Tag Archives: walking

A Twinge of Envy?

tn_wayfarerjonIf you are going through a hard time or in a prolonged stressful situation, it’s tempting to look at others and feel you are missing out. On the surface at least, they seem to be sailing through life and have it easy in comparison. Before long you may even indulge in a little self pity, which, if allowed to continue, can be a destructive path spiraling down to despair.

My wife is long-term disabled and increasingly mobility-challenged. Over recent years, I have been finding a way through two chronic illnesses and found the sudden physical restriction and loss devastating at first. There was so much stimulating and fulfilling activity, including Christian service, that I could no longer be part of.  But slowly, as I painfully let go of all that, I entered into another world.

This was a world where we were in the slow lane Continue reading

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Filed under bible, biography, Christian, chronic fatigue, disability, lifestyle, personal, seniors

How We Slayed Smaug the Dragon

How my wife and I, despite the restrictions of chronic illness, attempted the 2.3 mile walk through our local country park. A walk that for most people would be an amble, became for us, an expedition of Tolkienesque proportions.

It had been our ambition for a while and so there we were on the hottest day of the year, setting out on our adventure! Make no mistake, it would be a real accomplishment. From the car park to the front door of the inn at the other end, was twice the length of anything I had walked in the previous three years. It was a challenge, comparable in relative terms, to my climb up Ben Nevis, when I was fit! So not only were we praying for strength to get there and a lift back to our car, but for there to be no ill after-effects! It was going to be interesting – me with my chronic fatigue symptoms and my wife with her walking finally balanced in her custom-made boots.

We set out, like two excited children, with our ali-folders strapped to our backs and my vest pockets stuffed with wallet, mobile phone, drink, emergency rations, camera, keys and sketch books and pencils. Even though the sun was full and hot, there was a gentle breeze from the sea and the going was level and smooth. This was familiar territory, but even so, we marvelled at the abundant greenness and the occasional wild flower that escaped our detailed knowledge – well my wife’s at least!

It seemed no time at all that we arrived at the first pond. Ready for a rest, we unfolded our seats and out came the sketchpads to record what we saw. There was a single open lily on the water and two ducks with their fledgling offspring and a brand-new bright red fibreglass rescue apparatus. Not being so good at drawing birds, I concentrated on the view back to the sea. After a swig of the water bottle and a cereal bar off we set again.

We rounded the bend along the straight to the next seat overlooking the large pond. This was a real picture, with a mass of lilies in full bloom and the reflections glinting in the sun. We took note of the several strange plants, with a view to looking them up back home. I made two calculations; we were just over a third of the way and the pub stopped serving food soon after two! I wasn’t sure how these conflicting facts equated, but we continued with added stimulus.

The next stretch seemed longer than expected and even though the sun was slightly veiled in wispy cloud, we were feeling the heat. However, the bridge came into sight with the signpost for the Otter Trail, indicating just over a mile to go. We crossed the river and swung right along the opposite bank towards the entrance to the woods.

We passed the point of no return and were into unknown territory. I was reminded of the book “The Hobbit”, as it felt like we were leaving Wilderland and entering Mirkwood. There was no air of mystery though, just a warm shady coolness and the gurgle of the murky river, with the occasional fallen tree interrupting the flow. We kept a lookout for otters or even a kingfisher, but had to be satisfied with the occasional dragonfly.

Up to this point we had walked side-by-side, but because of the narrow path and our different attitudes to the physical demands, we were tending to ‘string out’ somewhat. We met several fit ‘oldies’ appropriately dressed in boots, shorts and Tilley hats, striding out with purpose, but we persevered in our own way. My wife had to be more careful to avoid exposed tree roots, steps in the raised decking or the occasional stretch of mud. Whereas I was aware of my aching muscles and trying to find the right pace between full stop and a headlong adrenalin race to reach the end.

We were definitely slowing down and made several stops. I took the odd photo, but neither of us sketched anymore, we were too focussed on reaching our destination. A passing couple informed us that it was only five minutes to the end. We mentally multiplied that by three and sure enough we emerged from the delightfully cool woods to the searing hot sunshine fifteen minutes later. That was the most difficult stretch, short as it was, it was very, very hot and the road busy. My dry tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and my eyes were on that pub doorway!

So we arrived at ‘Rivendell’ for our rest and refreshments. We pondered over the lunch menu as Ann the friendly and cool waitress hovered. I made for the bar to order drinks. I drooled over the tempting list of beers on draught, but dismissed the thought on considering what a pint of Tinners might do to my digestive system. I made a mental note however, to carry out a test in the next week or so, to see where I currently stood in that department! Just to sit in the cool bar room was a welcome relief and the hot chicken and bacon baguette made a real difference. I felt my limbs come back to life as my sugar levels rose. A lemon and lime, tomato juice and two coffees later we were ready to re-harness and hit the road back.

We set up our position in the searing sun. My wife was to do the thumbing, as I reckoned drivers were more likely to stop for her. In a few minutes several passed by, but weren’t inclined to stop. As I wondered if anyone would recognise us, a friend pulled in, wound down her window and called out. She turned the car around and took us all the way back to ‘Hobbiton’ and dropped us at our car, with just two minutes left on the ticket! How about that – we did it – praise God!

We felt like we’d been to the Lonely Mountain and slain Smaug the Dragon!

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Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, healing, health, health & wellness, lifestyle, personal, spiritual

It’s Under My Nose

tn_source-of-the-derwent.jpgI am light years away from the busyness and activity that was my world before I was laid low and diagnosed with CFS/ME! Gone are the ‘badges’ I used to wear and polish with pride: ‘engineer’, ‘manager’, ‘chairman of trustees’, ‘counsellor’, ‘prayer minister’, ‘regional leader’, ‘mountain climber’.

The only badge I have now is ‘beloved of Jesus.’ My favourite Bible character then, was Elijah strutting his stuff on the top of Mount Carmel. A more appropriate personality now, would be Amos, sitting under a fruit tree keeping an eye on his sheep.

This is one of my oil paintings. It’s of the source of the River Derwent in the Peak National Park of England. On one of those sort-after sorties into the wilderness. I followed the river as a stream, winding round higher and higher through the moorland heights. The sides of the valley were splashed in heather in bloom and the banks of the tiny stream rippling between banks covered in vivid green moss. A beautiful stimulating scene, it still stirs me when I look at it.

I have since had to learn new ways, working with ‘what is!’. No more assaults on moorland crags and traversing mountain ridges to complete a challenge. I have become content with a few hundred yards gentle amble – at the most, on the flat, with the wind behind me, on a good day – just to ‘be’ and taking in what is close to. There wasn’t time before, I was in too much of a rush. I now appreciate what is ‘under my nose’ so to speak. This was what my heart longed for, what my soul was crying our for. Be still and take it in. The blackthorn blossom on stark black branches, the kestrel poised for the attack, the early powdery willow catkins shaking in the breeze.

I have found that there is life in the solitude. A change from ‘head’ to ‘heart’. Much-needed time for relationship, first with Father, then my wife and family and the occasional friend. To stop and listen and consider.

The transition between the two worlds was hard, even painful, devastating, and at first most unfair. It was like being catapulted into the unknown. The way forward through the fog was only indicated by a signpost with one word, ‘God!’ I am so glad that I was given the grace to go this way.

But note: there came a time for Amos to go in obedience and deliver his message.

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Filed under art, artist, Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, creativity, disability, family, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, Jesus, lifestyle, M.E., personal, relationships, retirement, spiritual

From Mountains to Molehills

tn_boots.jpgI was clearing out our basement the other day and came across my walking boots.

They haven’t seen the light of day since I was diagnosed with M.E.. They are very good quality Zamberlins. Although they are Italian, they were made on a British last for the wider Anglo Saxon foot. They took my strong legs securely up many a mountain peak, across moorland bogs and along northern dales. I loved walking in wild places and felt stimulated. Not only that, but I was shown valuable spiritual lessons in the solitude of those wilderness walks.

My weak leg muscles meant the boots had to be put away. It wasn’t just the walking that was curtailed, but much of the Christian work and activity that gave me so much fulfilment. That season of my life was over and I had to let it all go before I could enter into the next. Whatever that was to be?

It took time for me to come to terms with the situation. I had to work though with Father God, the feelings of loneliness and the loss of activity that gave me value, the loss of social contacts, strength and health. Also the grief I was experiencing wasn’t just for the immediate loss, but long-buried grief from years past. I came to realise that unresolved grief can in itself use up valuable energy and affect fatigue.

I cleaned and lovingly oiled the supple leather, before placing the boots back in the box. I don’t want to part with them yet. It’s no good giving them away, they would hardly fit anyone else, as they are moulded to my feet. I’m OK with the mountains though, even though I still get a thrill and a tinge of sadness when I think of them. I will be walking again, but more of the gentler kind.

I’ve since had other kinds of mountains to face. Mountains of fear, doubt and illness. As I accepted the situation and found healing, my vision was renewed and broadened. I began to discover latent gifts and talents and had more quality time with my wife. I began to learn new ways and find satisfaction in doing what I was able.

What I originally saw as a terrible loss, is turning out to be a life-saver.

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This is Where It Starts

tn_black-mountain-enamel-3.jpgMy employers were having yet another reorganisation and all the new jobs were up for grabs. It seemed like disorganisation to me, as I couldn’t see anything I identified with and felt I had reached the end of the road. I spent the weekend tramping Bodmin Moor to decide my response and came to the conclusion that I wanted out. Three years later that’s exactly what happened.

Early retirement seemed like a dream come true, it was like being on honeymoon. I had the freedom to follow what I had always wanted to do, although I wasn’t exactly sure what that was.

I celebrated with a few days of hill walking. I never felt more stimulated than when amongst the hills and mountains of the Brecons, the High Peak and especially the Lake District Fells. My wife and I followed this up with what we called ‘our trek,’ touring up the west side of Great Britain as far as the Isle of Skye, across to Edinburgh and back down the west side via Lindisfarne, Nottingham, Cambridge and calling at friends on the way. Thirteen different beds in six weeks! We both became involved in Christian voluntary work, especially me. I found it very fulfilling and thought it was what I was made for. Year by year, the involvements grew and snowballed until it was almost like working full time again. Then things began to change.

I suffered a heavy bout of ‘flu and just when I thought it was over, I was hit with another virus infection that just wouldn’t go away. Eventually I decided to go for a walk with a local group of ramblers to work it off, that had always worked in the past, but came back absolutely and totally exhausted. Our doctor examined me and after blood tests said he thought I had post viral syndrome. I asked how long does that last? He smiled – I like our G.P. – and replied with just the hint of a shrug, “a year?” I was handed a leaflet on my way out. I felt numb and realised I was own my own.

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