Walk #11: Meg-John

Walk #11, with: Meg-John (MJB)

Where: Apuseni National Park, Romania

When: 20 May 2016

Meg-John and I have had to rethink how to 'do' our friendship now that I'm nomadic. As our friendship is anyway founded on what we call 'relationship geekery', we've risen to the challenge of the 'meta-communication' needed to do this: specifically we've agreed to spend a couple of chunks of time together each year, to Skype roughly once every 1-2 months, to share materials via our Kindles, and to use Facebook and messenger for day-to-day keeping in touch. As a result our friendship doesn't feel like it's suffered much from the change; on the contrary in fact. (In contrast, one or two of my other important friendships feel slightly precarious at the moment, because we haven't talked enough - yet - about how to do them long-distance. Hopefully we will over the course of the summer.)

Anyway, for our first chunk of time on our own I suggested M-J meet me in Transylvania for a few days' walking in the fairly inaccessible Apuseni mountains (I hired a car to get us up there) followed by a might in Cluj-Napoca, a very likeable university city. We both love walking, at it provides a great backdrop for our seemingly endless conversations.

On our first morning we awoke to find the Glavoi glade camping area (and M-J's brand new tent) covered in a dusting of snow - I'd pitched mine under a lean-to as it tends to leak. We opted for a lazy day with just a short evening stroll, which left us two full, sunny days for the long hikes we had in mind. The first of these took us around the top of an immense canyon and up to the Padiş plateau, where we saw a tree-stump that looked very much like a bear, did as the locals do and had a beer outside the Padiş village general store, and accidentally acquired a dog. During this walk we continued an ongoing conversation about the importance of treating onself consensually, especially when operating at the margins of one's comfort zones.

The second walk was the longer and for me the most memorable of all. Yellow dot way-markings took us first up to Piatra Galbenei where we sat for almost an hour spellbound by the view out across the national park, along a wooded ridge to a giant cave that contains ice all year round, then down and down into the valley where Meg-John spotted a slow-worm and we heard several woodpeckers. At the furthest point of the walk we made a decision not to attempt a technical section that would have involved shinning along a rockface holding onto a metal cable and instead begun the long re-ascent to Glavoi.

One of the things we talked about during these walks was the personal User Guides we'd each recently drafted. Meg-John seemed pretty comfortable with theirs and had moved on to thinking about creating a zine to help others with the challenge. Mine had been a real struggle and I'd resorted to dumping all sorts down on the page ready to edit down for wider consumption. In spite of its length Meg-John helpfully pointed out that while strong on general principles I hadn't really covered any specifics about how I'm living now and what this means in practical terms for my current and future relationships. For example I need to add that while I'm open to spending chunks of time (possibly even quite long stints) in one place, I don't currently anticipate 'settling down' in any permanent way. I hope to use my User Guide to prompt the conversations I'd like to have with some other friends about how to keep deepening our relationships, assuming that's what we both want.

Physically exhausted we made it 'home' just in time to have our supper (delicious soup, 'mici' - similar to kofte but made of beef - and chips) made for us by local women at one of the little cafes that had opened up on the campsite because it was the weekend. And of course, we had a couple of bottles of local Ursus (bear brand) beer to toast our significant achievements!

Harriet Lerner describes intimacy as what occurs when both parties can express strength and vulnerability in a balanced way. Thank you Meg-John for being on this high-stakes journey with me.