The road goes ever on and on… evocative words sung by Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings and often quoted on family walks!
This time last week I blogged briefly about the pace of life, and several folk have responded to say they feel the same – that relentless pull of busyness which never seems to let us rest. Since then I have travelled a few miles – firstly a train journey to London on Monday to take part in the judging process for the Methodist Women in Britain Creative Writing Competition. What a privilege that was – there had been a huge response but all of us tasked with choosing two winners thoroughly enjoyed doing so. Not for me to reveal any more about that here, watch the MWiB website!
On Friday my miles were not by train but on foot. Two wonderful Scottish friends, Kathleen and Gail, had agreed to help me try out sections of what I hope will become an MWiB pilgrimage in Scotland sometime next year. We caught the train to Ayr together and set off along the coast with wonderful views of Arran in the sunshine…
…we scrambled around under Greenan Castle and found ourselves on a route heading towards the Carrick Hills. Completely new territory for me and I loved the beauty of Ayrshire. It was hot… we were hot.. at times it was quite steep… the road went ever on and on… but eventually we reached our highest point on Brown Carrick Hill.
From there, perhaps we expected it to be downhill all the way to Maybole. But anyone who has walked in the Carrick Hills will know it is not like that! “They’re not called the Carrick Hills for nothing” muttered Kathleen as we continued to go up and down, up and down for quite a few more miles. 15 in all before we finally reached Maybole station, weary but triumphant. There were blisters, insect bites, nettle stings and scratches, but there was also much laughter, companionship, mutual support and a spirit of pilgrimage. (Whether or not this route will find its way into the finalised pilgrim way is under review… watch this space!)
More miles underfoot yesterday as Andrew and I walked the streets of Edinburgh in the afternoon and enjoyed choral singing at the Greyfriars Kirk in the evening, with a wonderful, exultant concert of 16th century music by Byrd and Tallis sitting very comfortably alongside the remarkable sounds of contemporary Estonian composer, Arvo Part, all sung with near-perfection by The Sixteen. A foretaste of heaven.
For everyone, the week has been overshadowed by the terrible murder of Jo Cox, an MP who was giving so much to her family, her community and our national life, and who had so much more to give. In the face of untimely death we are all pulled up short. Perhaps we gain some comfort from the mystery of faith that somehow the road, the journey, continues, even through death. So we set off into another week, not really knowing where it will lead. I take with me into the week ahead more of “The Old Walking Song” of J. R. R. Tolkien with its suggestion that all of our individual meanderings through life are, somehow, part of a “larger way”:
“The Road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”