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- Page 10

  • Forests

    After Mt Chemo, my next metaphor for my 'journey' is a forest, a deep dark forest, based on a real one I encountered back in 2008 on Offa's Dyke.

    SD531072.JPGThe antepenultimate day saw us walking through hours and hours of heavy rain past a place appropriately named World's End - a bend in the road where there is nothing much apart from a road sign.  In this image of me on that road you get a hint of how wet it all was.

    Eventually you reach some moorland that is quite, no, is very, boggy and upon which railway sleepers and duckboards have been laid to avoid the unwary walker sinking knee deep in mud and losing her/his boots/socks/composure.  By the time we reached the moorland it had, for a time, stopped raining and an eery, steamy mist rose above it.  And then came the forest.

    Normally I like forest walks - green branches overhead, easy terrain to walk, shade from sun, canopy from rain - but this one had an eery quality to it being dark and dank; indeed my loyal friend found it altogether a scary forest.  Every now and then we found bits of hazard tape across the pathway and signs warning us of forestry work (we could hear the odd buzz of timber cutting) and/or BMX tracks which had priority.  The signage in the forest was poor and several times we had to guess the direction to take, along cloggy clay paths, knowing only that our direction needed to be 'down.'  The day's rain meant a clingy grey mist hung thick in the air and at mid-afternoon it felt like twilight.  It was cold, gloomy and seemed slightly malevolent.

    Of course, as sensible adults and well experienced we knew everything was quite safe - the worst that could happen was to be a bit off track when we emerged at the other end, but it didn't alter how it felt.  We could only see a few steps ahead, we didn't know if we would stumble upon a cyclist unable to stop on his/her downhill dscent, and of course we didn't know what lay before us because it was new to us.  We trusted our guidebooks (especially our Trailblazer guide which is our favourite series because of their slightly off-beam humour that only walkers can trully 'get') but we still had to do the walking, through the murk, down the muddy path to the other side.

    Having got there, having found ourselves at the most surreal B&B ever, having shared tales with other travellers, it all found it's right proportion, but it didn't make the experience any less real along the way.

    And that's kind of how it is for my next phase of treatment - I have read the guidebooks, I have done the logical stuff, but it feels like a dark, deep forest through which I must walk, and parts of it alone (physically anyway - I will have hundreds of prayers for support).  I know there is a far side to the forest, and I hope the 'B&B' is less surreal, but I can only get there one step at a time, along the road, across the moor and through the trees.

    For now, it's the road and it's sunny, not raining, as I step along enjoying a few weeks away from almost all things medical.

    CG End of Offa.JPGAt the end of Offa's Dyke, it is traditional to paddle in the sea at Prestatyn... so we did.  When I checked this photo I was reminded that Offa's Dyke was one of the walks where I'd been sponsored for charity, and on the last day my friend and I had worn appropriate teeshirts - hers for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and mine for MacMillan Cancer Care. Over the years we have raised in the order of £2k for cancer charities, remembering or supporting friends and relatives whose lives it has touched.

    Once I've passed through my forest, once I've got through the various bits and bobs that follow it, once I am certified fit enough (if not sane enough) I feel there will be another walk on the horizon, a 'real' one to raise money so that one day, one day, no one will have to walk this particular walk.

    (Remembering especially R, G, J)

  • Eclectic Listening

    Having never had a walkman or a discman or any other small portable player of music, I suddenly find myself with two MP3 players, one a gift already loaded with an extensive miscellany and the other a gift on which to load my own.  So it was, yesterday, that I began copying about 20 CDs onto my new device.  Quite what anyone would make of this eclectic mixture that ranged from Elgar to Enya, Graham Kendrick to Gregorian Chant, Barber to Bartolli, Karl Jenkins to Jan Garbarek, and all station in between I have no idea, but I'm not too conerned either.  Mostly I've opted for instrumental stuff, but there are some of singing; for anyone who makes such distinctions (I'm not sure I do any more) probably 50/50 sacred/secular.

    Listening to some of it, I was struck how much of it is stuff I bought for a 'reason' - to use a track in worship or to express something that mattered at some point in time.  Having the two devices will be useful when I am tied down for a while, allowing one to recharge as the other plays and giving me stuff to listen to that has no associations as well as plenty that has.

    I may well download some 'pray as you go' and/or audiopot material to take into the hospital with me so that I have something on hand to use when I'm not up for thinking too hard.  That will be just as eclectic for sure!

    What's on your MP3 player?  And why?

  • Slowing Down

    This cartoon from ASBO Jesus made me smile and seemed apposite...


    ASBO 968.jpg

    One of the tricky aspects of minister deprogramming is the equivalent congregational deprogramming ... whether it's a planned sabbatical or enforced extended sick leave our lives become so entwined that the temporary separation is hard to manage.  But then, no one said it wuold be easy... and I think I'm kinda glad it's not.


  • Pausing at the Summit

    Today as I sit at the top of Mt Chemo my limbs are stiff and the after effects of St Eroid's last hurrah leave me rather weary.  As I look back whence I have come, it is remarkable how quickly and how slowly the last sixteen weeks have elapsed... in one sense I can no longer remember a time before I entered this strange new world and I have forgotten what it was like not to live with a diary full of medical appointments; there are moments when I'm not even sure I'm the same person who began this climb.  It has been a strange time for sure, and one from which there is no returning to life before it began.

    I realise now I am part of a 'one third world' within the western 'one third world' - for all our wealth and prosperity, a third of us live with cancer, and it is, it feels, a world within a world.  I have been surprised how upsetting it has been to hear of the deaths of Brian Hanrahan or Peter Postlethwaite, fellow inhabitants of this world within a world.  It's not that I ever met them or knew much about them, just the knowledge that they, too, climbed this mountain but for them it was not enough... the vulnerability of those who travel this path is all too evident and yet so commonplace that from outside it slips by almost unobserved.  A strange new world indeed.  I have so much to be grateful for - my climb seems to have been successful and largely struggle-free and it is a strange moment to celebrate that with appropriate humility.

    Along the way I have already learned a lot of 'stuff' about this world and how to live within and beyond it.  At some point it will be right to share some of that, but for now it is good simply to pause, to look back down the slope and realise that it is now behind me.

  • Church on the Web

    This morning I listened to yesterday's service online.  It's something I do from time to time anyway to see how I sound and if what I say makes any sense!  Yesterday's service was an importnat one, the first of the New Year, entrusted to a student who demonstrated so clearly her calling to preach that surely no-one could deny it.  Gently spoken yet with authority; carefully prepared but with flexibility... a blessing to listen to and a reassurance that 'all will be well.'

    I hope our visitor was blessed in her ministry too as she goes forward trusting and obeying the God who has called her.