsI have completed my St Cuthbert’s Way – walking from Melrose in the Scottish borders to Lindisfarne in Northumberland over seven days with my sister. I’ve been back home for a week and, though I took copious notes while I was away, I have found it hard to sculpt anything into a post. The many enquiries of, ‘How was it?’ from friends have mainly been met with numerous ‘um’s followed by a bland ‘fine’.

Perversely, given my passion for writing, I found I was afraid of trying to put my experience into words. I was afraid I would lose the essence of what I’d lived through. It was unexpected. I’d not come across this reluctance before. I’d even submitted (and had accepted) an idea for a series of posts for Mslexia on walking and writing (https://mslexia.co.uk/ six posts from October to December). I thought I’d be excited to get writing, instead I was hesitant.

Polkinghorne says: ‘The realization of self as a narrative in process serves to gather what one has been, in order to imagine what one will be and to judge whether this is what one wants to become. Life is not merely a story text: life is lived and the story is told. The life story is a redescription of the lived life and a means to integrate the aspects of the self.’ (Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. State University of New York Press p. 154.)

I did not want to move from the life lived to the redescription, in doing so I felt I might mislay something essential. Yet in order to integrate my experiences into my life (let alone communicate them, however imperfectly, to others) I have to find the story to be told, or rather, the stories. And there are many. For instance, there is: the description of the landscape; the meetings with others on the path; the sparks of imagination ignited; the narrative of my relationship with my sister; the story of my body; the encounters with histories. There are the stories which have, as yet, not presented themselves to me.

Each story-thread chosen will give me a different perspective, a different way in, a different reveal. I hope in the coming weeks on this blog and also in the posts I do for Mslexia, to unravel some of these yarns and find the means to do at least some of them justice.

During those seven days along St Cuthbert’s Way my sole focus became the walking. It even cherviotssurprised me when my sister described me to someone as a writer. I thought, I’m not a writer today, I’m a walker. I did not dwell on the past, nor look to the future beyond the walk. There was a freedom about this, as I put one foot in front of the other, the dry grass whispering against my boots at every step, the expansive sky and hills all about me. It is one of the aspects of the life as lived I would like to hold onto as I creep towards its redescription.

9 thoughts on “The Long Distance Writer – the return home

  1. Julie Fairweather

    How wonderful for you. Looking forward to hearing – or reading – what you have to say about your experience… when you come back down. I had similar thoughts and feelings on an 8 day group pilgrimage traveling to and staying on Iona … it simply takes your breath away.

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  2. Lani

    Sometimes it’s nice to have some distance between the event and the retelling. This is probably one of those cases. I think it’s fine to give yourself some time to process…and then! You just have to start and I’m sure everything will feel better after that 🙂

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  3. Annecdotist

    Interesting, Kate, you’ve got me wondering about that reluctance to put some experiences into words. It might be similar to how I feel about composing a blog post about my launch parties which, as you know, I thoroughly enjoyed and, on the surface, are even more related to the topic of my blog than walking is. You make a very valid point about having to wait until you know what story it is (or more likely stories) you want to come out of the experience. The project with Mslexia sounds really interesting but it might be that this unexpected reluctance right now will be the precursor to some deep reflections (no pressure there, then) – perhaps like that confusion in therapy that can precede some deep insights. Yet I do think you’ve started the process already with this thoughtful-yet-confused post, which cause so much deeper than some of the familiar offerings on write your way out of writers’ block.
    PS – how are your feet?

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    1. Kate Evans Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. I tend to find writing or walking my way out of a block generally works eventually and hopefully brings deeper insight, at least about me as a writer. My feet are fine. One of the great surprises about the walk was how well my 51 year-old body held up!

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  4. Pingback: The news train that roars to the heart of ancient Scotland | Washingtonian Post

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