I 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 surprised 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.