You have one task to fulfill. You may do what you want, you may realize hundreds of plans, you may work without interruption – but if you don’t fulfill this one task, all your time will be wasted.”
As I write here, I am rocking in a hammock that we have hung next to our bus in a forest. The earth we are on is called Poland. For hours now I have done nothing. My gaze falls into the lush green of the treetops, which embed my soul in a feeling of “being at home”.
It doesn’t need anything else. Everything is there. Here I lie, my senses open from the lush life around me and a little drunk by all the time we give ourselves through this year of travel. I rest in the songs of the birds, in the wind among the leaves, and in the song of my son hanging in the trees with his climbing rope. All this is enough.
My being feels again and again into the adventure that we have lived. A real adventure. Every cell of my body is still filled with it, enriched with memories that gift my body with images and sensations. All the photos inside me that I took of my children. With my imaginary camera. Many real ones too – but the “pretend” ones, with my hands representing a fantasy camera in front of my face…those are the most beautiful. I take these photos with my heart. And the children know that.
I take pictures of them arriving at the top of the mountain after a 9-ft climb in thunder and lightning. So-so photos of my kids in Eksikehir positioned next to bronze statues on park benches, running hand-in-hand down a mountain (while my husband and I carefully put one step in front of the other). Pictures of the young hikers falling asleep in the middle of a trail lying over their packs. My heart leaps with joy, motherly love and gratitude as it snaps along!
After 801 kilometers of pilgrimage, on a path where there are no other walkers far and wide, through Turkey… After 400 km we bump into one other hiker. He started walking in Egypt and my kids think that’s more cool than what we are doing. (He did 2000 km so far.) After such a trip, we are no longer the same. All of us have been deeply moved and changed by this step-by-step tour. A blog article could not do justice to the magnitude of what we have experienced and lived through. Yes, maybe the words in me will find their way into a book.
However, I do like to share some pictures and short reflections. I like to tell you about the wonderful hospitality of the Turkish people we met. An invitation to dinner or the offer of a place to sleep is not something that is offered to one in Turkey from time to time. I might argue that almost every person we encountered offered us this care. Everywhere we encountered people there was tea, food, a place to sleep or all of these at once.
Have you ever made a purchase at the supermarket only to be told at the checkout that someone else wants to pay for your purchase? Can you imagine sleeping on a park bench and then being woken up after midnight by the mayor, who wakes you up from the hard park bench (on which I slept very well) to offer you a bed at home? Such things and other incidents (I say yes, a book must come) have happened to us constantly, when we were not in lonely areas and slept outside, even daily.
Mostly it is families who take us in, large families who make their living room available to us for the night, a room in which they usually sleep themselves. The sofas can usually be pulled out and they always insist on making up the beds for us, even though we have our sleeping bags with us. Often we hear the longing to come to Germany. To work there and finally have enough money. Our hosts are almost always poor. At least if you look at it on the financial level. They are rich in joy, family cohesion and generosity. A community worker who has a prestigious job earns 400 euros a month. And he suffers. From the fact that the money is not enough. Everyone complains about it. The food from their own garden lets them survive. Because food from the supermarket is just as expensive as it is here in Germany. We hear worries about the fact that the children have no opportunities. Not even for the comparatively well-off family of the community worker would it be possible to give his children swimming lessons or something similar. Especially since such an offer is very rare. In addition, we often hear despair about the intentions and machinations of the Turkish government. Fear of religion becoming a duty and restricting life even more.
In fact, at some point we can no longer enjoy the beautiful mosques as much as we did in the beginning. The more we see how they try to force the citizens of the country to wear a headscarf or to go to a mosque. Everywhere newly built mosques rise from the ground, often there are two or three of them in a tiny village. So it seems that there is money for this after all.
And that raises amazement in me. And questions. Sometimes anger, often compassion. What values do I want to live? And am I really doing that? What can I give of myself to the world? What can I give back?
Slowly I understand that my acceptance of food or a place to sleep is actually gift enough. At least for the people we are with. That our presence and our appetite trigger gratitude. (By the way, about not getting along in Turkey as a vegan. There was always more food than we could eat…) Finally, I too have experienced it as a blessing when I was allowed to hold a woman with her excessive demands, when I was able to teach a little yoga and meditation or gave away something useful.
Everything is blurring inside me. I understand that I know nothing. Concepts melt away and others build up without my consciously perceiving it. Give and take dissolves from ideas to reappear in the eye contact with a person whose language I don’t understand. And at the same time there is so much understanding. When our breaths move in the same space, when our fingers bring the same food from the same bowl to our mouths, when our faces are lit and warmed by the fire under the billions of stars.
Never before have I felt so safe in a country. The mayor of the night came with two men to the park, I open my eyes and know: They want us good!
My son comes running and rocks me in the hammock. Writing down these words, I feel a queasy feeling in my heart space. For this Nirmala-being of mine, it is not easy to approach the German mentality again. With its mistrust, the clear structures, the cool distance. I am afraid of evaluations that move through the silence of my mind. And yet I know that they can’t harm anyone if I stay awake. Turning to the space in which the judging happens. And the space behind it.
May the fire of generosity shine in me. May it warm and support where warmth is needed. May I be free from judgment of people in whose shoes I have not walked.
Thank you. I deeply thank all the people who have taken us in, often without us even having to ask. I thank all those who brought us food, mostly from their own gardens, sometimes just freshly prepared for their own family. I thank for every interested, open smile that always gave me a sense of “I am welcome and wanted.” I thank them for the many Cay invitations, even though I don’t really like black tea.
May you all be blessed by life. May your wishes come true and your generosity spread into the world.