When Gina Marie Mammano walks into a room, the energy levels seem to rise. The Freeland native’s smile and ever-present positivity rubs off on those around her, and her body of work has a similar impact on readers and listeners alike. Her newest piece is no different.
Mammano’s new book, “Camino Divina — Walking the Divine Way: A Book of Moving Meditations with Likely and Unlikely Saints,” takes walks from multiple trails, including paths across Whidbey Island, and pairs them with mental exercises that encourage self-discovery. The walks are inspired by the ancient spiritual practices of lectio divina, or divine reading, and walking meditation.
Mammano’s book will be featured in a free community book launch and signing at 6 p.m. on April 29 at the South Whidbey Commons. The book was officially released on April 8 by SkyLights Path Publishing, and was featured in an article by Publishers Weekly.
Mammano is more than a poet. A pursuer of many trades, she is a radio talkshow host, poet and spiritual director, an official position that essentially is a counselor who assists people in their quest to grow more in touch with themselves. Her radio show, called “Ear Candy: a sweet piece of sound for your mind to suck on,” aired on the now defunct WhidbeyAir station.
“This book represents the confluence between my poetry, spirituality and radio show,” Mammano said. “It feels like the book is pulling all of those worlds together. I’m trying to communicate to the reader in a successful way.”
In “Camino Divina,” Mammano also introduces 12 of her favorite spiritual figures and their work into her story, taking pieces from their writings and incorporating them into the spiritual walks she has laid out for the reader. The featured authors and references range from T.S. Elliot to Chief Seattle to John Muir, all of whom were advocates of getting in touch with one’s surroundings and, in the process, themselves.
“This is a book for people who want to do a form of pilgrimage right in their own backyard,” Mammano said. “The idea is that it’s accessible, walkable and however deep and introspective the reader wants it to be.”
Leading teachers of walking meditation have recently endorsed the book including Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar and internationally renown inspirational speaker. Rohr has gone on to say that, as one who teaches walking meditation, he wishes the book was mandatory reading for his students. His endorsement will be featured in the book and online retailers’ book description.
At the core of everything Mammano creates is the audience. Her book is not as much about her personal experiences on the featured spiritual walks as it is about the reader going through the adventure themselves. The “Ear Candy” radio show was not centered on her own work, rather a place to feature others’ poetry and writing, according to Mammano. Her work as a spiritual director revolves around her listening to those who seek her help, rather than doing all the talking herself.
“We live in an age where it’s important to reform a wholeness of being,” said Rick Vanderkam, Mammano’s husband and fellow writer. “Walking out these ideas is an important part of the process of being wholly connected with ourselves. What she’s written provides us with a wonderful and enjoyable pathway towards that kind of development.”
In the process of writing “Camino Divina,” the trailblazing helped Mammano build a closer bond with her own surroundings here on Whidbey and made her feel more involved with the community. The book features multiple trails on Whidbey Island, including Ebey’s Bluff in Coupeville, the loop trail off Craw Road in South Whidbey, Deception Pass and others.
Whidbey Island has allowed her to fully express her creative side, according to Mammano, so the desire to bond with the surrounding environment was strong.
“Whidbey is a great incubator for experimentation,” she said. “You can be creative with your art forms here, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”