I will lift my eyes …

The pathway up out of Glencoe  isn’t  called ‘the devils staircase’ for nothing.  The series of winding hairpin bends makes for a long plod.    My companion walks fast, keeping up a steady pace.  I walk in carefully measured sections, from bend to bend, zigzagging to avoid the steepness of the climb.

Then I stop.  I wait and look.   Looking down shows where the patterns lie, criss crossed paths, rough mounds, all levelled by the height.  The pathway winds from Bridge of Orchy, appears smooth and easy but yesterday it was a tough and rough old drove road.  The rough paths, taken at a distance, become smooth and are given pattern.

Sometimes the patterns make sense; often they don’t but I carry on looking anyway because there’s beauty and weaving and simplicity as I look down from a distance.  Where before there was only confusion and lack of conviction because of ridges, corners and a mysterious future not yet in sight, now there is clarity of a kind.  As time weaves and winds, yesterday’s future slowly blends into tomorrow’s past.

The river and the road wind endlessly out of sight.  The fields are patchwork.  Buachaille Etive Mor rises in awesome majesty, overlooking all.   I hold the weaving and patchwork patterns but plod on, up the staircase, breathless, to see what’s over the hill.    My companion is always waiting……

Always, my companion waits….

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The Gathering

DSCN3534Many years ago I awoke and made ready for the day ahead. Spirits soared at the prospect of ascending the lofty ridge towering high above Glen Kingie. My heart leapt in anticipation of standing atop Sgurr Mor to survey the wild and piercingly beautiful handiwork that has emerged from the celestial crucible. A herd of deer leapt with me. Rugged mountains plunged breathlessly into the depths of shimmering sea lochs as the gulls swooped silently below my feet. From the sparkling, tumbling burn I could hear an orchestra of sound as sunlight shimmered and danced on its bustling surface to the ambrosial conductor’s quickening tempo. Isolation amidst raw beauty- wind; sun; rain; river; sea; mountain ridge; the silence of solitude. A time of rejuvenation; of communion with God; of self-discovery.

By the end of the week the silence felt louder than the shrieking winds that seemed to slice through rock itself. My senses were heightened- high mountain grasses thrust skywards like individual spears of rusty red and burnished gold; the cold and hunger made for unwelcome bedfellows; the imposing flanks of Sgurr Mor appeared as monstrous tidal waves looming through the gray and damp mists, threatening to engulf me as readily as the wild beauty was ready to consume me. I felt alive, joyful, and afraid in equal measure.

Following Ash Wednesday, we take those first tentative steps into the lenten journey. Each year as I look inwardly and outwardly, I am reminded again and again of that heady sensation of fear, of joy, and of life I experienced in the mountain wilderness. I bring on this path my successes and my failures, my joys and my sorrows. Every year that we gather we are each drawn, week by week, closer and closer, to our own high mountaintop and to the parapet of the Temple where we feel the tension as our own failings meet with the path Jesus has set out for us to follow. I am not yet ready to gaze upwards at that blood encrusted cross- but at this early stage of the journey I give thanks for the gift of life and the people in it with whom I share its glorious mysteries. And I thank God for the gift of the Church in holding love, grace and forgiveness as lanterns to guide us.

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:11 NIV)