Tuesday, 23 August 2016

No funeral by request

Whilst I was walking on the Cleveland Way last week, my next door neighbour died. Her wishes were that there be no funeral. So today around the time of her cremation I set off on a walk along the local routes and paths she had walked so often.

Station 1: Her garden where I picked a few flowers:

Sweet peas for sweetness
Clematis for colour,
One Pink for isolation,
Lavender for fragrance,
Rosemary for remembrance.

Station 2: overlooking Bottoms reservoir

Psalm 23, the psalm for this valley.

"The Lord is my Shepherd
I lack nothing.
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He takes me along paths of righteousness for his name sake.
Even though I walk through deaths dark valley
I fear no ill for you are with me your rod and staff comfort me
You prepare a table in the presence of my enemies
You anoint me with oil
And my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me every day
And I will live in God's house forever."

Station 3: the spurter

A tribute

I once met my neighbour and her dog at this corner and we walked around Bottoms together. We lived next door to each other for about a decade and a half, but I barely knew her. She talked a lot but said little. She had been a teacher in Hadfield I think but in other places too. She had done a lot of outdoor pursuits and Guiding. She had looked after her mother, for 9 years. She didn't come into the house and I rarely went into hers. Most of our conversations were outside. Only recently, after the conservatory was built would she come in a sit down and talk whilst I was sewing. The last time I saw her Hannah and I made her and her mum a meal. We shared that feast together.

Station 4: a walk in the woods

The hymn is "All things bright and beautiful" beacause I'm sure she would have sung that many times in school for example. The mountains wear their purple hats today and I walk amongst the tall trees in the greenwood. I make up verses about fireweed and brambles and eat a few blackberries. There are also dragonflies and butterflies swooping past. I walk up the rest of the beech lined path in silence, the background hum of the road accompanying me.

Station 5; The fishing platform

There are already two mourners here: Hector and Elsie , two greyhounds with sleek bodies, sharp noses and alert ears. I acknowledge their attendance. Elsie noses my leg. They are called away.

Psalm 121: "I lift my eyes to the hills from whence my help comes. My help comes from God who made heaven and earth."

I cast the flowers onto the waters They separate and float away in sunlit ripples.

"Earth to earth, Ashes to Ashes. Dust to dust,
In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead."

I walk on in silence remembering 'There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God.'

Station 6: the falls by the hydroelectric station

"Peace is flowing like a river flowing out through you and me, flowing out into the desert, setting all the captives free."

Station 7: a bench overlooking Rhodeswood reservoir

The blessing

The blessing of the fresh air and clear sky,
The blessing of the still reservoir and the rushing stream
The blessing of the light butterfly and the snuffling-nosed dog,
The blessing of the green and gold day
And the light on the purple hillside be with you forever.

I walked back, about 5 miles altogether.
And that was it:
No funeral by request.

In our life and our believing
The love of God.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The church is not a museum

So you're a Reformed woman. You pray 'at all times' and you live with the Remembered Bible in you. You've visited monastic communities all of your adult life and they have played a vital role in your development and vocation. You find yourself at a cross roads with your denomination which, as it shrinks and ages, is less and less attractive, more and more inward looking and no longer feeds you. It can be destructive and wears an air of silence of the less than healthy kind: the stopped up sort of silence of the silenced ones.

You've tried other ecumenical communities and you've been part of the life of several churches over the years but it's never been a very good fit. You are an edge person. You love making community with other edge people and retelling the stories of the Gospel. But you are still waiting for the wounds to heal after your most recent encounter with the church. So you walk for 100 miles or so and pray.

Now it's time to go back.
Now it's time to get on track.
What will you do next?
In our life and our believing
The love of God

(written at the National Railway Museum York)

Some reflections on Walking the Cleveland Way

Accessibility: links to public transport at either end are reasonable. I used trains and buses to get on and off at either end. In between there are buses down the coast but fewer on the moors. However folks will give lifts, from b and b's for example. I had 3 different lifts, two from fellow travellers and one from a terrific b and b owner at Dromonby Bridge.

Walkability: the route is well marked. I had the GPS which did mean I was never lost, but the little acorn signs are frequent on the ground. The sections worked out reasonably well. I did it in 11 days only missing out some of Osmotherley to Clay Bank and Staithes to Whitby. It is reasonably strenuous, more so on the coast possibly because I was more tired by then. Mostly dry weather meant the path was not slippery which was good as there were quite a lot of steps.

The YHA's: mostly good. Boggle Hole was excellent. The others all score good. They have the advantage of mostly being near the route. The disadvantage is the bunk beds. Food good in all of them.

Things to see: there's loads from wildlife to stunning scenery to historical and cultural sites. All of this gave me plenty to think about. Add to that lovely local food: the Staithes kippers and the Robin Hood Bay mackerel were the best! Also enough people to talk to but not crowded. A few familiar faces popped up from time to time. I hope they all completed the challenge as well.

Meanwhile the world has moved on. The Rio Olympics are nearly over and Yorkshire has done really well. But Aleppo is still under seige....

As the world turns; Creator keep us each day;
As the people meet; Christ keep us each day;
As the energy flows; Spirit keep us each day;
In the power and company of the Holy Three, One God forever.

(prayer originally written for Bob's End to End, 2003).

Thursday, 18 August 2016

In the loop

24 hour news loop: a Syrian child

Like a doll, the boy sits in the ambulance.
The child's legs dangle over the seat.
He sits there, disorientated.
He puts his hand up to his bloodied face.
He examines his hand:
Whose blood is this?
Unsure, he wipes it on the seat.
The boy sits on the seat of the ambulance,
His legs dangling over the edge.
His hand goes up to his face,
His bloody, dusty face.
Whose blood is this?
He wipes it on the seat.
He sits in the ambulance,
So small, his spindly legs
Dangle over the edge of the seat.
There is blood on his face.
He puts up his hand and touches it.
Whose blood is this?
Where did it come from?
He looks at his hand
And wipes it on the seat.
He sits, waiting in the ambulance.
His skinny body is so puny.
There's blood on his face
And dust all over him.
He touches his face
And gets blood on his hand.
Where did the blood come from?
He wipes it on the seat.
He sits, silently, waiting, in the ambulance....
Just one viral video.
Just one injured child.
How many times can you watch it?

Janet Lees 18.08.2016

Final lap to Filey

One of the best things about the Way has been the wildlife, especially the Butterflies. Here' s a few of today's sightings:
In the woods above Cayton Bay, speckled woods;
On the coast three peacock Butterflies and several Walls, a clutch of small green beetles and a small tortoiseshell before caravan park and footpath to Gristhorpe;
On the next stretch, a peacock, a Wall, 2 painted ladies and three common blues, and a dead mole;
Another painted lady, a peacock and 2 Walls round to end of the Way at Filey Brigg.

Although it had once again been a hot day for walking there are signs that the summer is coming to an end. Crops are ripe in the fields, hay has been baled and a tractor is ploughing above Filey, followed closely by gulls. Autumn is the next season.

Looking for plants and animals in the countryside has been something I have done all my life. My mother taught me the names of many wild flowers when I was growing up and I learnt the names of butterflies and insects when I was doing my A levels. I find it sustaining to look for them as I walk along, even greet them and try to remember what I have seen.

Along the way today the sea was always there on my left. It was so blue and vast and beautiful. Some of the cliffs still house a few late gulls and I saw a Cormorant enjoying a meal.

People also enjoy the way. Coming towards me from Filey, a woman and her daughter, told me her mother had walked the Way a few years ago when she was nearly 70. Looks like I'll have to come back in 10 to 12 years time to keep up with that. It has been brilliant experience. Thanks to all who have supported me, especially Bob and a lot of followers on Twitter.

On our coming and our going
The Peace of God.
In our life and our believing
The Love of God

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Alone or together?

Most of this way I have walked on my own. Occasionally I have had a companion and that has mostly been Bob. Last night at Boggle Hole YHA there were three women sharing a room, each of us had walked from Whitby and each of us was walking onto Scarborough.

In the bar, I saw Mark, who I met at Helmsley YHA on the first day of the walk. Encounters on the way from Boggle Hole; a van drew up, it was a couple I meet yesterday.

My decision to travel alone was about prayer and thinking time. Company is nice but sometimes you need less of it. But today was going to be a long hot route and Karen, from Leeds, was going the same way so, when we met later on the track, we decided to go on together.

The steepness of the Cleveland Way path meant we decided to use the flatter route that follows the old Whitby to Scarborough railway line. It also has more tea shops. We tried the one at Ravenscar and the one at Cloughton. The route was more shady. There was also a charming weasel at Burniston.
It is very different walking with someone else but we both agreed on this long hot day, the company of each other had helped us get to the end. It also reminded me of one of my favourite episodes in the Gospels: reflecting on the meeting on the road to Emmaus, the say to each other "Wasn't it like a fire burning in us when he spoke to us on the road".

That fire, the one you put in us,
That fire, may it burn on and on.
That fire, the one we remember
That fire, may it fuel our days.
That fire, that comes with your company,
That fire, may it energise us on the way.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


At Boggle Hole YHA the rooms are named after the sea areas of the shipping forecast. I'm in Cromarty which reminds me of times spent on the NE coast of Scotland, especially with Bob and Hannah in the final few days of their End to Ends (2003 and 2012 respectively).

It also reminds me Carol Ann Duffy's poem 'Prayer' which ends with a recitation of those names. The poem raises questions of prayer: what is it? So does this walk. Is a walk a prayer?

Over centuries, many people have thought so. Some walks are more formal others more creative. Opportunities to pray in different ways may be planned or occur more randomly. The labyrinth, like the one at Whitby Abbey, is one way to walk and pray but there's no limit really.

The Remembered Bible (RB) fits well with walking as it saves the extra weight of carrying a print or digital Bible if you use the Bible in you. Let it resonate with the landscape and the encounters and prayers are likely to pop-up like some of these examples in the blog over the week of this walk.