The barkeep Sean has just asked if I met the ghost in room 7, he carries his head in his hands and has a bad case of flatulence. Whoever my ghost visitor was, he was friendly – and healing.
Since departure is not until 4:30, I took a room and it was the best decision. I took two, loooong hot baths, hung out on this huge covered veranda in a fluffy bathrobe, tried every local beer and cider and generally rested my body and spirit – not too mention finished my next audio narrative.
Sean also told me don’t rush, enjoy your stay and has allowed me to just be in this beautiful place. It works for them as there are no other guests in the hotel – except the ghost – but still, there’s an incredible generosity that has made me emotional to the point of tears. Even Judy the housekeeper who walked in on me early this morning when I had my isolating headphones on, said just stay and enjoy, that she would get to my room later.
A few years ago I walked the GR5, the traverse of the French alps. One day it rain was predicted all day and that was my cue to take a rest day. Camping the night before, I had no intention of waiting it out in a tent and there was a village just 45 minutes walk ahead, so off I went.
I arrived at a beautiful chalet at 8:30 in the morning asking for a room. Not only did the owner set me up, but he allowed me into the room right then – and like today, invited me to just relax all day on the covered porch as rain fell over the mist-shrouded mountains. I recall the dinner that night with a large group of French families included the finest cheese course I’ve had in my life.
Sure, the room wasn’t occupied and it was no trouble to let me take it early, but he could have been strict with a specified check in time and he chose to be a gracious host. Contrast that with a gîte owner further south who threw me off his property when a guest invited me to have a bath in her room. No dinner for me even after offering to pay for the hot water I used. It was such a mean and arbitrary act, I was shaken to the core for years.
Puhoi Pub in New Zealand, where I eat mussel fritters washed down with a local cider, has erased that awful moment of being told “We don’t like your kind here.”
There’s another lesson here for me. We all have options to be generous or not, to see abundance or to see scarcity. And this is not a judgement I am making of the world, this goes for me too. Rather than dismiss the nasty French experience and celebrate the wonderful one, I chose to put my attention on figuring out the nasty one. It’s almost as though I believe kindness is a fluke and unkindness what I deserve.
Having my feelings of anger, confusion and hurt is not the problem; those are appropriate responses. The problem is in staying with those feelings and puzzling over what I could have done differently, or worse, asking, “Why me?” It turns the blame for poor behavior on me rather than where it belongs, on the one who behaved badly.
And suddenly, it’s pouring rain.
Then, suddenly clear, sunny and cool. I pick up some of the famous Puhoi stinky washed-rind cheese before launching. Three Dutch, a French woman, a German man – all in their twenties – and then me, bumping along in fat kayaks down the river, making our way to the ocean.
From muddy and narrow to turquoise, open, and heron infested. I mostly paddle with Stefan who has built his own wooden kayaks and complains that Lydie walks too slowly and hitches too much. I am just happy as can be that I discover such a lovely bunch of people.
We arrive at Wenderholm chilled by the dropping temperature and look around for a place to camp. The campsite is fee-based and it’s all a bit complicated how to pay, so I lead the pack in deciding to pay if and when we’re discovered.
But the designated camp area is filled with teenagers who we hear before we see, throwing, kicking and whacking balls of varying shapes and sizes. Not exactly paradise by the sea.
And just then, the ranger drives up. Busted!
But no! Ross offers us a spot to camp on his lawn, free of charge with a long drop and running water. Score!
We share cheese and beer and laughs before it begins to rain again.
It’s a few short days ahead due to tides and not wanting to hitch around and all great fun to share with this crowd. I find it fascinating how good I feel with the right people. I can be teased, but I know I’m included and liked just as I am.
When I don’t connect, I wonder what’s wrong with me and why it doesn’t work rather than accept things as they are. I guess we can’t expect to be liked by everyone. It was a totally different experience this time paddling a sit-on-top kayak in a river, but today helped squeeze out the sadness of the last bit of kayaking and I’m grateful for that.