Solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking

Caminante, no hay camino…

Before I left Spain in 2017, my dear friend, healer and spiritual guide, Dr. X, gave me a poem by Antonio Machado.

Caminante no hay Camino

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar

Wayfarer, there is no path

Wayfarer, the only way
Is your footprints and no other.
Wayfarer, there is no way.
Make your way by going farther.
By going farther, make your way
Till looking back at where you’ve wandered,
You look back on that path you may
Not set foot on from now onward.
Wayfarer, there is no way;
Only wake-trails on the waters.

I keep this poem in a skinny mint green Moleskine, the one I took with me to Spain. I picked it up in a hurry the other day, when I couldn’t find my current skinny red Moleskin. The printout of the poem dropped out and my journey began anew. I flipped open the journal pages and read the past while in the present, my thoughts on my travels, my heartbreak after my divorce, some random Spanish phrases, all weaving through the pages to remind me of who I was. What a beautiful gift to myself, to capture myself in that time, how I thought, what I experienced and felt. I got teary, missing Spain, Dr. X and her magical husband, and that nervous tingly feeling of adventuring alone.

From its pages I could conjure up the smell on the one side of my Valencian apartment, a musty, metallic scent that I attributed to the elevator. I was there with the oranges and the electric juicer, the magic of daily fresh squeezed Valencian orange juice waking up the senses with its perfect orange hue. There was the day in the Lonja de Seta, where I sat in the courtyard under the orange trees writing postcards and journal entries, until the sky opened up and POURED so I had to seek shelter in the beautiful medieval silk market.

To me it was my book idea saying, “Hello, I’m back. I just took a bit of a journey, because I got bored with all the not writing of me that you’re doing. But I’ve travelled far and wide and there’s no one I’d rather tell this story than you.” Sigh, it’s true love. Once upon a time I believed that uttering an idea out loud meant someone else might catch it. But now I know that no two people can see or tell a story the same way. Also, ABUNDANCE MINDSET, bitches! There’s enough to go around! The writing of one book does not erase the writing of another on the same subject. Heck, we sustained two (TWO!) Fyre Festival documentaries.

Anyway, my book is about beliefs, about the end of patriarchal religion, about crafting a belief system that works for you and finding saints in everyday superheroes around you. It’s part memoir, part service, part whimsy, part I don’t even know, but it’s 100% me. Right now it’s in this blog and in 5-7 random Moleskins, a few Google docs and Evernote notes and it needs to be pulled together and woven together like a friendship bracelet. But above all, it needs to come out. The world needs it. I need it.

Yesterday I took myself for a walk in the sunshine. I’d been thinking about walking after Elizabeth Gilbert posted about a coastal France hike she’d taken with her friend Cree. The rabbit hole began with a quote that Liz Gilbert had posted by Saint Augustine, the OG flaneur. “Solvitur ambulando” AKA “It is solved by walking.” I should walk more, I thought. I should get a tattoo of that quote, I thought. Then the rabbit hole took me to the Wander Society, a book and a club that I shouldn’t even be talking about because it’s like the Fight Club of pacifist, analog, nature-loving bi-peds. Anyway, they have a sort of sideways Harry Potter lightning bolt symbol. “I should get a tattoo of that mixed with St. Augustine’s quote!” said ADHD brain (clearly I didn’t feel like working today).

Some days, it’s best not to fight ADHD brain, because it’s a beautiful seeker. It’s a curious forest nymph, it’s an astronaut, it’s an explorer. It does not like the office unless I’m writing more than emails. So I decided to expose it to sunlight and took my book and my journal out and away from the building that cuts my pay checks every two weeks. I had it in my mind to sit on the roof deck of a 24-7 restaurant I used to frequent in my raving days. It was also a great date place and I’d been there with the ex-husband lots. I got there and the roof was closed, because humans make stupid rules like “No service on the roof deck” even though the weather is perfection and they’d have so many more customers if they just did. It was empty and I’d committed to the idea, so I sat there, ordered wine and veggies in various forms and read my book.

As I sauntered back to the office, I saw a sign that said, “We got oat milk!” I’m aware of my privilege when I say that I like my oats milked, frothed and served with espresso these days, so I popped in. The barista reminded me of a character from Legend of Zelda and I decided this was gonna be a great interaction. “I’m playing hooky!” I exclaimed. “What law is keeping me chained to my desk?!” She was enthusiastic on my behalf and I asked her to tell me the story of her tattoos while she made me an oat milk latte. “This one is the chemical symbol for serotonin and this one is for dopamine,” she said, pointing to her left and right wrists. “Neither of which my brain is very good at making.” She told me about her dyslexia and how she just assumed math and science were not in the cards for her, but that watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on PBS changed her life. She told me all about Carl Sagan, all about Discovery I and II and the reason for the planets and rockets and nebula on her arms. Her cheeks were sparkly pink, her hair purple, her ear holes large and open. Being in her presence made me happy, and as I walked back to the office, I marvelled that there are AT LEAST SEVEN BILLION stories on this planet. At the very minimum.

I’m currently finishing Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and it’s in the vein of Sliding Doors (best Gwyneth movie) or Groundhog Day (which I used to love, because Bill Murray, but now is so creepy and stalkerish. I mean he basically obsesses about the Andy McDowall character and learns everything about her until he figures out exactly how to trick her into falling in love with him!). Except Life After Life is set in WWII, which has affected me profoundly. I have been thinking a lot about how we live in such good times that we make mountains out of molehills. When we are out of survival mode, life doesn’t have the same meaning to many of us. We take it for granted. We are so engrossed in what we think matters that we completely miss how miraculous ALL OF IT IS. I walked and reflected on my life, how there will be other great loves. How I don’t have to get on the first train that will take me as a passenger, that just about any infinite number of outcomes and storylines is possible. A random conversation in a cafe, a chance encounter in the street, a left turn, one singular choice can change the trajectory of the whole story.

So next time you are feeling stuck, or glum, or helpless… get up. Put on your best Nancy Sinatra vibe and say, “OK boots, start walkin’” and go. It might just change your life.

Author: MariaCallas

Maria Callas is a pseudonym

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