I am not me when I walk by Revd.John N. Merrill
This may, at first glance, seem strange and almost nonsensical, but it is real. I have realised for a long time that a great change occurs when I put my boots and rucksack on and go for a long walk. I don't just look for it or wonder what will happen, it just does; I am transformed. The immediate everyday life disappears and a new wondrous life comes into being. For a long while I ignored the signs and what was happening, now I take note and simply am in awe of the magic that occurs. For none of this happens in my “normal” life, although more recently there has started to be a major overlap.
As I stride out the door I leave “normal” life behind and enter a world where everything is possible and full of miracles. I don't expect or ask anything, it just happens. I walk with an open mind, do not preplan anything and encounter a never ending sequence of events, occurrences and much synchronicity. I just reach a crossroads or a point in the walk and a new door opens with amazing gifts. I have been aware of this crucially for the last five years but I know it has been happening all my life, but never really understood or acknowledged it.
It was while walking to Mont St. Michel, in June 2016, that everything slotted into place in my mind; and I said to myself for the first time, “I am not me when I walk.” I had had bad weather, no accommodation, no guidebook for awhile, the paths were overgrown and the waymarking was awful, yet I strode out each day, never thinking of quitting. Just quietly confident to keep walking and everything would be fine. I planned nothing or had any kind of schedule and had not booked any campsite or accommodation, Battered but delighted and full of joy I reached Mont St. Michel and the deepest feelings of gratitude and humbleness overcame me. More profound feelings than I had ever experienced before.
I believe the true story of this pilgrimage walk demonstrates this ”remarkable me.” So many unforgettable moments occurred. I even surprised myself by speaking fluently in French, something I have never had the courage to do before; I quite simply felt at home, although I had never been in the area before. The helpfulness of the people I met all along the route really surprised me. Even seeking accommodation in the early stages I wasn't just told there was no rooms were available but they rang around trying to locate a bed.
Even the first night on the park bench by the river in Winchester, I felt totally safe, at home, and slept well and undisturbed. Then in the early morning entering the cathedral I was most warmly welcomed by the Canon and sat in “choir stall” pew for the service. Partway through we all shook hands and said “Peace be with you”, a heart wrenching moment. Then to crown it all the Canon came to me and gave me a prayer and blessing for my walk to Mont St. Michel; a moment I shall never forget.
Then right at the end after more than 200 miles of walking I walked along the sandy peninsula to the start of the crossing to Mont St. Michel. You need a guide for this dangerous crossing and I hadn't got a clue who to ask and had seen no-one. Yet just at the very moment I reached the sandbar a guide and party suddenly appeared out of a sand-dune and they allowed me to join them across the 7 km of sand, mud and rivers; truly remarkable.
(Copyright – Revd. John N. Merrill – August 2016)