Jen Hutchison took a personal pilgrimage through Spain in 2013 on the Camino Santiago. At special landmarks, chosen-by-whimsy, she placed sachets of the ashes and memorial notes for her first born son along the pilgrims’ pathway. Raif died in 2012. Jen immersed herself in the healing air of the outdoors and the special human energy of the Camino, saturated in her thoughts and reflections on life, joy and grief, marking the passage with the celebration of a young life ended too soon and without warning. The author describes her extraordinary experiences of time and place, and makes keen observations of the lives and energy around her. In a moment of empowerment on behalf of all mothers, she invented a new and loving name for women who have lost a child. Motherling. This is a tale of love and laughter, a pathway from tears to calm: Drop In with us as we hear how putting one foot in front of another can heal a heart, mend a life, and make fear of the future a thing of the past.
After a successful corporate career, Jen Hutchison established Journeys to Words Publishing in 2018 and launched in mid 2019. She’s fulfilling a life-long dream – to write, to be amongst writers and to reach out to readers. Journeys to Words Publishing is focused on the work of mature-age writers. As the result of her studies for a Master in Writing and Publishing, Jen is a professional editor with a passion for helping writers be the best they can be, developing their craft and aiming for the stars. She’s an articulate and practiced speaker and mentor. Three books were launched in 2019 – Motherling in May, featured in the Australian Women’s Weekly and with Myf Warhurst on ABC National Radio. Motherling is a warming and affirming memoir of a mother’s (Jen Hutchison’s) 800 kilometre walk along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, with her son’s ashes. Jen’s second book, Bourke Street, My View from Here, is an absorbing in-conversation with Tony Brooks with strong social comment.Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. This year we’ll emerge from isolation and losses and remain undaunted in our desire to feel good and to even find joy. To that end we’ve asked Jen Hutchison to talk with us today about her memoir Motherling: A Walk. It’s the story of the death of her firstborn son Rafe at age 31 in 2012 and about the walk she took on the Camino de Santiago to search for herself among the ruins a year later. Her communal walk was 497 miles through tough Spanish terrain. That’s about 800 kilometers. Motherling is raw and emotional yet embracing her new identity and sprinkling ashes in places communicated by Rafe himself. It’s also uplifting and refreshing. While we miss real hugs. Now we send you a virtual one in Victoria, Australia. Welcome Jen Hutchison well.
Jen: Hello Diane. Thank you very much for that welcome and hello from Melbourne.
Diane: Oh thank you. My deepest condolences for the loss of your son. I don’t think that ever gets old. I certainly just wanted to say that I feel for that.
Jen: Thank you. There’s no, grief is an abiding part of the fabric of your life. Once this sort of tragedy hits you, you step beyond your own imagination and that comes with its own set of challenges and rewards seeking peace and harmony through the challenges. It takes some time and a fair amount of effort. Some people make it and others struggle.
Diane: I think that we’ve lived vicariously through your walk and through your thoughts so it is a kind of a guiding light on this continuum. You’ve created the term motherling as a contribution to our language. It seems as though it were always there. It’s a testimony to its usefulness and aptness. The word is a combination of endling and mother. You say in motherling that it’s a name I have invented in fair recognition of a woman who has lost a child. I wondered what you’ve achieved or even hoped to achieve with the term motherling. Has it united you and other motherlings and how has that evolved?
Jen: Thank you. That’s a lovely set of questions and I’m going to give you a set of responses. This term motherling and I write about it in the book came to me really the first evening. I arrived in Pamplona. I’d flown directly from Melbourne, Australia really way too far to go but I was very eager to get into this process of this long walk. I arrived on a very balmy autumn evening. I walked into the main square and all I could see were families joining together, meeting in the evening, in the gentle evening. All I could see was mothers and sons. I’m sure there were a lot of other people there but all I could register were mothers and sons. I was having a moment. The tears were flowing. I was just walking. Nobody came into my space and this word came to me. I thought it’s not fair. I don’t know, one of the big issues I had at that point was when people asked me how many children do I have. Do I still say I have four? Do I really have four? Who am I when I don’t have Rafe? Am I still Rafe’s mother when there is no Rafe? This was a profound issue for me.
This word I thought we have foundling. We have orphan. We have widow and widower. We have identity but we have no word to assist and support mothers who have gone through this profound loss. This word motherling just came to me and I thought oh, well I’m having that. Then I came back to Australia. I didn’t intend to write a book. I wasn’t doing anything, any of those things in order to write a book but I ended up writing the book. Just before it went to publication and I had called it Motherling. I thought oh, I just better check. I checked and it turned out that this word was part of the English language in pre-Shakespearean times and it means gorgeous mother or gorgeous woman but gorgeous mother in particular. It dropped out of the language and I thought oh my goodness me. It made the hair and my arm stand up that this is the moment, one of those moments. There were so many moments like that on the Camino where somewhere in the ether something was delivered to my consciousness that I had not had access to previously.
Melbourne is a UNESCO city of literature and I applied to, our writing center had an initiative underway at that point to adopt a word, to try and save some words in the English language. Long story short my little publishing company adopted that word and we are now the sponsor of the word motherling. In terms of fair recognition it’s a great a great term. What has it achieved? I it probably sounds naive now Diane but I really thought I had written a book about the Camino. It’s only since it’s been published that I realized from the feedback from so many women and a lot of men as well about what I really wrote. It’s such a common thing. I’ve got a wry smile on my face that writers find out what they’ve written uh long after they think they finished. I wrote a book about grief and that’s what resonates with readers. I think I have now more than 50 letters saying thank you for being brave enough to talk about this because the world moves on but mother’s grief is abiding.
Diane: There are several poignant moments and I thought also uplifting ones, upbeat ones. You talk about these sensations of the hair standing on your arm and just knowing that something is right retrieving a word. Who knew you could adopt a word? This is really enlightening. There is the sense in your book even Rafe and your other son have talked about. It’s here. Meaning spirit. You arrive at a place. It looks like an ordinary place and then suddenly you realize no, it’s not. There’s something else here or it has a different kind of vibe. Talk to us a little bit about was that a prevalent sensation on the Camino? Do you think it was heightened by your grief and your rawness, your openness?
Jen: Yes and no. I didn’t set out to have a spiritual walk. I set out to save my own life really. I was in a pit of grief as you would expect. I had done grief counselling. There’s a very, I presume in the united states as well Elisabeth Kübler-Ross book on grief and the Five Stages of Grief. Grief is renowned through the decades. It’s the only book I’ve ever thrown across the room because, how can you put the stages of grief. I mean I understand with respect that that she needed to put that in on down in that way but for a parent who’s lost a child those emotions, those desperate emotions can all arrive in a blink. I was really trying to find a way to make sense of what had happened in my life in a way that had been so unexpected and so not the way I planned my life or the expectations I had for my children’s lives.
I was walking to make sense of me and that energy I’m not a particularly religious person. I don’t belong to a church. I consider myself very connected to the Earth and it’s spirituality but I couldn’t have said that with this level of awareness before just going for a long walk. Walking is an amazing form of continued meditation. That energy, I mean I would set out walking every morning at 7:30 or 8:30 whatever time I was out depending on the weather and how well I’d slept. There was no particular program except to walk every day. I’d choose a distance but I was more often thinking about how much my feet hurt or whether my backpack was rubbing my shoulder or what was that twinge in my hip and look at the autumn leaves and how lovely the sunshine is and oh, there’s a bit of frost in there. I was so connected to the earth that when these moments, the it’s here moments arrived I was often sort of stunned to stillness because I wasn’t expecting but I did have this, I had this sort of waving my hands here at one at my left shoulder.
There was this presence and it was my son’s energy and he would talk to me in silence, in my head. We would have conversations in silence but I was not in control of when that happened. I had no conscious control. I was just walking. That energy, I learned to respect as a gift. I’ve written quite extensively in the book about what those conversations were. Thank you for picking up on the humor and the lightness. I was this fifth of six children and my mother couldn’t always remember us as newborns but she used to look at me and say oh, I remember you darling. You were born smiling. My reset position is serendipitously enthusiastic about life and I had lost that. I found somewhere along that 800 kilometers that serendipitous sense of wonder re-emerged and it was there through these experiences. It arrived through these experiences.
Diane: Like portals. I think that well congratulations throwing the book across the room because honestly I didn’t see how you can really endure first, the experience without being tremendously angry at some level. Also it does feel patronizing when there’s categories pressed upon you and you’re supposed to graduate from category to category in a linear fashion. It’s all very three-dimensional and you keep circling back to stages where you were before and really those labels are pretty useless. I think it’s very real I think what you’re saying and obviously keeping it real with the sandal difficulties and the shoe difficulties and the toe difficulties. I mean I think yes, just managing the survival of this walk.
The history of the Camino de Santiago starts in the ninth century when catholic and Islamic forces were battling to control the Iberian Peninsula. The area became a pilgrimage destination for Catholics who believed the apostle Saint James was buried there. At that point most pilgrims traveled on foot or in donkey Carts. There’s a hilarious scene in the Martin Sheen movie The Way where they find out that you can go on a car and or an ATV and the guy is just saying why are we walking but it is a test. It’s a test in many, many dimensions I would say. I wondered if you felt that there was a history because in the way Martin Sheen does go and complete the Camino as his son who passed away intended to do. I wondered if you felt that there is a history of healing and loss associated with the Camino de Santiago.
Jen: Oh I think almost certainly. That’s a great summary of how this all started the politics of that of those two forces Islam and Christianity created a competition for the ownership of a pilgrimage pathway which had been there since pagan times. What has happened through the ages is that it attracted the sense of pilgrimage already existed before this pathway was became a sort of collective property of the Catholic Church. There are beautiful churches all the way along. In The Way, in the movie, Martin Sheen picks up on what is a very common theme I would walk on a pathway between beautiful medieval villages and there’s all along the pathway there’s a medieval village every 5, 10 or maximum 15 kilometers. Most of them still completely committed to pilgrims and the pilgrimage. The overarching commitment of walkers still remains. Those who are on a personal search of some sort. At every point along the way, at many, many points but certainly at the kilometer markers which have been there since Roman times you would find little piles of stone, a note of paper with a rock on top of it with somebody’s commitment to themselves or to in commemoration to somebody they have lost. There is a lot of energy of re-set, of internal examination.
Martin Sheen’s characterization of a man who was a grumpy old devil who really didn’t have his eyes or ears open, taking on this role of finishing what his son had started is not uncommon at all. It’s a movie that I’ve now watched a number of times. It inspired me at the beginning. I didn’t know anything about it and I was in a pit of grief and somebody said have you seen that movie. I watched it. I watched it again. I then realized that I did have a memory of the Camino de Santiago from Rafe. I came to a point fairly quickly of thinking well, what a good idea. I wonder if I could do that. Would I be brave enough first of all? Do I have the courage to do that? Would I need to have somebody with me? I needed to answer all those questions before I took the first step.
Diane: You were a woman alone, a peregrina which is the term for pilgrim that’s in all of us. There are many people for many different reasons who go on the Camino I think also are trying to regain some sense of self mastery by putting one foot in front of another and accomplishing certain distances when all form of control over one’s life and all sense of one’s identity has flown out the window. It is very much a place for the pilgrim and all of us. For those of us that are trying to pick up the pieces and put things back together again and it’s really a place that I think because it has this well-worn tradition of people doing this very thing. I wonder if it hasn’t even accumulated in that direction that it becomes a place to rebuild. We have just a few seconds left and then we’re going to take a commercial break but when we come back we’re going to talk to Jen Hutchison who set out on your very own Jen. Really, I’m just in awe. Your fears, your challenges. We want to hear about them all but first we’re going to take a break. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re dropping in with Jen Hutchison, author of Motherling: A Walk. Jen, what an exquisite journey. What a wonderful tribute to your son. The book is really an eye-opener in and of itself. I just realized in another synchronicity I had, I’m sitting here in Switzerland where I’m not often. I picked up an old book of poetry by David White called Pilgrim. Oddly enough it’s dated 2012 which is sadly the year of your son’s death. I just want to also point out that the Camino which is the subject of David White’s first section of this book. It is something ubiquitous. There is something ethereal. If you don’t mind I’m just going to quote actually from Camino because now it seems so apt. He writes but your loss brought you here to walk. Under one name and one name only and to find the guise under which all lost can live. Remember you were given that name every day. Along the way remember. You were greeted as such and you needed no other name. Other people seemed to know you even before you gave up being a shadow on the road and came into the light. Even before you sat down with them, broke bread and drank wine. Wiped the wind tears from your eyes. Pilgrim, they called you again. Pilgrim.
Jen: Oh that makes me want to cry. That is so true.
Diane: So true.
Jen: And profound.
Diane: You were the peregrina. You were greeted as such. It was Buen Camino Peregrina. That identifies you as someone who you’d never been before. How did that alter your sense of yourself?
Jen: At different times with incredible humility and gratitude and never in a grating way. I came away from the Camino with immense and profound respect for the Spanish and their tradition along the pilgrimage. There are various pathways all called Camino de Santiago. The one I walked was called the Francaise, the French way which starts in the southern part of France, goes through the Pyrenees and then to Pamplona and across to Santiago. The Spaniards for now all of those centuries have taken care of pilgrims. There are businesses, many, many businesses, pensions and restaurants and bars and cafes where there must be now 30 or 40 generations of the same family who are committed to supporting and caring for pilgrims. David White absolutely nailed it when you have an identity which is respected and supported before you begin to call yourself that.
I can remember very clearly thinking on the first day I am a pilgrim and here I am. I am a pilgrim. I am finally a pilgrim. I had no idea what I was saying to myself but there was a sensation of entity. There were a number of times along the Camino when I would take because I was so absent-minded, so lost within my own thoughts. In two situations I walked the wrong way. There was a fork in the path and I walked the wrong way and in each of those cases, in the first case a man had come into a car park above me. He’d driven past me and then moved into a car park on a sort of a terrace above me and walked to the edge of the terrace and said in English are you a pilgrim. I said yes, I am. He said well, you’re on the wrong path. You have to go back to the roundabout and take. I thought oh my goodness. This was a man. It was a guest. He, an ordinary citizen understood that this national pride and this care.
The second one, second time in an ancient village there was a cobbled pathway, a cobbled split in the pathway with a building in between and I was wandering along and walked the wrong way. Within 20 meters there was there was an old crone leaning in a cobblestone doorway. She yelled peregrina, peregrina. I turned around and she gestured with her hand, her toothless mouth, the whole, it was wonderful and pointed me in the other direction. I smiled and nodded and said thank you and walk the other way. This is who you are. It defines you. It defines your environment. As a woman alone, I started off thinking look, I’m a woman of a certain age. I’m nearly six foot tall. I had all those urban myths in my mind. You’d have to be really determined to take me on. I’ll just be okay. I’ll be okay. Of course once I began walking this sensation of support which I had been totally unaware of, of this nurturing sense of timelessness of what I was doing. Also mirrored in some of the people I met. Of course there were lessons for me to learn in some of the people I met and walked with for short periods of both things I needed to learn that were confronting and things that I found very comforting. When you open your mind a lot comes in.
Diane: It’s ancient not just the pathway but maybe the pathway, the abstract pathway. I think this concept of aloneness versus support is essential because when you experience the death of a loved one so close to you there is nothing but aloneness. There is nothing but the sense of your grief belonging so innermost to you. I think that I wondered if that embrace that you were in, that supportive network of innkeepers, people who are going to commercially profit from your presence but also that spirit of communally helping one another on the path. I wondered if it changed the narrative in your head a little bit because I wondered, I think at some point you felt maybe the universe was slightly against you for losing your son. I mean it’s a horribly unfair thing both for him and you. I wondered if it changed some of the narrative to rearrange some of it. You didn’t always have a present husband. You were going it alone. A lot of the way figuratively, literally. Did it change anything in your view, your world view?
Jen: Yes, fundamentally and an essential difference. I think you’ve mentioned half a dozen elements of character that you take with you in on a walk like this. Some of them are the things you know about yourself and some of them are things that you’re totally confused by. One of is the gap. What do you do with the gap and the identity who are you? Now this has happened. How do you reference the world when this is my first born? This is the reference point. The most fundamental change in a woman’s life is the birth of her first child. Rafe was 31.
I was at the beginning of the Camino completely unable to see what I can see by the end that 31 years with this amazing human being was a gift. All I could focus on at the beginning was the burden of loss and how could I live through this. I’ve never been suicidal. It’s not part of my nature but I couldn’t work out what to do, who I was. Like a lot of women I had been daughter, sister, bride, wife and then mother. I grew up in a big family. I’d been surrounded by supportive relationships or not depending on what the circumstance was but I didn’t know who I was. Like that song I’d been to paradise but I’d never been to me. One of the things, I just had this instinct at the beginning was I need to know who I am in the light of all of these characteristics. I’d had no idea when I started walking. All I knew was that as an urban myth I’m 60. I’m six foot tall. I’ll be okay. I know what to do and I have a credit card.
Diane: What could go wrong?
Jen: Absolutely. I just thought I’ve got my cell phone and my credit card. If anything goes wrong I’ll just throw money at it until it goes away. I didn’t go with a backpacker’s profile. I would walk into a little village. I needed aloneness. I did not feel lonely. I didn’t want to sleep in a room full of backpackers or the sprinters I would call them. People who are out for a long walk doing it as for a physical or walking in groups having a jolly time. I mean huge respect. You do whatever you need to do in the Camino. I needed aloneness. I would walk into a village and look for a small family hotel or a pension and knock on the door and ask. I tried as often as possible and achieved it a private room but as a peregrina I was treated with enormous respect in that sense. People would just pat me on the shoulder. I sometimes walked for hours in tears not really knowing why because whatever came next came next. Pilgrims would pass me and just raise a thumb to me and with a questioning look on their face. Are you okay? I would nod and say I’m okay. Enormous interpersonal respect pilgrim to pilgrim as well as pilgrim to community. I think that’s an environment where whatever needs to happen to you will happen to you in some form. You’re not in control. You have to give yourself. I felt for me I just had to give myself up to whatever came as painful or is delightful.
Diane: Well there is enormous respect for you for undergoing the process of being open. You found also a respect for your privacy which I think is huge because yes, inner connectivity is a wonderful thing not if you don’t want it. You spoke about the gap and most of us associate I think in a clichéd way that a death with an absence but you beautifully wrote and I think brilliantly wrote about the gap being not gone-ness but un-gone-ness. It’s the email that doesn’t arrive. It’s the phone call that doesn’t happen. That’s almost a palpable ungauntness. There’s a palpable gap. Kind of like the gap that you stepped into which was the unknown. I also wondered if to some extent you stepped away because you were experiencing respect as a pilgrim. You also stepped away from some of the self-recrimination. Rafe sadly he did not die of a disease or something that was, it was something that you could associate in a sense because it was behavioral. This is the oxymoron of the century but he had been using recreational drugs and there had been a relapse. There were some just with tragic results and I think then a mother, it’s not like saying okay he contracted sepsis. He contracted a disease out of the blue. He had a heart attack.
You didn’t really know any of that. Unfortunately in those absences sometimes we fill in the blanks with the most dire and negative thoughts. I wonder if you started to rebuild yourself from the respect that you were attaining and also started to cut yourself some slack and start to say you came to a point where you said I did the best I could. Rafe did the best he could. Did you feel yourself stepping away from judgment?
Jen: Look, I just want to commend you Diane for your fabulous summaries. You’ve got a remarkable mindset and a great way of interpreting and I can’t fault what you’ve said. The oxymoron is which is the debate of the century, the discussion debate and the litigation around what we now know and have a name for opiate layering. Opiate layering is something that had not been coined in 2012. Rafe was a highly successful on all measures, any measure in our western economy. Highly educated, fabulous looking, living the life as an index trader in Hong Kong, a great career in applied finance and had succumbed to cocaine, the drug of recreation. We brought him back to Australia. We packed a lot of support around him and for about three months he was okay. It was shock after shock after shock. Then in the space of between 8 PM and 8 AM one night he was gone. Didn’t know, didn’t understand how that could happen. Now know that that was prescription drugs that he had been given by three different doctors not because he requested them but because they were all responsible for part of his support but what he hadn’t been taught was that each of those had an opiate residual and would layer in his system if he used them progressively.
It’s sort of like a train wreck. Everything stops. Interpretation, I mean there’s no way. I am all of those things too highly educated and urbane and articulate and so on. I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t understand it. I can now summarize it but we didn’t have that information. We didn’t understand what it meant. The ungone-ness is the outcome of all of the years really of re-examining as new information came to light and understanding that I could live with this, that there had to be. I didn’t know what the way was to live with this. I still have days where the ungones is a specter that threatens to knock me off my perch but I have many more days where the joy of life and the pride to have had this beautiful human being for 31 years is all the rascally things he did and the amazing, the contact I still have with his with his friends and his network. I’m no longer living. He’s trying to interpret his life. I am now have a positive proud legacy of the first of my four children and three other beautiful children who are doing fine and I owed it to them to make the effort.
Diane: I agree and I think that the wonderful aspect of this to me is this forward movement of the positive and the gift. The way in which appreciating someone’s life really does do them justice. The rest it does have to fall away some days better than others but you’ve done a remarkable job. You’ve done a lot of hard work and heavy lifting to get where you are. We have to take another break. We will talk again about the pressures on young people’s lives also on all of our lives to fulfill expectations, how we feel like failures sometimes when we don’t and whether any of that is appropriate in the first place. Don’t go away. We’ll come back with Jen Hutchison on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Jen Hutchison having a tender and touching conversation about the death of her firstborn child, one of four. Jen, I think has remarkably found the nuggets within this experience. One of them is the creation of a book called Motherling: A Walk in which Jen, you embody I think your experience and the strength of your experience in a way that actually is contributory to other people’s healing. You write the death of a child in any age for any reason creates a living hell for a mother. I have to think that many mothers particularly of other generations experienced this pain perhaps behind closed doors with the thought of having to carry on for maybe even younger ones who might have still been at home or fulfilling roles such as wife, work associate. You were working at the time and you talked about how work actually helped distract you from some of the pain. I wondered if as I mentioned before the break we just feel like a failure if we haven’t really accomplished any of our roles whatever we’ve assigned ourselves.
Some of that is so self-attributed and so much of that pressure is so much self-attributed. The pressures that young people are under, the pressures that we’re under. You talk about mistress grief as a competition for control. She gains the upper hand sometimes. I wondered how these battles for control versus maybe befriending the loss of control that we really have sometimes how those balances have played out in your life since all of this took place.
Jen: Yes, interesting lid, lifted the lid a little on Pandora’s Box. I find myself now, I talk about Motherling and this journey through grief and with grief a lot now and talk to groups of people on request and talk about the book quite a lot. I’ve found myself from the beginning of this journey up to now trying to help other people to avoid the word failure. I know I fell into that trap myself. I felt like a complete failure. You can’t avoid that to a certain extent as a mother. This is a heartbeat from your own heartbeat. You’ve carried this. You’ve nurtured it. You’ve taught it this individual his values. You expected them to be applied in a certain way and some elements, some rogue element in personality and genetic makeup whatever it is has thrown him and this whole relationship of off guard and then destroyed it or redefined it in ways that you have no prior experience of. It’s quite natural to apply our society’s sense of self and call yourself a failure and this is a complete failure but I now know and I know it. I know it from the fundamental part of myself and I try to help other motherlings to understand this is not failure. There is no failure. There is for yourself only peace or not peace. That’s closely linked with that sense of what your attitude is to alone and what your attitude is to that gone-ness.
It’s that attitude that is deserving of your attention. What’s going to be who am I in this situation? I know who I am. I was so secure in what I was as a mother to this individual. Who am I when that relationship has to exist in another space around which I have no experience? How am I going to build that experience and who am I going to decide because it’s an empty page. It’s a blank page. We all know people who have lost children and the stats are pretty awful. I mean 85% of marriages fail after the loss of a child. You can join that. You can go with that trend and nobody will stop you or know how to stop you. It’s only you and the person in the mirror or you if you’re on a pilgrimage and the person driving those feet one step after the other leaving your mind to search what peace means for you. Peace is not an absolute. Nobody can ever find it forever or we’d all sit meditating all day every day because walking is a form of meditation but it’s where it’s going to fit into you and how it’s going to expand to influence the way you are going to be in the world, in your immediate world with the relationships in your family and in the world beyond in your relationships with work. This is what I try to help people understand.
I do find that motherlings know what I’m talking about. I think most people of a certain age know loss in some form and also know that in the hierarchy of loss it’s a terrible thing to say this but there is a hierarchy of loss. Losing the child is right up there, right up the top. We are not adequate as humans to understand or manage it or help but I try to help motherlings and fatherlings to help themselves as much as they can.
Diane: I’m glad that you mentioned fatherlings. You noticed that the female thing, the drive to rescue and repair. Of course you and your family were involved in the rescue and repair of your son. That instinct to fix it, to fix it and then also to be fixed, to have everything be instantaneously within our grasp and within our control it’s so futile in so many ways because we are not the influencers we think we are. That’s probably for the best but I also think we’re all independently on our own Caminos. We’re all driving ourselves. I think that that’s also a way to find peace where you are talking to people about choosing identity and your relationships, their success is the choice. It is I think agency. You’re giving people agency like you gained agency once again in your own life. I think it’s a spectrum.
I wondered about there were times it seemed when you actually had shut down and this is a very beautiful aspect of personality I think. Where the psyche shuts down because it has to protect itself while it’s rolling over, while it’s churning, while it’s incoherent then you’ve emerged. You’ve put words to this. You now have a publishing company journey towards publishing. That process, it’s all of a piece is it not for you?
Jen: Yes, most definitely. I’ve been a journaler all my life. I still have the journals that I started creating when I was about 15. It’s just sort of a bit funny to meet your 15 year old self from time to time. I had at Rafe’s funeral, a very dear writing friend had given me a little leather book and said let’s call this your grief diary because surely in the days ahead. I know you Jen. Her name is Betty O’Neil. She said I know you Jen you’re going to need to write this out of your heart. I did and so then 15 months later I walked a Camino. I journaled every day and every one of those little places where that spirit took me and I left a tiny sachet of Rafe’s ashes and a commemorative note on a stone. I wrote. I journaled so that my children, my other children would be able to find those places because they’re not, they’re not official places. Some of the directions are three steps past the big tree beyond the fence over the style etcetera, etcetera. They’re quite interesting now to look at them.
When I came back I had no intention to write a book but I looked at these two journals when another two, a couple of years down the track and thought I wonder what would happen if you threaded these two together. That’s how Motherling and I wrote a book about the Camino because I was so affected by how profoundly it had changed my perspective and my ability to cope on so many different levels. I thought I’ll write a book about the Camino and I’ll include this visceral material from the grief diary with selections from it so that other people can see how effective a Camino could be. When I got to that and it came time to publish the book I’m an economist by training. I’d done a lot of writing courses and I’d begun to have a look at the publishing industry. I could see that mature age writers really struggled to find a place in the mainstream publishing industry. That’s not a criticism. That is just a description of their business model and I thought being the serendipitous person I am. Well that’s not a challenge. That’s an opportunity.
Why don’t I learn how to make books and publish the works of mature age writers? I began a Masters of Publishing and Writing at one of the universities here, the finest in the country for this work. I learned how to make books and then decided well I better publish. I know the heart and soul that goes into a book. I’d better publish my book first. I had written another book. I showed it to some industry experts and they said no, no, no. You go with Motherling first. You go with that one. That’s the message so I did. I didn’t want to mess up. I mean when you do something like that for the first time there’ll be all sorts of mistakes. I thought I don’t want to do that with another writer’s heart and soul. I’ll do it with Motherling because it can’t hurt me. We went first with Motherling. We’ve now got eight books. We’ve got another six or seven scheduled for this year. I mean these unusual times with Covid plans have gone out the window and come back in the window and out the window again and so on but this is the commitment. We publish the works of mature age writers. There are many, many of us of a certain age who have had careers elsewhere. It is very fulfilling.
Diane: You can be proud. It’s really thrilling for all of us to witness it. I know that in times of Covid that we can’t take anything for granted. You’ve pointed that out and it’s a wonderful takeaway. You can’t take anything for granted really live in the moment. I remember Betty from your book. I mean she’s hysterical. You’re in the grocery store breaking down and then she says it is amazing the cruelty to breakfast foods. There is spirituality to laughing. I just noticed we have only a couple of moments left and I’m so sorry. Time, we don’t know how much of it there is but now we do. You had an intuition from Rafe to go to Finisterre by the sea and you did it. You had an offer to do so right away. I’m gonna just read from Finisterre one passage from David White. Because now you would find a different way to tread and because through it all part of you could still walk on no matter how over the waves. That you Jen an have overcome so many challenges and I think are still evolving with more wisdom to share.
We just really very much appreciate that you shared it with us today and that you went on your intuitions and your synchronicities. It’s just been an amazing journey and we’ll follow you again through your Instagram and Facebook at Journeys To Words Publishing and also at your website. I’m thrilled to have you adding voices to your own very meaningful voice. In the end we are all on our own Camino and figuring out what matters. Thanks very much for being with us. Thanks to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producer Robert Giolino and mostly to you our listeners. Be safe everyone out there and remember you are peregrinas and most of all Bueno Camino. Thanks Jen Hutchison.
Jen: Thank you Diane.
Diane: It’s been a joy and we look forward to more from you. Till next week thanks for dropping in.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.