Consider… the Walk of Wisdom: return day (report by pilgrim Simone Venderbosch, part 4 of 4)


Text & images: Simone Venderbosch

‘A place to come back to’, I wrote in the guestbook here last summer. And, tadaa, here I am! My phone even recognizes the wifi, haha.

On the way here, I had only been on the road for a few kilometers when the tears came. Already I was touched by the elements and their comforting effect on me. The still visible moon in the distance in the sky, a group of birds flying in front of it, the woods are already causing emotion. I have plenty of time, but I still speed along the highway at 130 and feel rushed. What am I doing? Rushing to go relaxing?? Realizing this, I shift down a gear and stick behind a truck with a swerving Romanian driver. Slow down, relax, listen to music, slow down. Just like on the Duivelsberg last summer when I realized that you can’t just walk a ‘mountain’ with a heavy backpack and code orange.

Finding a connection
So slowly I return with my thoughts to my walk. It has brought me so much. And how I struggle now to find my way back in daily life, to connect with myself and my environment. I am nostalgic for the good feeling of that time and am looking for what made me feel complete then. This weekend is so much more than just sharing stories for me. It is also a moment to go back to myself and to the place where I have felt so much happiness and contentment. So I drive to my destination musing. When I get close to Grave, I notice that I don’t feel like being there yet. I’m not done with my mental ride yet. So I drive the wrong way a few times and it’s lovely. I thunder down the dike, pass through nice villages and give myself a few more songs of time.

When I arrive at the monastery, I see that the company of the organization has just arrived. We shake hands and the bell is rung. I step back into the monastery, oh yes, I’m back. How lovely. A small change has been made to my room, but I’m getting over it ;-) The view is beautiful again, greener than last summer. The sheets are still sheets and the blankets are still nice and old-fashioned. Downstairs in the refectory I hear the rumbling of the preparations. It sounds cozy and satisfied I lie on my bed.

Amazing afternoon
When I come downstairs, I find a nice mix of people. The musician plays a nice melody on his guitar and the sun shines in. I feel good. Bring it on. A nice, surprising afternoon follows and I feel at ease. I watch and enjoy, listen to the people and the music and sing along with the pilgrim’s song, drink herbal tea with my fellow pilgrims and feel connected. Outside, we will walk in pairs through the monastery garden. I listen and observe. A singing bowl sounds, the vegetable garden flourishes in its autumn glory, groups of people wander through the garden in silence in conversation, smiling people who have all experienced the WoW with a certain depth. The group becomes quieter and there is a beautiful serenity.

During the break, the musician plays a self-made song. People sway, hum or sing along. What a memorable moment. More tea and a writing workshop will follow. And then the day is over and gradually the room empties. Some hugs, handshakes, satisfied looks and short stories are exchanged. And that leaves me with Mark from Avant Spirit and another pilgrim. She decides to stay the night now that she hears that I’m staying too. She didn’t want to be here alone. I understand that and afterwards I am very happy with her. It’s nicer to be together in the evening. I’m happy to have her company.

Brussels sprout cake
In the meantime, the manager had a Brussels sprout cake in the oven for me. But now someone else was sleeping and eating and there was not enough for 2. Let’s discuss it for a while. I could either eat my meal on my own in the cold dining room or walk to Grave with my fellow pilgrim and eat together in a warm and cozy bistro. I chose the latter. It was a pleasant evening and it was dark when we walked back to the monastery. We decided to take the WoW route back. A good decision, it turns out later. We walk outside along farmland and the water. It’s dark and quiet, and the moon gives off so much light that we create shadows. We walk in silence and enjoy the fresh air, the clear sky and the fact that we are walking a part of the route. It’s so beautiful. What a beautiful end to the day.

When I get home, I lie down between those real sheets. I don’t really want to get up in the morning, but Mark has our breakfast ready. He eats with us and tells us about pilgrims, pilgrims he has met and that the silent retreats are always overbooked. I think there are more and more people who need silence and experience the power of it. What an inspiring conversation in the morning!

We can use the room for a while today, so I grab some stuff and go outside. It’s chilly on the dike, but the sun is shining and everything is right. Everything is in balance. I feel vulnerable and emotional, but strong. I’m alone, but not lonely. Be grateful and humble, without being belittling. And the sun is my friend today and not my enemy. It’s a nice walk and while walking I think about what the WoW has brought me. The seed for a new hike was sown this weekend. The what and the how and with whom are filled in automatically, I wait patiently. This weekend was also the impetus for me to write a poem about the Walk of Walk of Wisdom. A poem that was later placed on the page and that has taken on a life of its own on the internet. I didn’t foresee this, but I also didn’t foresee that people would recognize themselves in my poem and be touched by my words. It’s great that my words have found a purpose. It’s great that I discovered the Walk of Wisdom . It’s great that I have experienced meaning. It’s great that a walk is never far away.

My name is Simone Venderbosch. I love walking, on my own. I only walk marked routes and preferably those with a booklet. Hours, days, weekends or weeks. With or without a tent. Surrender, trust, freedom, peace, stillness, nature and the elements are central to me while walking. My stories describe the experiences I have, my fumbling, the difficult, embarrassing and euphoric moments. Contemplative one moment, with a grain of salt the next. Just the way I am.

Read the first part of the series of four here.

Read the second part of the series of four here.

Read the third part of the series of four here.