Walking Stories

“Dreaming the river alive.
Heart finds home, sleeping with stars.
Sun swaps moon for day.”
-Tom Shaefer (participant)

From the 26th of June to the 3rd of July, 2018, we journeyed through the breathtaking landscapes of the Ariége, situated in the French Pyrenees.  For one week we walked, using the powerful medium of writing for nourishment and reflection along the way.  To begin, we gathered together in a beautiful mountain home, coming from all different parts of Europe. We packed all we needed for the journey in our rucksacks and then walked away from the doorstep, toward the mountains, higher and higher and eventually to snow ladened peaks.

We opened up immense questions about love, courage, listening, speaking truth, being seen, carrying our past and the places where we can find support while in service. We explored these topics, and many more, on our own while walking, and together through conversation and writing.

A huge amount of gratitude goes out to the participants of this journey and their willingness to be open in such an intimate space. Thank you all.

Below are a two pieces that emerged from a collective writing exercise.

The Givers and Receivers

“May I have the courage today to step out of my own world and to help others to climb the mountain we are facing.
In relation I want to stand.
With you, Human.
With you, Bird.
With you, Wind and Rocky Mountain.
And giving my love, trust, fear and hope,
To spread out the seeds to grow new life and take care of it,
Encouraging you to do the same.
To step into the cycle of give and receive, see and be seen, love and be loved.
Encouraging you to glide like an eagle, to stand tall and knowing like a mountain, to reflect all light, like the moon.
This is our time.
We – the givers and receivers – the ebb and flow of life itself.
Eternity is melted into each and every breath and step.
Breath and step.
Breath and step.
I say YES to this life.
With grace I walk, even though I don’t know where the path leads me.
I walk in trust.
I lean onto something bigger, higher, that is a part of me.”

Life Giving Grief

“May I have the courage today to be the mole of grief in my belly, crawling up my throat, out of my mouth and into the light.
May I build a mole heap like an alter for my grief and have it warmed in the sun until it melts, slowly, into the icy stream, flowing down the mountain – giving life.
And feeling weight has lifted, I dance inside my morning,
A dawn to awaken in me, all that can flow from me.
The healing water whispers, the rocks patient and the birds soaring high, bowing to the courage of my soul.
May nature welcome us and protect us.
May it shake our bones and bring fire to our hearts.
It will make you feel strong to follow your dreams and stand in your center, without compromise.”


Outdoor Experience YIP10

From the 29th of May to the 4th of June we spent time with the participants of The International Youth Initiative Program (YIP).  Together, we paddled canoes for one week through drinkable waterways in southern Sweden.

Below is a reflection on this week from YIP Participant Livia Strub.

“My paddle’s clean and bright, flashing with silver. Follow the wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing. Dip, dip and swing… ” As we learn this song on the first morning, it becomes evident that just because we’re outdoors doesn’t mean the singing will stop. Rather the contrary, as our three wonderful YIP alumni contributors, Christianne, Silas and Inte woke us up each morning with beautiful trios, each day singing a new song in a different language.

The mornings always started off by the assigned group cooking everyone porridge, which we would happily eat around the fire with coconut cream, cinnamon and jam. Next we would prepare for the day ahead, which usually meant that we packed up our tents and cleaned the campsite, trying to leave it in a better state than what we had found it in. On some mornings before heading off, we would do something like a sitting spot, sharing circle, game or activity, to set this outdoor experience apart from a camping trip.

As we had no time keeping devices with us, and the sun rose at 3.40am, we didn’t really know if it was late or still early when we left the campsite and set off on our canoes. We would spend the better part of the day on the water, making our way forward with the aid of our paddles, often stopping for lunch on a beautiful island when the sun was at its highest and hottest.

The paddling was a different means of transport than has been usual for us during YIP so far. And the experience very different too. So much time spent on the water, easily carrying all of our gear and food, seemingly slicing through the water on the beautifully shaped canoes, sometimes meandering through little streams in between reeds, or passing through a tunnel so small we had to lie down in the canoe and use our hands to take us through it. Big, crystal clear water, so clean we could fill our empty bottles and drink straight from the lakes, paddling with the typical Scandinavian silver birch and pine tree always within eyesight, passing by idyllic looking islands, and of course let’s not forget our five land crossing, portages, where we would put the canoes on wheels to get them to the next body of water. Paddling while singing, while talking, or while listening to nature’s song around us and enjoying each other’s company.

After the long day on the water, we would arrive to our campsite for the night. This is when everyone got busy with their tasks; preparing dinner, collecting and chopping wood, and setting up the fire and benches for the main camp area. This was always a time when although tired, hungry and often exhausted, everyone would get to work for the last part of the day, be together and set up our home for that night. Exploring the close by area, picking a camping sport and never having to worry about being caught in the dark, since the sun only set at 11.30pm! This felt very special to me, knowing that even after dinner and maybe even a night activity, I could take a canoe out and either paddle into the sunset, or be on the lookout for animals that came out at night, like the beaver.

This week was an absolute highlight of my time at YIP, it strengthened my passion for the outdoors, and I discovered that although being in the water is not my place, being on the water definitely is, and free climbing on the cliffs by the lake made me feel so extremely alive. To top off my experience in the outdoors, I just today received the good news that I got accepted to work in a youth outdoor education camp after I finish YIP! The circle always continues…. Thanks for this week, it is one I will always treasure.