Unfinished post alert

Dear friends who receive my posts in an email. Sorry for the unfinished post.

My tablet must have decided that the post was finally ready after I had worked on it aready for a few days, trying to find my writing rythm and the words to describe what I experience here. I can’t recall pressing the publish button. If you have not yet read the email version, please go directly to the blog to find an updated version of my Christmas post, still not quite ready, but tidied up.

Merry Christmas from Malaysia

This Christmas I find myself in Malaysia, An invitation from my cycle friend Don brought me here and I love being here. I like the heat, the rain in the afternoons, the mix of people from different cultures who have been living here for a long time or came here in the last 200 years. The cultural mix also makes for a great variety of food. I have grown fond of the spicy Malaysian food and some interesting Chinese dishes and for a change sometimes an Indian curry mixed in.

While in Kuala Lumpur where Don lives, we go for early morning, pre-breakfast walks in the Botanical Gardens. Lovely to start the day, to actually walk into the day and listen to the birds and insects and admire the tropical plants on the way. A good place and time for my walking practice.

We went on a few trips recently, first to Penang in the Northeast of Malaysia, a place full of history. And although only 25% of the population of Malaysia are Chinese, in George Town on the island of Penang, most places had a chinese feel to it. Chinese came here in the late 18th century to work in spice trading as Penang was one of the main trading ports in the Malacca Strait besides Malaka and Singapore. Some families still live in Jetty houses on stilts and inside the town we visited the impressive Khoo Kongsi clan house.

On the way back from Penang we took a detour through the Cameron Highlands, where soon after leaving the coast line, the hills get quite high and steep. The climate is different here. People have come here for centuries for a break from the heat at rhe coast, my first impulse was to wear a fleece jacket with the temperature here only going up to 18 degrees, not the usual 32. The tea plantation that we visited got my full attention, rows and rows of tea pants in green rolling hills. This is where some of the tea I am drinking is growing and being processed. The tea plants seem to like the combination of steep hills, hot sun and lots of rain.

Another highlight was a four day trip to the National Park, Taman Negara, in the North of the country. I read, that the rainforest or some of it is more than 130 million years old. It feels good to know that this part of the forest is protected. Visitors can explore parts of it on board walks or on the mostly fairly muddy paths. At least in this part of the year, monsoon season most of the paths are muddy and some were cosed due to flooding. We got to the forest first by mini van and then by boat, a meditative 2.5 hour boat trip with the bags stuffed under a tarp and 10 people, 2 by 2 in a narrow motor boat against the stream. We saw water buffalos and listened to some new bird sounds and songs.

Belfast – Honest and Alive

I had no idea that this trip would take me to Belfast, until Monday last week when I woke up and knew I had to come here. And I am so glad, I did come here. From Barmouth, I travelled to Dublin and felt so unsettled there that I did not know for a while where to go and what to do. Although getting to Dublin had been quiet enjoyable, by bus through the West and North West of Wales, then on the train from Bangor to Holyhead and via ferry to Dublin. In Holyhead I had a few interesting encounters, one after the other, one with an Irish couple who were waiting for the train to Birmingham, while I was getting ready for the ferryride. In our conversation we somehow landed at betting as a passion of the Irish. The gentleman had an interesting theory about the passion having been born during the hardship of many centuries of many an Irish man, creating the need to believe in or bet on an opportunity that would come their way.

Travelling to Belfast was enjoyable too, a 2.5 hour bus drive to the North from Dublin. My heart opened again when I caught a glimpse of the Mourne Mountains in the East before coming into Northern Ireland. Belfast was my home for two years, in the late 1990s. A bit of story here: In the mid 90s when I first came to Belfast for a project meeting, while working in a European project with partners in Northern Ireland, I fell in love with the place, completely taken by the beauty and aliveness. I followed my bliss and moved here after the project in Germany ended, found a new job as research assistant at the Queens University of Belfast and enjoyed a very alive and rich time here. I somehow had forgotten about that phase of my life, which now feels like a time full of opportunity, dreams fulfilled, fun and social activity.

While being here in the 90s I trained and ran for a marathon – the 1998 London Marathon – which had been a dream of mine from back when I was 17 when I started to love long distance running. Some of what they call cross training for the marathon, I did walking in the Mourne Mountains with my friends from the university walking club. Also I had a racing bike made to measure to do some of the endurance training on the bike. And there was lots of music and language learning. I played my viola in the local university orchestra, one very interesting experience was as part of the orchestra, to perform a piece by John Cage called ‘Ocean’, finalised by his assistent Andrew Culver who rehearsed with us, in the then brand new Waterfront Hall. The orchestra players encircled the audience, way up high in the hall, each player with a clock that started to run backwards when the piece began, there was no conductor, we played according to time, on no notes either. As we played our sounds, on the circular dance stage the Cunningham dance company performed movements which had been defined by dice throwing and the I Ching. The Waterfront Hall attracted other famous artists, I remember being in the audience for a performance with Philipp Glass. Language: I started learning Irish for fun and went to weekend classes in the West of Donegal where I met another inspired linguist from Belfast and we henceforce met up in the lighter parts of a pub to read Irish poems and little stories with the help of our dictionaries. The same friend helped me to revive my Russian before I travelled to a conference in St. Peterburg where we presented the findings of the university project. I in turn helped him to bring information about the party program and plans from door to door in North Belfast when he stood for the Green Party. In the beginning of my stay, violence as part of the troubles was still escalating, soldiers and tanks on the street were part of the daily picture, also helicopters circling certain areas in observation flights. Other parts of the city were clearly not adviced to go to. And during the marching season, around 12th of July, when a group of protestants are still celebrating their victory over the Irish in 1690, one either bought enough food and stayed in the house for a few days or left the city. On coming back the odd burnt car or bus could be seen. Then in April 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement, things calmed down. But you would still not go to certain areas and I changed the route I was taking on my bicycle to visit a friend, when a group of children threw stones at me when I was waiting at a traffic light. There was something about the violence around which I had the privilege to avoid easily enough, inspiring aliveness and openness for activity, creation and innovation as an expression countering the fear maybe. While all the memories of my time here are slowly coming back to me as I am walking the streets of Belfast, visiting cafes I used to frequent and going to the university cinema and reconnecting with friends I had not seen for 15 to 18 years, I enjoy feeling the aliveness of this city again.

I wonder what let to me somehow forgetting this fruitful and inspired time I had in Belfast. Maybe a difficult time in Belfast, when I had a job offer from a computer training company in New Jersey and spent a few weeks waiting for my working visa, the difficult energy of waiting, not knowing if and when I would be able to move? Or later in 2009 when I turned my back to my career in computer training and e-learning and had to somehow make that part of my life to be ‘not so good’ to allow myself to dive into connection to myself and nature. Anyway what is happening now feels like a late honouring of that phase of my life, accomplishments and friendships. And maybe here in this still torn city a coming together of two big parts of me is possible. That is my wish for todays new moon to help me integrate the more goal oriented and very capable part of me with the part that feels and loves, enjoys intuitive living, following her impulses, is drawn to the mystical and magical, to trees and mountains.

Below photos from my hike onto Belfast’s Cave Mountain on my first day here. The mountain felt full of energy and joy that day, or maybe it was me. And below also a photo of the rose garden as part of the Botanic Garden which I visit often.

Crop Circles on the Beach?

This morning (Wed 24th October) after my morning beach dance ritual, I witnessed some strange workings on the beach, in the afternoon it looked like this from my favorite spot Dinas Oleu:

I asked the man who was directing the digger operator, what this was for: There will be a motorbike race going on over the following weekend. And the forcast is for temperatures around zero and some snow. It feels like a good moment to travel on after having had such a beautiful and intense time here; heading to Dublin via the ferry from Holyhead tomorrow.

While in Barmouth I did continue my morning beach dancing practice which was fun. I did not quite follow the plan to write a post every day. Possible titles could have been: Playing the Bass Drum, More from the Mawddach Trail, The Last Haul, etc.

My time in Barmouth has been very rich and I want to say eventful, although most events somehow took place inside of me. Outside I connected to friends and colleagues online and I went on my walks and regular visits to the lightful Dinas Oleu. But instead of meeting new people in Barmouth, I seem to have met a few new parts of and in myself who I had not really appreciated until now. It feels great to welcome them and have them be part of my life from now, some I do not find so easy to love, but still happy I found them. The title of my blog ‘Walking to Wholeness’ becomes true, I am walking towards more wholeness inside of me. The two weeks in Barmouth feel like some of the most transformative times in my life. I shall take care to integrate what I learnt and felt.

Regarding some of the outside activities, playing the Bass Drum was fun. In my attempt to meet local people, I joined the local Batala Bermo group for one of their evening practices. The group had advertised in the local event magazine, always on the lookout for new members for their Samba percussion group which is part of the global Batala Project. On that evening 12 to 15 drummers gathered in the local discotheque, one of the drummers had brought a second drum, he wanted to try a lighter drum that evening, and I was given his bass drum. Somebody else provided me with knee protection (!), the drum is hanging around knee high, and drum sticks. As one of the bass drum players, my task was to keep the rhythm for the other players to follow. I enjoyed that and it did not really matter that I only slowly learned to follow the signs of the conductor, the smaller drums needed to be able to read, but the bass drums hardly ever played something different than the basic beat which seems to come quite naturally to me. The whole event was loud if not to say noisy, everybody was wearing ear protection, I stuffed paper tissue into my ears. In the break I talked to some of the other players and had a little tiny taste of their lives, most came from other towns along the coast and are driving to Barmouth once a week to join the group.

I did walk the Mawddach Trail backwards, took the bus to Dolgellau and walked along the estuary towards the sea. When walking into the land, I had been so taken by the beauty of the surroundings and felt very energized at the end of the day, now walking towards the sea the experience was different, it seemed to be about letting go. Particularly around Penmaenpool, where I walked over the bridge to the other side for a little break in the sun – the side I was walking on was mostly in the shade – I felt like something was dropping of my back, a nice freeing feeling. And then more of that further towards the sea. On the trail, I met a couple, two cyclists, first at a gate at the beginning of the trail and then again later when they were on their way back after having had lunch in Barmouth. When we met the second time they stopped for a longer conversation around what it means to connect to nature while in it, there seem to be so many different ways of being in nature. They were concerned that young people these days who spend time in nature, do not appreciate it or even see it, as they continue to stare onto the screens of their phones. I also learnt something new about the history of the area when walking the trail for the second time, during the 1860s Dolgellau was at the centre of a little gold rush with two gold mines and jewellery from that gold apparently is still produced and sold. Non of my new parts inside of me bought me a golden ring yet 😉

Above the bridge at Penmaenpool. Some additional information on Penmaenpool on this sign:

Last Haul is the name of a sculpture of fisherman haulting nets from the sea, a memorial to Barmouth’s once flourishing fishing industry. It was commissioned by Barmouth council for the Millennium celebrations. The interesting part is that it is from white Italian Carrara marble from a ship wreck that was found off the cost of Barmouth. The marble must have been in the water for a long time before it was found by local divers in 1978, then one block of marble was raised. The ship carrying the marble sank in the early 18th century, I read, and that it is not clear where the marble was being transported to.

Finding Dinas Oleu (Citadel of Light)

More from Barmouth. Tuesday when I was sitting at the beach for a while I asked the land if there was any message for me. One of the things I heard was to write about Barmouth every day. So here I am doing my best to follow that guidance.

I really like it here, the atmostphere is lovely, something very happy here, particularly after the storm has passed. When I came back from my morning walk to the beach Tuesday, I noticed a ‘new’ bar/restaurant and something on the menu attracted my attention. I followed the attration and had my lunch there. The food was lovely and when I looked around I noticed a sign across from my table at the wall, Myrddins the name of the restaurant:

Leylines in Barmouth? On the same leyline as Glastonbury? That made me curious and I googled Barmouth and leylines. What I found was not so much about leylines, but a pointer to a piece of land called Dinas Oleu (Citadel of Light) above Barmouth, further up the rocky hill against which Barmouth is built. It was clear that my after lunch walk would take me there. Delightful, just a few hundred meters up a very narrow street, I found the land. With wonderful views of the coast and town and green gorse covered paths climbing further up the hill. The name is definitely pointing to something, this place felt very lightful. I walked and sat for a while and felt like enveloped in love, very happy to have come here. Thoughts are coming to my mind if I could live here, in Barmouth I mean. Would need or want to learn Welsh then though.

The land of Dinas Oleu once belonged to Mrs Fanny Talbot and became the first area of land that was donated to the National Trust in whose hands it still is. The area is described as an open air sitting room, yes I can very well imagine to bring my book the next time I come and sit and read and enjoy the soft energy that the place is emanating.

I am so glad that Barmouth called me and decided to extend my stay for another week, there just seems to be so much to explore and so much beauty to take in. Also I feel comfortable in my little cottage and get to write more than I have been for a long time and I am having plenty of video meetings with my friends and collegues from the online class. So no time to feel lonely really. It feels like a time of deepening and integrating, and something new is coming through too. Another message at the beach yesterday was to come dancing to the beach every morning to bring there whatever I have to bring. I have gone out to the beach every morning since and moved, still need to work through some self consciousness in dancing or moving outside, but it feels so good so will persevere and let myself be guided by my longing to express also in that way.

Some views from Dinas Oleu:

And a photo of the information board:

Walking along the Mawddach Trail to Dolgellau

In my research around Barmouth I had read about the Mawddach Trail, a 15km walk along an old railway track beside the river Mawddach. After two days mostly spent inside, I felt ready to walk for a few hours on Sunday. I put on my new wellington boots expecting puddles and small rivers to wade through, but none of that happened, but luckily the boots turned out unexpectedly comfortable.

To get to the trail I first had to walk over the single-track wooden railway viaduct crossing the river estuary. The bridge was built between 1864 and 1867, with major renovations in the last century. While walking I admired the wooden structure and noticed the silence, I was out early, not so many people around, the wind had completely dropped, a curious eery feeling.

And looking back:

The Mawddach Trail has been prepared for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users, so walking was easy and comfortable. The views were stunning and relaxing back into my walking practice, I entered an enchanted state, so soft and calm and beautiful the views over the water and the surroundings. See for yourself.

And looking back to the railway viaduct:

The trail:

Paenmenpool was the first small settlement on the way, where I had hoped to get some food. Interestingly I was not very well prepared, in my backpack I had just a flask with tea and a pack of oatcakes. The local pub and restaurant was being renovated, at the toll bridge over the river I was told, no food today and 4 more km to go to the small town Dolgellau. Lots of food options there. And the sun came out when I reached the town and no way I would go inside for food. I found a little fish and chip shop and had chips and tea, sitting on a plastic chair in the sun.

Opposite I noticed the bus stop and after filling up chips I checked the bus times, there was only 1 bus in my direction 2 hours later, perfect timing to explore the town. It looked very artsy, shops with art supplies and wool. In one shop window hundreds of knitted squares were stacked, some of them sewn together to make a scarf and the scarfs they said would be sewn together to make blankets for the homeless. I love the idea and hope to be able to contribute at least one square myself.

When entering the town I saw a stone circle, but it looked ‘strange’, I walked around it during my tour of the town and did not feel like entering it. Later I read that it is a modern stone circle. On my next visit – Thursday is market day in Dolgellau – I am intending to find out more about the circle. Also the views must be even more stunning going from Dolgellau towards the sea along the track. Next time bus in, walk back.

Maybe then there is also time for a stroll through one of the two little oak forests which took my attention on the way, reforested after most of the oaks had been used for the busy ship building industry that was once situated here. The ship building stopped around 1850 and then the railway track was built to bring summer sea resort guests from the cities to Barmouth.

Closing this post with a picture of a statue in a small park near the river in Dolgellau named ‘roots’.

Getting to Barmouth – Inner and Outer Turmoil

After spending 9 fairly intense days in Carlisle with a friend – we had been both part of the we-space experiment in June in Findhorn and found ourselves in a very similar energy, as if we could pick up the we-space energy again, more about that in an extra post – well so after that time in Carlisle I wanted to be with myself again for a while and Wales was calling.
Don and I had talked about going to Wales together, which did not happen, but I had started researching places to stay and found a little youtube video about Barmouth and somehow felt a curious attraction to this place. I found an airbnb place online, a small fisherman cottage and booked it for a week. It is set directly against the rock that is towering over Barmouth, placed in a small alleyway only a few minutes walk from the beach. Very cute and furnished and decorated with great care. So inside all is fine and cosy, the internet is working well, I can make tea whenever I want and cook small meals. However, for the first two days here, outside the weather was wild.

Already the trip out here was a bit unsettling. And maybe I actually started my journey in Carlisle a bit unsettled, with some inner nervous anticipation. But then the first leg of the trip was very smooth, a 3-hour train ride to Birmingham where I needed to change trains. While waiting for my next train, I had an interesting chat with a woman in a cafe, she is working as a carer and on the way to a new person she would be looking after for a while. Then I was getting ready for my next leg of the journey, buying some food and water, for what should have been an 3.5 hour direct train ride to the seaside resort Barmouth in Wales. The platform was packed and people seemed uneasy, a train had been cancelled, then my train was also cancelled. There was talk of ‘an incident’, I asked somebody what this meant, it meant that somebody had ended his life by jumping in front of a train. It was hard to take that in, I get why they talk about ‘an incident’ and then I mostly numbed myself maybe like most people around me, just feeling the unease in the background. On the practical level, one option seemed to be to wait for the next train, 2 hours later. Would I have taken more time to feel my inner unsettledness? Instead I followed the advice of the train personnel to take any possible train going my direction because they did not know if any later direct trains where going at all. So I boarded a very full train to the next big town in my direction, a group of police men and women where on the train too. I got off the train and waited with several other people for the next train. A train was announced to drive us the next leg of the journey, but not enough personnel could be found to operate the train. I was thinking of all the train conductors who maybe did not want to drive a train anymore on that day. And I liked the honesty around the announcements. About an hour later a train came and somehow all the people waiting on the platform got on it. This is how I reached Shrewsbury. There a lady at the station told me that there would be a bus instead of train to bring me to my final destination. But the bus driver told me that the bus had a different destination and that maybe there could be a change of bus, but not too sure, so please wait for the later train.
The train came, but shortly after leaving the station made strange noises and slowed down considerably. Again the information management was very good: there was a problem with the engine, they were working on it with experts over the telephone, and we would continue to the next big town and then see what could be done. This train was supposed to be divided at some point – before my final destination – and on top of the question if the train would make the destination at all, I was wondering if I was in the right part of the train, clearly carrying my underlying unsettledness with me all the way. The question of the right part of the train was made redundant when all people in the last two coaches of the train were told to change into the first two coaches. That somehow solved the problem, with 1 hour delay the train was up to speed again. Ạnd I was lucky as they chose to drive the train further up the coast of Wales, including through Barmouth; those who wanted to go south had to get off the train at some point and get on busses for further transport. I actually met a man yesterday on a walk who had been on that train too and needed to get off it to continue his journey by bus.

In total I arrived 3 hours later than planned and found my little temporary home ok and the key for it too.
Really I was fine, just the feeling of unease during the trip. And wondering if I could have been more ‘conscious’ about my ‘uneasyness’. In the workshops I go to we learn to be in contact with what we feel, to be conscious of how we feel when we talk to somebody, when we slowly walking towards one or two people, when we receive information, etc., amazing to become aware of all these things that happen in the body. And in a safe and well held group that sometimes works. But out in a railway station with a lot of people and nervousness around it is not so easy. I was conscious enough to send blessings to the man who died while on the first train after Birmingham and sending more blessings now.

I calmed down after I reached my new little sweet home. But the turmoil continued outside. I had checked the weather forcast before I came, thus I knew that there would be lots of rain and even the strong winds had been forcasted. But the weather was more severe than I had imagined. Storm Cumran was raging in Wales for two days. I went for a walk on Friday to discover my new surroundings, and near the sea I was nearly blown off the pavement, I walked back through the town, bought a pair of wellington boots and then decided to stay dry and warm inside for the rest of the day. Saturday was still wet and very windy. On my morning walk with my new shoes, I saw the doors of some businesses secured with sand bags as a protection from possible flooding. Other places in Wales were hit harder than Barmouth, I think. So also Sunday mostly spent indoors, happy to not be in a tent. On the internet I read that most trains and busses on Friday and Saturady were cancelled due to the severe weather; I would not have reached this place if I had tried to travel a day or two later.

And then yesterday, the calm after the storm. I was out early again in my new wellington boots because I thought I would need to wade through puddles of water. But the walk on the Mawddach Trail was dry, 15 km along an old railway track. More about the walk in my next blog with lots of pictures.

For this post I have chosen a photo with grey rain clouds threatening over the railway bridge across the Mawddach estuary.

Compared to the same view today: