Small steps…

“I need to do something.” Clinging to a lifestyle in which they felt themselves to be stuck, the person concerned said that a change was needed… a break in the pattern of their days, for to break just one link in a chain is to break free of it. But where to start? What if it wasn’t enough? The fear of failure was holding them back from taking even the smallest step forward that could potentially change everything.

I know that feeling. I imagine that most of us have felt it at some time in our lives. Change and failure can be two of the scariest monsters we have to face and maintaining even a painful status quo can feel like a far better option than scaling a mountain of fear. Still, you never know what you can do until you try…and you cannot take a second step until you have taken the first, no matter how small a step it may be.

I remembered climbing a mountain a couple of years ago. At fifteen hundred feet, it just about graduates from a hill to a mountain and to my eyes, it looked like one… especially as our route would take us up very a steep incline. I really wanted to visit a stone circle I had heard a lot about, but, recovering from a serious chest infection, I wasn’t sure I would make it.  I was at that stage where I could walk easily on the flat, but any kind of climb, be it hill or stair, left me fighting for breath with heart pounding. Standing at the bottom of a slope that appeared to be almost vertical, I was quietly convinced I would fail… and afraid that in doing so I would let my companion down and spoil the day.

It was hard going, especially as it was a hot and sunny day. Every few yards I had to stop and gasp for breath under the pretext of taking pictures.  It wasn’t just me, though, my companion was struggling too… and in an odd way, that made me feel better. The slope seemed endless, and even when we reached level ground, the hill still climbed steadily in front of us. We managed to lose the footpath and had to clamber over rough ground, climb a rickety gate wrapped in barbed wire and, at one point, found ourselves wading through a field strewn with bones.

And yet… we were in a landscape that was incredibly lovely, with bright blue sky above the hills and deep blue sea below. The heather was in flower, the sheep were purest white and there were wild horses watching as we climbed. After the initial climb, the going was easier, even though it was all uphill, and, when we arrived at the plateau below our destination, it was sheer beauty that took my breath away.

It had been worth it. The last climb brought us to a superb stone circle, with panoramic views… and not only that, there were other circles and stones all around us. Not only did we see what we had come to see, we were showered with so many other wonders, from the stones to the hunting hawk that we watched… gifts we could not have expected rewarded us for our efforts. And the way back would be all downhill…

I remembered too taking my younger son up Ben Nevis when he was a boy. We knew before we started that we would fail to reach the summit that day; there was no way we would make it to the top in the few hours we had at our disposal, but we would at least get a feel for the mountain and see beauty we would never have seen had we not made the attempt.

I thought back too, to the first time I had attended an event with an esoteric school similar to those run by the Silent Eye. I was scared stiff of what I might find or whether I would fail to fit in… and was met with open arms and hearts, laughter and friendship. Or the time I had arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris, terrified, owning nothing more than the clothes in my suitcase. I had left everything behind… home, friends, family, language… and was about to embark upon an unknown future. It could have been a disaster… and yet my years in France became the happiest I have known until recent years.

Whenever I feel fear of change or failure weighing me down, I look back at all those times I have taken that first, small step. It can be as simple as a phone call, a break in a routine, or the determination not to let someone down. It need not be a big thing at all. Yet, as soon as you have taken it, one foot in front of the other, your world and your view of it has already changed. Even if you fail, you will have seen and experienced something new along the way… and going back to the starting point for another attempt or a different route is always easier ‘downhill’.

There are so many possibilities for wonder out there and we never know what the next step may show us. The only guarantee that we have is that we will not see them at all unless we take that first step beyond fear…

Too much light…

The soft colours of dawn were painting the sky as I left for work. The village streets, preternaturally quiet now that the schools were on holiday, were, for once, easy to negotiate. Parked cars take up half the width of every street and, on a school day and with oncoming traffic, getting out of the village becomes a slalom exercise in courtesy and patience.

By the time I reached the long stretch into town, the sun was cresting the horizon, setting fire to the skyline and casting long shadows across the road. Another mile, a bend in the road, and the brilliant disc had revealed itself in all its golden glory. I, and every other motorist in the now-queuing traffic, hit the brakes, dazzled by the low-lying orb on a road that runs due east.

There is, I thought, such a thing as too much light.

As the traffic crawled into town, I thought about that from another perspective. Is there ever such a thing as too much Light on the spiritual path? That Light could be said to be our goal, and so you would not immediately think so, and yet I concluded that yes, it was entirely possible.

As far back as I can remember, aspects of the spiritual path were part of my life. I was brought up in a family whose members each found their own way towards a shared goal. Their paths took many forms, encompassing the magical, mystical, spiritual and religious, but their goal seemed essentially the same, and whether they sought to attain the Christian Heaven, a Buddhist Nirvana, or a more abstract Union, each saw Light… formless, timeless and ineffable… as a perfect symbol for what drew and guided them. How could there be too much of that?

The car in front came to an abrupt halt, brake lights blazing. I saw the driver pull down the sun visor. He could not see the road ahead nor its hazards, any more than I could and had reacted by almost causing an accident.

That’s the problem with too much Light. The road we travel through life has hazards enough as it is, without our eyes being so firmly fixed on the Light that we fail to see them. We are, I believe, here for a purpose. Whether we are an incredible accident of Nature as evolutionary science would have us believe, or part of the design of some Cosmic Intelligence, we are here for a reason and with a purpose to fulfil, whether we are thinking at species level or as individuals.

If you accept that we are part of the design, and that there is a spiritual purpose to that design, there comes a point when you have to ask yourself, “Why right here? Why right now?” And, if there is indeed a purpose to our individual presence here and now, surely we need to be paying attention to where we are? This is practically impossible if your eyes are fixed firmly on the dazzling Light ahead and are blinded to all else.

 

The true mystic sees that Light and seeks to become one with it. Worldly considerations cease to matter… all else is but a shadow. While this is a rare and beautiful path to follow, it is a path for the few who feel called to that life. Those who follow the esoteric path see the Light and seek to align themselves with it, moving towards it while moving through the world with attention. This path is open to all. No path is better than another, as long as you are following the one that speaks to your heart.

My personal belief is that we may need the mystics to show us the way, but that for most of us, paying heed to the lessons, possibilities and opportunities of this life is more likely to answer the need of the inner self, allowing us a chance to learn why here and why now.  Few of us are able to divorce ourselves from the mundane business of living, but that need not mean that we cannot address those needs with due regard to spirit.

The spiritual path should not need to separate us from the earthly and physical life we have been given; it should enhance our awareness of it and bring us to an understanding that shows us that living is a spiritual journey.

A little care…

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The narrow village street is busy with rush hour traffic. The lorry coming towards me on the other side of the road is respecting the speed limit, the impatient driver behind him is not. Without warning, the car pulls out onto my side of the road, overtaking the lorry and coming straight at me. In that scintilla of clarity that happens at these moments, I realise there was nowhere for me to go. I could turn into the path of the lorry…but that is hardly a good choice. I could wrench the wheel to the left and plough into the schoolchildren waiting at the bus stop… and that is no choice at all. Or grit my teeth, hold the wheel, and slam the brakes on, hoping the cars behind me are going slow enough to stop.

I hit the brakes… so does the lorry… and the impatient driver hits the accelerator, raising one obnoxious finger to the world, squeezes through the gap with millimetres to spare, racing off to whatever destination is more important to him than the lives of others.

I am not a timid driver and I don’t scare easily… but this brief incident left me shaking all the way to work. It had been close.

Sadly, it is the kind of scenario that happens every day on our increasingly busy roads. This time, tragedy was averted by the quick reactions of several drivers. It is not always so, and the toll of death and destruction on the roads rises daily. Accidents happen often enough, both on and off the roads, but many are not accidents at all, they are simply the result of heedless or selfish behaviour and, when lives are lost to such causes, it is tantamount to murder.

How would the lorry driver have fared emotionally, as well as legally, had I turned my car beneath his wheels? How would I have lived with my actions had I instinctively turned away and hit the children? How would either outcome have affected others… witnesses, those who care about us, the parents of the children? How many lives would have been injured, broken or lost? In both cases, the road would have been clear for our impatient motorist to speed away and possibly remain unaware of what he had done.

I could not help reflecting on the fragility of life. This gift that we are privileged to share can be torn away at any moment, by any number of unforeseen circumstances and there will be nothing left of us but a memory. Our emotional lives are just as fragile and can be broken by just such a lack of care as was shown by the reckless driver. We may be the guilty party, the one who causes harm… sometimes through a genuine misunderstanding or error, sometimes through a lack of empathy or care…  yet because we move forward with our own lives, we may not see the devastation we leave behind.

Our society is increasing the distance between us in many ways, even while it brings us closer in others. It is easier than ever before to keep in touch and to watch events unfolding across the globe, yet it is probably easier than ever before to remain isolated, touching the world only through the medium of keyboard and screen. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not lose our ability to care… that, although we are undoubtedly the central point of our own consciousness, we do not learn to see ourselves as the sun in a universe of lesser satellites.

Consideration, empathy and kindness are social skills, and without social interaction, we can forget how central they are to allowing society to function. We see the effects of isolation every day and how quickly and insidiously these essential skills can be forgotten. Awareness and care for others can be unconsciously replaced with a false, but inalienable sense of self as the central point for all things. When one person’s journey…in their own eyes… becomes worth more than that of any other, tragedy will not be far behind.

It costs nothing except a moment’s thought and feeling to consider the impact of our actions. We will not always get it right, regardless of how well-intentioned we may be, but a little care goes a long way towards making sure that we do not go too far wrong. We cannot always avoid disaster, but if we can take responsibility for our own actions and open ourselves to the needs of others, we may not only be helping them, but saving ourselves untold heartache too.

The peripatetic ant

The ant crawled across the windscreen of the car, right in my line of vision. Ever since the spider-bite incident, I am wary of creatures that have any kind of personal arsenal hitching a ride, so my first thought was to defenestrate the little blighter. It was only a split second later that I realised how far he was from home.

I had been driving a good half an hour without stopping, so he had probably hopped aboard before I left. Ants are social creatures, pretty much defined by their role within their community. What, I thought, would a lone ant do if he suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory, miles from home?

Would his sense of belonging be so decimated that he would curl up and die? Would he find another community… and if he did, would he be accepted or slain as an intruder? Or would he begin the long trek home, drawn by some unseen force to the place of his beginnings?

I couldn’t do it. I left him to wander the dashboard, hoping he would understand that all he had to do was let the journey take him where it would, before it carried him home.

I thought about him a lot as I drove, wondering what his reception would be after the journey? What tales might he communicate to his nest-mates about the big, wide, world out there and all the things he had seen. Could they believe him? Like the fantasy hero who steps into a magical time and place, he would have been gone no more than an hour or two from his home, yet his odyssey would have carried him as far as a worker-ant might walk in a dozen ant-lives. Would they accept his fantastic story or think him delusional?

Ants who had never set foot outside the colony would almost certainly dismiss his tale. Those who had ventured out, but only within the known confines of their territory, might doubt. Some would be envious, others would scoff. The likelihood is that only those who had themselves risked stepping beyond known ground, exploring the world on behalf of the colony, would see the glimmer of truth and recognise an echo of their own explorations in the traveller’s tale.

And what of the little ant? Was he afraid of the unknown, or excited to explore new and unimagined realms? Did he recognise the landscape that flew by at such speed as being akin to his home, or did he feel as if he had been plucked out of his world and transported to some magical otherworld by a giant with a roaring steed? How would he see life-after-journeying? Would it seem flat and boring, or safe and comfortable? Would he cower in corners, afraid of stepping outside his comfort-zone ever again? Would he ‘dine out’ on his travels, boring is nest-mates with tales of ‘when’ and ‘where’? Or would the change in his circumstances and perspective have been so dramatic that he would spend the rest of his life pondering existential questions or striving to be worthy of the privilege he had been accorded?

Such musings occupied my mind until we once again reached home and I set him down on the grass beside my parking space. Like the ant, I had taken a journey, within the journey that is my life. Because this was ‘my’ world, the destination and the route were both familiar to me, though there are always unknowns on the way and no-one can predict what will happen, or how the comfort-zone of familiarity will be challenged… especially when you look at life as a journey.

There is beauty to be witnessed, there are mysteries and magic to be found; we never know when or where, nor do we know how we will greet them or how others will react if we try to share such experiences with our own community.

I watched the tiny creature scurry away into the grass. I suddenly wondered what I had done and whether my interference, though well-intentioned, had produced the right effect. Had I set him down anywhere near his home? What if he’d been with me a while… had come from my son’s home or the supermarket… and was now lost in some strange landscape? Had my intervention caused more harm than good? Or was he destined to be a blackbird’s breakfast no matter where he wandered?

To some questions we will never have answers, but I felt a keen sense of kinship with the ant as he disappeared beneath the grass. We are both on a journey. It will carry us where it will and we will experience what we must… and we are both on a greater journey still, finding the way back to the beginning.

All in the feeling?

It was a beautiful morning. I had watched a barn owl glide across the field as dawn limned the horizon with gold and palest pink. The sky was beginning to turn blue and the drive to work on almost-empty roads was accompanied by birdsong. It was one of those mornings where it felt good to be alive…. even though, I realised with a start, I wasn’t sure I really knew what that meant.

How does it feel to be alive? It is not as if most of us have anything to compare it with. It is an either/or situation and anything in between is actually neither, for consciousness seems to be elsewhere. What we think of as ‘feeling alive’ is really feeling emotion and sensation. It is hard to even separate thoughts, emotions and perceptions from who we are and how it feels to be us, here, now.

How did I feel? When I looked at it from this new perspective, I could not answer. Take away the sensation of sitting in a car… the pressure of seat and wheel, the thrum of the engine, the warmth of the morning rays through the glass, the faint tang of petrol and the sound of birds. Take away the emotions that react to movement, to the start of a day’s work, to spring mornings and the first cherry blossom… and what is left?

Were my body unable to feel, see, hear or otherwise engage the senses, I would still be alive. If heart and mind were so numbed that I was dead to emotion, or if consciousness were lost, I would still be alive. It would be no kind of life from our normal perspective, but it would still be life. How would that feel?

It is odd that we use that word, ‘feeling’, for so many different purposes, from emotion, to touch, from opinion to health…as if we cannot dissociate our idea of being alive from feeling in some form or another.

I slowed to watch a hunting hawk, feeling the discomfort caused by the pressure of foot on pedal, wishing, for a moment, that my body still behaved as it had when I was young. Could I remember what it felt like to be young? Not the thoughts, physical sensations or even the uncertain, unconfident emotions of youth, but what it actually felt like to be young? No, I realised, I could not. Nor could I even say, in those same terms, what it felt like to be older. Yesterday and today are too vague. There is only what I feel like now.

I could catalogue sensation, emotion and reaction, but that is all just a processing of sensory and social input. If the body is the interface between the world and the brain and the brain the interface between body and mind, mind must be the interface between the brain and… what? Consciousness? Being? Spirit? Soul? What was the next link in the chain… Where is the ‘I’ in all of that…and is there even an ‘I’ at all?

Caught in the limbo between home and destination, yesterday and tomorrow, there was only the road and the moment and both were part of a journey, a process in a constant state of change, but not without purpose.

For a moment, there was a glimpse beyond normality to Mystery. For a moment, I almost understood. But such things cannot be grasped, only, for want of a better word, felt. All that remained to put into thought was the consciousness of a road that leads to a somewhere that is everywhere. A somewhere that makes no distinction, no separation, between the road, the traveller and the destination. Only the journey is.

There is an odd sort of serenity in that. The vehicle may break down, the traveller may not know the way and the road may fail, but the journey is always itself, carrying us forward with purpose.

Unhappy bunny?

Image source
Image source

Life gets a little odd sometimes. Just when you have come to terms with the way things are working out, it gets turned on its head and a myriad possibilities open before you. Or you could say instead, that just when life is looking settled and predictable, suddenly nothing is familiar and you don’t know what is coming next.

Both are true. It all depends on how you look at life. Is your glass half empty or half full? Do you see the emptiness as full of sparkling possibility, a space just waiting to be filled? Or as something forever gone and worthy of grief?

Most of us will lean towards one view or the other… but things are not, as they say, always set in stone. The most negative of pessimists will sometimes see the blaze of hope, while the most optimistic will have a down day.

I had been up early. Way too early considering it had been a late night again. Five o’clock had seen me shivering in the sodden fields with the dog. I couldn’t sleep. While Ani chased shadows my thoughts were a little glum. Tiredness does that sometimes. It was no better by the time we got home, cold, damp, muddy and distinctly miserable. A review of any situation, in that state of mind, will produce little but further reasons to feel sorry for yourself. Wonderful possibilities may be dangled tantalisingly just beyond your reach and the bite of sharp necessity will have its teeth firmly in the cheeks of your nether regions. And if you think that’s a sorry picture, you should see the rabbit of negative euphoria gnawing at your heels…..

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” ― Albert Schweitzer

The phone rang. It was a call from another unhappy bunny… rabbits, of course, being well known for their propensity for breeding. We discussed the relationship between fear and hope; how hope can seem like the Holy Grail perched on a mountain top and how, when you stand in the foothills, you have no idea if you will make it to the summit. We talked of how the fear of failure is exponential to that vision of hope. And of course, how it is so much better to see that hope, that brilliant shard of possibility, than to wallow, blind in the darkness.

Suddenly, the possibilities seemed a little brighter than the problems.

The phone rang again. Laughter ensued. Perspective was restored and the night shadows banished for both of us. Yes, the same problems exist and need to be faced and dealt with. But just look at the adventure that could be! Who knows what could be found on the way up the mountain? The possibilities of the journey are endless and exciting.

The inbox had delivered an unexpected treat that had me smiling a few moments later and the lights, went on again inside. My thoughts turned to something I had read recently. The Sufi philosophy speaks, I think, deeply to most of us if we listen. The imagery of love speaks of the journey of the soul into awareness, of the journey of the heart and mind and body into living with passion. I was reminded that without the contrast we would not see the joy, without the shadows that haunt us there would be no fierce embracing of Light. When things are about to change and move forward, the old has to be left behind and that leaving can have us feeling as if we are being torn apart. But no birth is painless, no beginning comes without an ending of a phase of life. From a single point in time we can either look back at what might have been and grieve for the losses, or we can walk forward into adventure and live it with passion.

“When a true lover appears calamities blaze up. I like a heart that can stir the seven seas fearlessly withstanding the waves. I like a lover with a fiery heart burning even hell to ashes. I like a heart that can wrap the universe around its hand, catching the eternal light hanging it like an icicle. I like a lover with a heart as large as the world who fights like a lion, not only with others but with himself, a lover who shatters the veils of all hearts with the blazing light of Truth.” – Rumi

Inner whispers

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Every so often there is a shift in a life’s pattern that leads you off at a new tangent. Sometimes these are things you have worked for, dreamed of and created for yourself… an opportunity seen and grasped. Sometimes these events simply land in your lap and you have to choose whether or not to accept them and go with them… and sometimes there simply is no choice.

Occasionally these new directions may leave people questioning your sanity… why would you take such a risk after all, when there is no real reason to do so that is obvious to the outside world. You are doing okay, everything seems to be in order and life is pootling along quite nicely, thank you very much. Suddenly you pull the metaphorical rug from under your own feet and start behaving in what the world might see as an unusual manner.

‘Mid-life crisis’, say some, ‘lost the plot’ say others… and there are unkinder epithets available too, as well as the slightly envious, or respectful ones of those who want to break free of their own routine and Do Something.

Of course, you may well launch into one of these ventures… or adventures… and find things seem to unfold in their own way, regardless of the nice, tidy plans you have made where you thought you had everything under control and your vision of the future ran between nice, neat lines of predictability. Then you wake up one morning and realise that while you were sleeping the universe, as is its wont, has seen a vessel shaped to its need and rushed in to fill it.

At this point you realise that you are running along merrily with a cup filled to the brim with something unfamiliar, unplanned and suddenly very easy to spill. It demands a more considered approach and some major readjustments in thinking. You might, it is true, simply empty out the cup and start again to your own plan, or you can accept the gift and begin to learn what it will need from you in order to grow into what it could… perhaps should…be. It was such a scenario that saw the birth of the Silent Eye… a desire that became an imperative that has become both response and learning curve for those of us involved.

We are lucky, we are none of us on our own in this and we each have the companionship of the others to check, teach and learn from, for we really are the first students of the School. We have to be…anything else would be hypocrisy. You cannot teach what you are not first prepared to learn although that learning may be damnably uncomfortable at times, as we learn to look into the mirror of self and see ourselves without mercy, but with justice, love and understanding. It is a necessary process and a valuable one, as from those personal lessons we learn to teach from experience, not mere theory.

There are other gifts and shifts along the way too, and every so often you pull up short and wonder about everything, up to and including your own sanity in following these pathways into an unknown that is yet not unknowable, especially when the going gets rough. Learning to trust that the path knows where it leads isn’t always easy. But there are treasures to be found along the way and some of them are the people who drop into your life at just the right time, with just the right understanding and experience to restore your faith in your sanity and allow you to hitch up your backpack and follow the path forward. They are not always obvious, these gifts; for although sometimes they stand in a clear light, easy to see, at others they are like the ragged beggar or the beast in the fairy stories that turns out to be the hero or the sage in disguise, but they await on our journey if we have eyes to see.

Our individual journeys as human beings, though, are not fairytales, they are our lives and each of us encounters these moments of choice and self doubt in the quiet of our own minds. There is, deep within us all a part of us that observes and Knows, shaking its head fondly at our errors with love unconditional and a clarity of vision we might call conscience, but which goes beyond that to a deeper understanding of our self, our motives, our strengths and our frailties. On the surface we may be as children, fingers in our ears in our refusal to hear a truth we already know, yet learn we must and grow we will, like it or not, one day.

That inner knowing pulls together all the threads of being and manifests as that inner voice of the heart and that, perhaps, is our best guide through the journey of life if we can simply learn how to listen and act on its whispering song.

Subject to change…

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The red kites lit the sky with their grace, but the weather did the landscape no favours. I drove away from the damp grey of Buckinghamshire without a qualm on Thursday, heading north for the monthly meeting of the Silent Eye… and a days of freedom from the constraints of necessity. I had plenty of time so planned a leisurely meander up the A5 which, for much of its course, follows the old Roman Iter II, better known by its Anglo-Saxon name of Watling Street. The rain would make travelling on the motorway hazardous with the spray and the inevitable lunatics, and I’d rather take the back roads any day.

I also thought I should probably, and finally, call at Lichfield Cathedral. I will have to at some point, but I am always too early on the way back and on the drive up I am usually too hungry for the hills. So that was decided. I would visit the Norman Cathedral with its odd spires en route. I should have known better than to decide anything. It doesn’t seem to work like that. We long since realised that we go where we are guided when the time is right… and I thought I could make plans?

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It was not to be. Watling Street was closed and barred by a large lorry. I was obliged to reroute and take the motorway, grumbling to myself as I turned the wheel. For the next hour I submitted to poor visibility and lousy conditions. My nice shiny car was now coated in liquid dirt and the habitual muscular tension of modern life had a firm grip on my shoulders.

Even so, my mind was free to roam; the external conditions of fast moving and uncontrollable traffic could not restrain the imagination. It occurred to me how similar that was to the way we move through the world… no matter what the day brings or how our plans are scuppered, we are obliged to adapt to the moment as it unfolds. And regardless of what happens outside or how mud-splattered we may get, our inner being is still our own and affected only by what we choose to allow to write its name upon our minds and emotions.

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The rain was sheeting across the windscreen, with visibility barely see more than a few yards in the terrible weather. The concentration required for safety left little room to notice anything else and the driving was tiring. I left the motorway at the earliest reasonable opportunity, intending to cut across country on a fast road and pick up the lanes I love through the Derbyshire Dales. It was only then, with the motorway mere yards behind, that you realised that the teeming rain was a false impression, churned up by the wheels of others. All the sky really held was a gentle spring shower. The local conditions of the motorway were, in truth, an illusion… but none the less real for all that. They still had to be navigated and addressed while you were caught within them. And that too seemed to mirror the human journey.

I had, unfortunately, left the motorway a junction too early for the road I intended to take. I had to smile at that… yet another accident of the road. I couldn’t check the map while driving so I would, once more, have to rethink. The road took me through Breedon where the church that perches high above the village holds a treasure trove of carved stones. Oddly enough ‘Don’ and ‘Wen’ had used some of them in their ‘correspondence’. I wasn’t calling there again though… that would wait till Stuart was with me one of these days.

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Still, it meant I knew roughly where I was. I followed the road, heading towards town I knew lay in the general direction I needed to be until I saw a sign for Repton. That rang a bell, though I couldn’t remember why… until I followed the winding lane that took me to a signpost pointing to ‘the ancient capital of Mercia’. That was it. I had looked for Repton and failed to find it when I had been to Breedon. So having found it by accident I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I parked near the market cross and headed off to explore the ancient church, grinning to myself at how these things have a life and agenda all of their own.

It was a considerable time later when I finally crossed into ‘my’ patch of Derbyshire, where the lanes are now as familiar as home. I cursed as I saw the huge buzzard perched on the lamppost… there was nowhere for me and the camera to stop just here. But it didn’t really matter… as a guardian of the way and welcoming committee he was a welcome sight.

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A few miles further on I cursed again as the distant snake of stationary traffic warned of roadworks. Drawing closer something caught my eye above the green fields and suddenly the curse became a prayer that the lights would change to red and halt my progress. The prayer was answered and I watched the buzzards for a good five minutes until the traffic moved once more. I even got a picture or two. Which just goes to show that even in apparent setbacks and delays there is room for the gift of joy.

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