FMM 12 26 14 Old Memories, New Growth
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”
I went for a Christmas Day walk in Wales yesterday and thought about pain. The walk begins with a steep climb (for those who know Chapelton, Jamaica, think of Salem Hill going on for a mile and a half) and causes your heart to beg for a break! I thought about how easy it is to give up when the going gets tough, which led me to think about labor pain, and the first woman who ever gave birth. Did she know that at the end of the intense contractions she would be holding new life in her hands? Most of us who have gone through labor and childbirth remember a distinct moment when we just want to give up, get off the delivery table and go home. Apparently it is not an option!
I managed not to have a heart attack (or two or three) on my walk yesterday, mostly because I had the excuse of taking photographs to make me pause and catch my breath, slow down my heart rate. Which was a good thing, because often when we are working hard, we forget to stop and look around us, to see something amazingly beautiful or interesting. At one point when I was staring at the ground ahead of me, I paused, looked up, and lo a crowd of seriously somber black Welsh bulls (bull cow, as we call them in Jamaica) were studying me. (It’s ok, they were behind a fence).
I had taken this walk once before, two years ago, and was pretty sure I could find my way back home, going up out of the village in the valley, around the hills and back down, one road, take the right turn, and follow the road. How hard could it be? Apparently, when you are focused on breathing, on taking photographs, on hearing your muscles scream, it can be quite easy to miss the turn, and keep going all the way to the top of the hill. I suspected I had gone wrong when I found myself turning right onto a decent road, one with a white line in the middle. Had they improved the roads that much since two years ago? The roads through this particular Welsh village tend to be single lane, when you meet your brother driving down, one of you has to back up to a widening in the road to let the other pass! Naturally drivers tend to be very polite in such locales!
Despite an undercurrent of doubt, I tromped on. Wales was too smart for my smartphone, my map app could not identify my location without internet connection. After about a half a mile I texted my sister, though I was unsure she would receive it. On Thursday I had received a text she had sent me on Tuesday! The mountains tend to stand in the way of technological progress! But the views were still amazing, smooth, green, tidy fields dotted with slow moving sheep; trimmed hedgerows hiding rustling birds; an occasional cyclist would quietly whirr by, making me jump; and in the distance the dark blue ridge of the mountains of Snowdonia, maintaining their watchful eye over the terrain.
I knew I would find my way home eventually, and hoped I was not traveling too far away from my Christmas dinner. I knew I needed another right turn, but none seemed to be close. I also knew I had disobeyed some of the basic rules of hiking: I had no secret stash of energy food, no water, and no distress flares to send up! (No, it was not that serious!). After another mile an angel appeared, a driver stopped beside me and offered me a lift (yes, I thought about strangers and rides and trustworthiness as I evaluated him), but he was going even further out of my way, and lo! Ahead of me was the turn to Eglwys Bach, the little village nestled in the valley! So down I turned into the little lane, not wide enough for two cars (except in those special places); tall trimmed and leafless hedgerows once again guarding the fields beyond, and this time a steep climb downwards. And more photo opportunities to the mountains beyond, and the clean green fields in the foreground, quaint cottages tucked in the bends in the road.
And finally mountain rescue appeared (ok, it was my brother-in-law), responding to my texts which had arrived, and my thighs were given a well-deserved rest. Back at home my adventure provided entertainment for my mother as it was embellished as stories often are: three heart attacks, two muscle pulls and a nosebleed (on the twelfth day of Christmas!). By the time I finished recounting it I had almost gone into pulmonary edema from the thin atmosphere (ok, it wasn’t Everest!).
But despite the struggle, the doubt and the challenges, messages came through loud and clear. It is when we feel pain we know we are pushing our bodies to grow. It is when we continue in faith that we will reach our destination. We can always ask for help, there is no rule that says we must solve all of our problems singlehandedly. And despite the effort, stop and look around, or you may miss some of the most amazing sights and scenes of this glorious world we live in.
For those who are spending time with family this Christmas season, may your conversations be joyful. For those who are apart from family, may you find friends who fill that place for you. For those that are struggling with difficulties, may you find the strength to push through, to find the new growth that awaits you.
One Love, Family! Season’s Greetings!