A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Walking To Italy On The Via Francigena

The Great St Bernard Pass.

After walking 1000 km in six weeks, I'm back! I walked across France and I walked across Switzerland and I reached the Italian border at the Great St Bernard Pass. The people and places encountered were unforgettable; this was one of the most rewarding pilgrimages I've done. But it was not without its hardships and difficulties: signs and guideposts were rare in the French part, and there was far too much road walking. I wrote in my journal every day, but wrote only one poem. This is it.

A Chance Encounter in Frasne-le-Château

The old man with the kind face
came from Sardinia. He lived alone now,
stacking the logs for winter,
tending his garden. This summer
his Roma tomatoes had mildew,
but the other crops were fine,
and the gooseberries — such a harvest!
Smiling, he filled my water bottles —
his eyes moist as two green pools —
and pointed the way to Grachaux.

9 comments:

am said...

Welcome home! You've been in my thoughts. Looking forward to hearing about this walk and quite moved by your poem about the kind old man. Splendid photo. I feel as if I have been there before.

George said...

Yes! As I said in my reply over at Transit Notes, WELCOME HOME. You've been missed, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your adventures along the Via Francigena.

Your poem is a lovely portrait. Not a haiku, but, in its tightness and grip, it has the feel of a haiku. Poignant, moving, and a reminder of how we are all connected.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, both Am and George, for your lovely, responsive, super-quick comments. Nice to get them when I've been so (splendidly) isolated for so long!

I tried to capture my impression of that kind old man I met in Frasne-le-Château in just a few, simple words — hoping to give an almost haiku-like idea of his origin, his life, his character, his attitude to life in a very distilled way. So glad the poem worked for you!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Welcome home Robert. I have thought about you and wondered how things were going. Look forward to seeing more photographs and bits of that journal.
I love the poem too - it captures the spirit of it all.

Nick said...

Welcome back. A good route to walk, I think, if you don't mind the rather obvious encroachments of modernity along the way. As you say, too many roads perhaps and not enough wilderness. But rewarding I hope. I look forward to reading more about it.

Ruth Mowry said...

Again, welcome home!

I, too, am moved by the poem. It offers a striking contrast to the dramatic, rocky terrain in the photo, and the extraordinary statements in the paragraph about walking 1000 km. This makes its simple purity more profound. I will relish what you share from the journey.

The Solitary Walker said...

Nice to hear from you again — Pat, Nick and Ruth. It's good to be back. But my feet hurt! I'm looking forward to recounting my story, and getting things into some sort of shape.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Robert, it is good to have you back. I love the poem - it is wonderful how that.deep sharing of a life happens. And when a person is your map

Andy (pilgrimpace)

The Solitary Walker said...

Cheers, Andy... Yes. sometimes a brief, chance encounter can go deep...