21 October 2012

Are You There? It's Me...

... Hat in hand for being a delinquent writer. 

Part of that was intentional.  I was away, in England, for 18 days in September.  A long imagined and finally fulfilled adventure of the mind and body took me from Tynemouth to Bowness-on-Solway along the path of Hadrian's Wall.  Worth a long report, and pictures.  Lots of pictures.

Then there was all the stuff waiting for me to do when I got back.  No matter how well planned, the work we leave patiently piles up in our absence.  It takes almost as much time to catch up as the time you were away. 

But another part, unintended but very important, is the shift in mind and spirit that came from my long walk. 

One thing being alone on the trail did for me was pull me back toward the primal.  My days were pared down to walking from here to there.  The hours were divided between changes of socks and pauses to hydrate or eat.  The moments were measured in footsteps.  By the second day the ancient rhythm was all I knew and it felt good.  Very good.   

Another thing was recovering a sense of scale.  To spend a week just crossing the land and watching the sky was humbling.  Sometimes the land was difficult, sometimes the sky.  I met forces to which I had to submit - rain, wind, mud, manure, stones, hills, darkness.  And yet I never felt humiliated or defeated. 

I recovered the nourishment of human solitude, which is not being alone.  Without anyone alongside, my ears heard only what the nature offered, like birds and wind and trees.  Without other people, my eyes lit on insects and flowers.  Without human company, I paid attention to the cows and sheep and birds that were my constant companions.

Lastly, I lost my trust in words.  Once, I hoped for a quasi-literary ministry, with pungent and poignant turns of phrase that would endear me to future colleagues who would esteem my wisdom.  No more.  The world does not need my words.  It needs just me. 

This morning my sermon was a stumbling  series of words, deeply felt but poorly said.  Yet the people heard what I was trying to say, despite my words not because of them.  And they cheered.  Yes, applause rose, even a few people stood. 

My words were not that good.  My heart was, though.  They heard that. 

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