Lesley: Well, here we are wrapping up another year and moving into 2016. For those of us who celebrate January 1st as the New Year, we may be finding ourselves reflecting on the one we were just leaving to think about what does that mean for where we want to head our experience in 2016.
We may be checking off lists of goals and objectives that we’d set for ourselves or we may just be thinking I just want next year to be a much better version of the one that we just left. But it’s not just the change of the calendar that causes us to stop and reflect on who we are and where we are. Life can come out us in strange and very sometimes terrifying ways. A loss of a job. A loss of a loved one. A change in a partnership or a marriage. Any one of these can cause us to simply stop and ask ourselves “what’s happening?” “Who am I?” “What does this mean for me?”
For many, walking is very powerful means of this type of reflection. Walking meditation. It doesn’t mean we don’t talk and we don’t interact but it means that we spend time in a way of movement and rhythm that allows our body to start sending us new types of information. This could be walking your dog around the block. It could be moving into the park. It could be going up to the side of the mountain.
Increasingly however, hundreds and thousands of people have found that the Camino de Santiago, The Walk in Europe is in fact a powerful vehicle for this. Now, it’s not just one walk. There are hundreds of Caminos, paths, walks, ways throughout Europe. The one that’s made most famous through the film “The Way” was acted and produced by Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen. They walk the French Camino. The other ones that also end up in Santiago are the Primitive Way, The Northern Way, The Spanish Way starting in Seville, The Portuguese Way that starts in Lisbon or in Porto all ending up in Santiago. Why? Because these are the pathways historically that St. James walked in his pathway of pilgrimage through the movement of Christianity in Europe.
In the middle ages it was a pilgrimage that many took and carved out the path. The Portuguese Ways actually the Roman Way where the Romans created the pathway to Santiago. In Santiago it said that, that is the resting place, the burial place of St. James. This walk is not spiritual for all and is definitely not religious for all. It’s simply a way of discovery and exploring what’s going on inside of you. I live one hundred kilometers from Santiago on the Portuguese way and meet thousands of people who are in the midst of this reflection.
Kari Gale was one such person, a striking woman who stayed with us for two days and I had a chance to interview her in the midst of her walk. She is an interesting revelation of what it means to be struck to look at your life because something that you cannot control happens and yet it opens up the doorway to something amazing. It takes work.
Let’s find out what Kari Gale in the midstream of her second Camino walk has to tell us. So here I am sitting across the mic at this tall drink of water all six-foot-three of gorgeousness. She looks like she’s probably in her mid-twenties but I’m told that she’s even twenty years older than that which is almost boggling my mind (laughs). So Kari Gale I want to ask you one specific question to start this off. Where are you in your life?
Kari Gale: Wow, it’s a good question. It’s a broad question but it’s also very specific one at the same time. It’s interesting because I kind of feel perched on the edge of something and I actually wrote the other day not too long ago about jumping and jumping off an edge. I just recently said I left a job but my job actually left me. I got laid off from a ten-year position at Columbia Sportswear Company.
Lesley: And just before you go on tell me about the culture of Columbia Sportswear.
Kari: Columbia Sports Wear is a fantastic company. I worked there for ten years and it’s a company that really engages with their users that are not in our company but they’re also very approachable company. Think a lot of outdoor companies expect you to be climbing that mountain every day and Columbia allows you to sit down on the beach on your fleece and that’s okay too. They’re a great company and I felt actually very honored to work for them for as long as I live.
Lesley: And your position was in Managing Aide employees and that of the catalog portion of the business which is the global marketing string that goes out to the world.
Kari: Yes. A lot of people asked me if I did something creative there and I creatively communicated that it was..I was a manager of a team that produced all of our catalogs and hang tags and yeah Columbia it’s funny. It feels like very small company but it’s actually a very global company. It started in 1969 by Gert Boyle who is I think she’s in her mid-nineties. She’s an amazing woman and also a friend of mine. I know Gert personally and she was very encouraging when I told her about being perched on the edge because she too as well when her husband passed away was the person that took that company and turned it around and made it the global apparel leader that it is today.
Lesley: So here’s this woman whose husband dies and she takes to lead and turns it into something incredible.
Lesley: So, that was her edge.
Lesley: What created your edge?
Kari: My edge was created by my ex-husband leaving our marriage and I was left in the middle of a long separation and then filed me a divorce and it was heartbreaking. It was something I never expected. Think a lot of marriages have issues but the friend of mine I had was that we would work through it. We would get through it and we didn’t. We didn’t get through it and I was left kind of my whole life dismantled. When I actually referred to this blank canvas, I think Americans specially have their life very planned. What are you going to do if somebody would ask you in an interview is what’s your five-year plan, and I barely what I’m going to do tomorrow much less in five years.
Lesley: What do you think is the mentality behind the five-year plan? I mean I’m a strategist. I’ve worked my life trying to get people to look beyond eighteen months and the reason why I discovered eighteen months was important was because that’s the career cycle. If they wanted to be known for, so they wanted eighteen months strategy where they will be successful and therefore they would demonstrate their leadership. Now we’re talking about a five-year plan in an interview. What is this kind of preoccupation with where you’re going to be do you think?
Kari: I think that people equate having a plan but being responsible with being careful and secure. And Americans want to be secure. They want to know exactly what’s going to happen and we have tons of tons of insurance to secure everything and we make sure that you know us. You don’t leave a job unless you have a job lined up.
Kari: You don’t do anything to change something unless you know what’s happening next. After my divorce I had a very secured job but I felt like that everything that I knew was wiped away. It was a blank canvas and blank canvasses are very scary. I never had been taught of a deal with a blank canvas.
Lesley: What had you been taught to do? What was the frame of reference that you were operating from?
Kari: I was checking off my boxes. I have gotten married. I had bought a house. I was remodeling said house and in the process a few a year or so before had been trying to have children. I was doing all the right things. I was, you know we talked about climbing a ladder in the world of corporate America. I was climbing a ladder in my social life. Everyone I was doing whenever I’m asked of doing it. I was keeping up. I was keeping up and suddenly I had found a few rounds down the ladder. I wasn’t even on the ladder. The ladder wasn’t even visible anymore. So here I was and that is when Camino came into my life.
Lesley: Let’s just drop just one second.
Lesley: So you weren’t on the ladder because you weren’t married? What’s the connection about being on the ladder?
Kari: I think because I wasn’t married and I knew that my life had been, as I said dismantled or imploded. I didn’t even have the ability of… I was trying to reconstruct my own heart and I didn’t even know how to get back to the ladder. The ladder is like moving forward. You almost just sit down in the middle of the road and you are stuck trying to figure out who you are. Everything that you know is not as you knew it and then you start to figure out, it’s you know people call it as mid-life crisis and I had just turned free as well. So I was in the middle of my life and now I didn’t have this thing that defined me anymore.
Lesley: I think that’s one we pick up on is that you know we think about all the things that create us, all the things that make us who we are. But in the true essence of if there are one or two single features that define us.
Lesley: And if one or two of those single features get imploded then everything else that is supposed to be holding up this house just gets wiped out. And I find that amazing because we’ve got so many other features to keep us buoyed but one or two could just bring the house down.
Kari: Absolutely and I don’t think we realize how much weight or buoyancy they have until they’re gone. I would never have sort of identified myself as the wife but then when my husband left I’d realized how much I had depended on that to define me, and suddenly I realized that I had no idea how to value myself. I question my worth. I could question my desired ability. I question all these things that I’d taken for granted and as I said it just makes you kind of sit down and you can’t really move. And so when everybody else is moving on with their “5-year plan” you don’t even know how to get back on the road because you’re kind of in a ditch.
Lesley: Because you’re not being able to stand up.
Kari: Right. Exactly.
Lesley: Okay. So we are having this conversation on the Camino Portuguese.
Kari: Yes Lesley: And you’re in the midstream of your walk as we speak.
Lesley: But this was not your first Camino.
Kari: No. I did the Camino Frances two years ago with my sister and then we went on the Camino Frances, because she had moved in to my home with me to help me finish my big giant remodel after my ex-husband left. And we had both lived in Spain in our twenties and love Spain and Spanish culture. And a friend invited us to see “The Way” which many Americans have seen the movie with Martin Sheen.
Lesley: Camillo Estevez
Kari: Camillo Estevez
Lesley: Who just produced it fell in love with a woman he met on the production of this movie.
Kari: No I didn’t know that.
Lesley: Yes, he fell in love with this woman in a Spanish town. She was in Alberic and he moved back to that location and is married to her.
Kari: That is amazing. Oh that makes me happy.
Lesley: There’s a Camino story for you. Anyway, your story is…
Kari: He changed a lot of lives with that movie because I think there are so many people I’ve talked to that went on the Camino because of his movie. But we had seen it and my sister actually are kind of the Camino when we were in our twenties and we actually discussed this. We said, “Wouldn’t that be a crazy thing to do someday?” So we go to this movie, my ex-husband has just left, we watched the movie and we walked out of the movie and we say we’re going to do that, we have to do that.
Lesley: What is it about not just the movie but where you were in your life? Because what we’re talking about is the hallway of the in-between. And we get cused in the hallway to follow something, and our brave side says follow.
Lesley: So, what was it that was triggering that sense of “Pick of queue up?”
Kari: I think this idea of stepping away from everything that you know, leaving behind the distractions of your daily life of everything that you can use to hide in and escape in and being forced unto a space that is new to you in every way and allowing yourself to experience. The Camino is hard thing to describe that it is a way of living and being that you don’t experience in any other form. And I’ve told this to several people but Americans in general, I think western culture does not know how to mark or walk through grieving. We celebrate marriages. We celebrate babies. We celebrate all sorts of things of big weddings and parties, but when something bad happens we have a very hard time. We have funerals but we don’t know how to be in the space of grieving. And I needed a way to be in my grieving. And I saw the Camino in the movie and I thought this is what I need to walk. I need to walk this path to grieve, to shake-off the darkness of what has happened to me.
Lesley: So you did that.
Lesley: And tell us about what were the features or factors, the elements, the triggers that actually did that for you as you walked, because you walked how many kilometers?
Lesley: So walking 800 kilometers there’s no mean feat in its own right, right?
Lesley: But there’s something else that happens. So, what was it that occurred in your experience of that allowed you to experience the grieving process?
Kari: Um, I think one of the things that is so intriguing and amazing on the Camino is you walk up to someone and there’s a total stranger and in five minutes you start talking in a more sincere and deep way than you do maybe with people that you’ve known your whole life. Everyone on the Camino has this common goal and they have a way of opening up that you don’t find anywhere else. And so, in walking and sharing your story, it’s like every time I would share my piece of my story I was affirmed in a really interesting way by someone who knew nothing of me.
Lesley: But knew everything about you.
Kari: But knew everything about me. And it was so healing. People who haven’t done it don’t really get this but walking is very healing. Things shift and change in your heart and your mind as you walk. If you’re walking eight hours a day you have a chance to process through thoughts and emotions. And you also have a chance to… I mean there were afternoons I spent crying the entire way. And giving myself the space and time to do that was immensely as I’ve said healing.
Lesley: So just to underline that, we have Six Major Intelligence and one of them is the kinesthetic intelligence and that is our body’s movement. And when our body moves it operates from a completely different intelligence. Like often say to people when you’ve made a really major decision when you’re sitting down in a chair and sitting quietly or when you’re walking. Like did you get up from your chair and start walking the room and pacing the room, because when our corporate decision making people would always stand up. I’d always say how come most of the decisions get made in the washroom? Because they’d go to the washroom, come back and they say, “Okay now we’ve got our decision” because movement is such a big part of our innate human decision-making.
Kari: Absolutely. I think that moving from day-to-day, you know, you’re walking from town to town. I told my sister as we were walking, it was funny because she walked behind me and I said, “I think I’m just bleeding out all of my grief.” And she laughed and she said, “I’m stepping on it behind you. I’m stepping on it and I can feel it.” And it really was. I felt like the movement and walking that Camino, that path, I was allowing myself to grieve, and to let go and surrender. And there’s this spot as you know, heard called “The Cruz de Hierro – The Iron Cross” and many people leave memento or they bring something to the cross that they need to surrender and I did that. I had Karid something all along that I left there but wasn’t, it was actually cribbage board ironically enough. My ex-husband and I used to play cribbage.
Lesley: Man! Oh man you’re carrying a cribbage board in your backpack?
Kari: It was a tiny small plastic travel one and it’s a long story how I actually got that but I ended up with it and I didn’t know why I was carrying it. And then I got a few days before the cross and I realized that it was the symbol of us. It was the symbol of us being together and I was able to place it at the cross. There are a lot of strange things at base of this cross. You know, there are pictures, and photos and rocks but there are all sorts of things. And I was able to have really this ceremony and it was very cold and rainy with what I was going through that day. And I had something but in something the night before, a prayer. And I was able to put both of those things underneath another rock and just place in there and it was the ceremony that I needed. I needed that marker; I needed that moment of officialness. And even though I knew that I would still grieve and I would still be walking through a lot of emotion in the years to come, in the months to come, the days to come that I can look back at that, I can remember that and go. That was the moment I let it go. I let my marriage go and let my husband go.
Lesley: And the reason that’s so important to me is that we’re talking because you’ve created the most beautiful art, and your art which is going to be shown throughout the week of this magnificent talent that you had.
Kari: Thank you.
Lesley: I mean, this hadn’t been happening before like you somehow…you let go of a marriage and you opened to an incredible talent like how does that happened?
Kari: Thank you so much. In short, I’d always be an artist of some type but I have never been practicing it. And I had right before the Camino I’d taken a class, the one of the first classes that I’ve ever taken, it was run by a beautiful or taught by a beautiful teacher who really resented journal art, and journal expression and taking your journal with you. And so I took this class, it was a perspective class basically how to draw perspective which can be…
Lesley: And what’s drawing perspective? What is that actually mean?
Kari: If I look at a building how do I actually make it look like its position correctly? How do I draw something so it actually looks correct on paper that I can see where it is on horizon? I can see it coming towards me or moving away and it was something I was struggled with.
Lesley: So it’s making something happen in space like it’s real, it’s got dimension.
Kari: Yes. And the big thing about this class was people ask me when I sit down and I look at a scene, they’re like, “How do you know how to start?” And one of the things that this class taught me is she basically showed us how to take a scene and sort of edit it because as an artist you’re always editing. You’re always looking at something. You can’t draw if you can’t draw every single shadow. But you can look at the space and see what are the shapes, and the textures and the lines who really bring that scene to life. And you can sort of edit them and he taught us some tricks to do that.
Lesley: So you work with your eye, where the eye can actually edit and distinguish what needs to be presented.
Kari: Absolutely. And I’ve never been taught any of those things before. I felt like I was finally being given the tools to… For example, if you were a gardener and someone said, “Run out in the garden and take care of the garden but we’re not going to give you anything to do.” They’re not going to give you hoes, a rake or a trowel. You just need to work on the garden; it would be a little bit difficult. And I felt like I was finally being someone handed me the trowel and I was able to actually use some of these techniques to actually express what I wanted to express. I’d always been too afraid before a scene would be overwhelming, I wouldn’t know how to start. So after this class I felt like I had this glimpse into how to actually draw things that change my perspective. So I go on the Camino, I bring my journal. I bring a little tiny kit of colors that my aunt showed me how to make and I bring a couple of pens. And I think maybe I’ll draw, maybe won’t. I’ve never drawn on a “vacation” before. This isn’t really a vacation. This is the Camino, it’s different.
So my sister and I walked together in the morning and I walked faster with my long legs in the afternoon so I would get to in Albergues, I would sit down. And the first day I sit down and I have some time. I get a glass of wine; I thought “Well what the heck I’ll draw?” So I pull out my journal and I draw and this keeps happening. This pattern, one of the beautiful things about Camino is this beautiful rhythm, and I start developing this rhythm of drawing every day. And it’s surprising me because I’ve never drawn every day. Drawing always felt like a task something I should be doing that something I really wanted to do.
Lesley: What is your mind when you draw? Like what’s happening inside of that beautiful head of yours when you’re creating this unbelievable pattern on the canvass?
Kari: Previous, before the Camino I would be somewhat stressed out about trying to capture what I was seeing. On the Camino it was this sense space I melted into it. I felt like it was incredibly relaxing and it also drawing an incredible way of being present. And one of the things that I really wanted to do on the Camino is be present to the space and time I was in. I didn’t want to think about the past and regret that. I didn’t want to worry about the future; I wanted to be in the present. Drawing is one of the tools that I used to be in the present because you have to look at every detail. You slow way down. The Camino slows you down, but then drawing slowed me down even further where I’m looking at the texture of the bark and looking at the way the leaves are in the light coming through the trees and how I can capture that.
And so as I started to draw every day, that was the other side of the human process. I was leaving behind all of this grief from my marriage, and this thing that I love was emerging in a way that it had never been present before. And so I would start to look forward “Oh my God when can I sit down and draw? When can I get to draw?” And after the entire Camino was done I ended up with 40 plus drawings that I had made and I didn’t quite know what to do with them. And so they sat in their little book for a couple of years. And so this past June I decided to put them together to finally publish them something that had been sitting in my belly for a while. And I started the process in January and made it gave myself a deadline so that I would finish it and finish the book and have a book with this party on the two year anniversary when we walked into Santiago.
Lesley: Oh my gosh that’s powerful. So now, who’s publishing it?
Kari: Well I published it myself. I published it through Create Space which is an Amazon company. So I sell the book online through my own website.
Lesley: And it is?
Kari: KariGale.com. And then I also sell through Amazon internationally. Currently right now I’m only able to send the books out through my website domestically in the United States. I did it myself for a couple of reasons. I just had a very specific vision of what I wanted that book to look like. My book is not classifiable; it is a combination of things. It is a book of drawings; it is an autobiography of sorts. It’s a travel book, it is a spiritual book. I think if I had published it through a publishing company publishers want to put things into certain categories, and I couldn’t even categorize what I was writing but I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. There is writing throughout the book which are my thoughts and just a little bit of memories of each day and a nice beginning and ending which tell my story, an introduction of how I got there and then a retrospective to use later.
Lesley: So who would be the market that you would most feel would want to experience this book?
Kari: Of course people that have walked the Camino will love this book. I think people who are interested in the Camino will love this book. But also, I think anyone who’s walked through a situation where they have been in the in-between space and in that space of not knowing what’s next, and how to get up off the side and start moving even if it’s in a direction they don’t know or they don’t have planned. And I think that’s anyone who has grieved something would appreciate this book, because I do express that and I identify with that a lot in the book and I’ve shared it with friends of mine. You know, anyone who’s perhaps come through divorce, anyone who’s lost something along the way will appreciate this book. And then It’s just a book of beautiful drawings whether you’ve gone on the Camino or not. It could be a coffee table book.
Lesley: It’s definitely a coffee table book. I mean, I’ve seen lots of coffee table books but yours is terribly unique. So I want to ask this last question.
Lesley: Where is Kari going?
Kari: Oh goodness. Well, I was going down the path until you stopped me, and I’m here having a glass of wine having this interview which is amazing. And this is an example exactly of why I love the Camino, its unexpected things. You know what, Lesley, I don’t have a plan. I don’t exactly know where I’m going. I have decided to travel for a year. I have decided to bring my pens, and my little paint palette and my journal. I’m hoping to experience more healing, more growing. And I’m learning how to trust that I don’t trust that good things will happen and that I don’t have to have a five-year plan. I don’t even really particularly know where I’m going tomorrow. And that is exercising a muscle that is very, very new to me but I’m really enjoying it. I’m having a lot of joy in the process of it. So, this year I’m hoping to become more of an artist. I’m hoping to become more compassionate, more understanding of people. I hope to be a better listener. I hope to experience a lot of things that I can’t even imagine right now. So, that blank campus that was so scary before is now a door inviting me in and we’ll see what happens.
Lesley: You couldn’t have said it better, baby. Thanks for spending the time with me.
Kari: Thank you.
Lesley: Well that was very powerful moment and time for me as I sat on the couch as you could tell my puppies running behind and squeaking their ball. Oh my goodness in that revelation that Kari gave us on the opening that her life was giving to her. I walked Portuguese Camino in 2010 to deal with the unexpected death of my husband that occurred in late 2008. For me it was a life-changing event. Why? Because it caused me to let go of most of the things that I thought to define me. Not the things that made me who I am but all of the beliefs and restrictions that I had placed on myself, the expectations that I had placed on myself that have forced me to think that my next path was just going to be a modification of the one that I had when my wonderful husband, life partner and business partner left me. It opened up for me on absolutely intriguing reality and that was the notion of being present. In fact I discovered not to create a plan for where I was going, not to set a goal of where I would be, but to simply allow myself to be fully and utterly present in each moment. And by doing so, having let go and becoming empty of all the baggage and all the predetermined beliefs and expectations that I had put on myself, by letting go of all of those I’ve created the space for something extraordinary to enter and it did. It was the establishment of the hostel and restaurant which we call through this interview Albergues in Portugal. What I’m suggesting in listening to this interview at this time of year is that maybe it isn’t about where do I want to go. But maybe the question is what do I need to let go of to create the space for the things that couldn’t even believe possible to be magnetized to me, to come to me. If you’d like to see more of Kari Gale’s amazing work, what came in to her is she let go of a marriage, well, check her out at Kari K-A-R-I Gale G-A-L-E.com. As a writer, as an artist, as a poet, you’ll be able to see, and feel and touch what her journey has been like. And for those of you who wish to stay tune to what has happening to me, check out www.lesleysouthwicktrask.com. That’s L-E-S-L-E-Y-S-O-U-T-H-W-I-C-K-T-R-A-S-K.com, and of course on facebook at “Women who lead radio show.” I wish you the most wonderful beginnings and opportunities of what life is going to be for you. Remember this is your show, I’m your host Lesley Southwick-Trask. See you next year.