"For in their hearts doth Nature stir them so, Then people long on pilgrimage to go."
—Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
From the silence beneath the noise, I feel it—a tug from the unmet mystery to wander out into the world, and a push from my desire to meet it.
My mind starts trying to formulate a plan: starting and end points, how long and far I want to walk, what time I will leave.
But this call asks for none of that. It is not about duration, exercise or a final destination. The call just asks me to get out of my chair, get dressed and follow where it leads without needing to understand where, why, how or when.
So I do.
I get in my car and drive towards the Fitzroy Gardens. I find a car park easily then get out and start to wander. The rapture of yellow guides me and calls me to pause to fully experience nature’s beauty.
I explore a sandy path I have never walked before and discover the Dolphin fountain for the first time, although it has been in the gardens since 1982. My face lights up in surprise and amusement. If we stay on the same paths and never venture into unknown territory we never discover anything new.
I find my way back onto a bitumen path and walk up to the River God fountain. I turn back and look at the path lined by bright yellow fallen leaves. The beauty is profound.
Everywhere I look, I see such aliveness in the lead up to death. I am discovering that it is in each passing moment of my life that I blossom even more. Now at 40, I am more full of beauty than I was at 20.
Perhaps at the moment of my death I, too, will be as dried and withered as the paper brown leaves scattered at my feet. But only because I radiated every last ray of dazzling radiance until my last breath.
In the distance, I see St Patrick’s Cathedral, a church I have visited often pre and post my Via Francigena pilgrimage. It calls me to visit now too. I sit and bask in the amber glow of the giant arched windows and soak in the peace of the holy space then return to the park to sit amidst nature's yellow until I feel ready to go home.
The next day, I am surprised when I feel the longing to wander again. It is not an urge to walk for exercise or to a specific destination but just to roam and explore wherever I feel the impulse to move. I answer the call and this time wander beside the slow-moving Yarra River at Studley Park. I wander without time constraints until my urge to wander dwindles to stillness.
This impulse, this urge, this calling—it is an energy that moves through me, inviting and encouraging me out into the world. It is an impulse to move forward after so many months confined to stillness then limited movement.
"The great affair is to move," Robert Louise Stevenson wrote about his urge to travel. For me, this urge to move is a precious thread - one which I have been inviting and waiting for since the beginning of the year. Perhaps it is just passing by and I will have to let it go or perhaps it will lead me to a new and different path as it has many times before. Everything new begins with a call to be answered.
For now I am following its insistent, gentle tugs, wandering out into the world as an urban pilgrim, witnessing this world through the eyes of my heart, being touched and moved by beauty.
I welcome this urge and this movement. I nurture and celebrate its aliveness and mystery. It is indeed a great affair.
What is calling to you?
Is life trying to move you out into the world in some way or back into stillness?
Is there a thread that wants you to follow?
What would happen if you said yes and took a step towards it?
With love and courage,