All shall be well...
Norfolk walk, days 4 to 6
Of all the injuries it is possible to get on a walking trip, who would expect to get their worst one getting into a sleeping bag?
The tarp tent was not working out for me, as it had major condensation problems and dripped a light 'rain' on me if I accidentally touched it. So on the third night of my trip I was trying to slide carefully into my too small sleeping bag and not touch the side of the tarp when something went doiiing! inside my chest and I had a terrible pain in my lower ribcage. To this day I have no idea what I actually did. A few days later the pain was so bad I went to an NHS walk-in centre, but the gp wouldn't 'hear' how I had injured myself and said it might be shingles. (Why do they do that, those doctors? Someone should figure out how to train them to hear what people are saying with their words, not jump to conclusions with their eyes)
Well, although I was in quite a bit of pain the day after the 'doiing!,' I decided to ignore it and go for a walk anyway and the gods rewarded that stoicism in the most wonderful way. It was about 8am and I was walking back to Blakeney, thinking about the coffee I was going to treat myself to, when I heard a most urgent voice in my head saying, 'turn round, turn round.' I turned and there, not 50 feet from me a Marsh Harrier was making it's gravity-defying slow glide across the tall grasses. I was standing on a rise, a dyke that runs between the farmland and the sea, so that the Harrier was flying just slightly below me. It was huge, unmistakable, as big nearly as a red kite and with beautiful black and brown markings. What stays with me is it's impossible flight over the grasses, a slow glide like that of an albatross over icy waves.
The next day was pretty wet and grim. I went to Blakeney again and spent the morning in a coffee shop watching Game of Thrones on my phone and feeling guilty; I was on a walking trip, I should be walking! But the rib was bad and the weather was wet and I'm slightly ashamed to admit that a warm, cosy cafe with free wifi won out over birds and a damp cagoule.
The next day I got the bus back to Norwich, enjoying the racing views of the Norfolk countryside and the many stops at small country towns along the way. Back in Norwich I paid a visit to the church of Mother Julian, a 14th century Anchorite. It was lovely, sitting quietly in her tiny cell. I thought about a woman who chose to spend the majority of her life in one tiny room and the deep experience of place and self that she must have experienced. We live in very outward facing times. People in our culture head out on adventures, travelling the world on gap years and holidays in order to find themselves, find happiness, experience meaning. The Anchorites went in the opposite direction, inward, to find their god.
I was at the beginning of a long walk, an adventure that had no fixed time to it. I only knew that I wanted to stay 'out,' in the world and away from my usual life for several weeks. It felt right to take some time to contemplate my journey in the home of a woman who had chosen to go the other way; inward rather than outward.
As I walked over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time trying to connect to my own inner life. Since the experience of that 'voice' that urged me to turn and see the Harrier, I tried to pay attention inwardly, to notice what was being said there. What I felt on my solitary journey, was that I was never alone; I felt connected to the plants, birds and creatures that surrounded me on that walk. and I also discovered that I was never alone inside either. There is a presence there that I learned to trust, a quiet voice I try to hear, a kind of inward holy place.
When I left the church I bought a card from the tiny gift shop with this Julian quote on it;
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”