Sunday, October 12, 2014

Harold Fry Moments

One of my favourite books is “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.  “When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.” It’s a book that I wish I had the imagination and the talent to write.  I thought I knew Harold, or people like him.  I thought I knew Maureen, his wife, too.  I didn’t like her very much mostly because I thought I recognised myself in her.  It turned out that I didn’t know either of them at all.  By the end of the book, both characters had travelled so far from where they began - rediscovering themselves.

I could hardly resist buying “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy”. “When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note to him had explained she was dying from cancer. How can she wait? A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write a second letter; only this time she must tell Harold the truth.”  If it is a page turner, I am trying to turn the pages slowly and chew every mouthful of the story and resist the urge to gulp it all down in one sitting! There is another host of wonderful characters.  It is not just Queenie that is waiting for Harold, but every patient in the hospice becomes involved in the waiting.

Queenie’s first glimpse of Harold was through an upstairs window at the brewery where they both worked.  It was snowing and Harold was tossing empty beer cans into the bin. He thought no one was watching.  There ws a covering of snow everywhere.  The sun was quite low in the sky and Harold danced in the snow. He danced with his shadow. 

It is a wonderful image – someone dancing in the snow – not dancing with anyone but just dancing because the moment demands it.

I was watching a programme on the BBC earlier this afternoon, “Strictly Navratri”.  It appealed to the RME teacher in me.  Hinduism is not one of the world religions that I know that much about.  The programme also appealed to the “Strictly” fan in me.  I am trying to wean myself off Strictly.  If left unchecked my life begins to revolve around Saturday and Sunday nights and the weekday catch-ups.  I don’t know most of the celebrities.  I am a Judy Murray supporter.  I don’t imagine she will win but while she is still waltzing and cha-cha-charring around the dance floor I will continue to watch.

In “Strictly Navrati”, Mark Ramprakash, a past Strictly winner, was learning how to perform traditional Indian folk dances that form a key part of the Hindu religious festival of Navratri.  It involves a whole roomful of people dancing for nine days honouring different Hindu gods.  The dances themselves are acts of worship.  An expert talked about the power of music and dance in worship.  I have seen my share of music and dance in some churches – although I use the term dance very loosely. Music and side to side shuffle might be a better description of what happens.  It’s not something that I would call powerful. 

Watching the dancing at the Navrati festival was a different thing altogether.  They danced proper steps but with such joy and abandonment that it was thrilling to watch.  Everyone was dancing – not just the brave few at the back of the room.  The movements involved the whole body with sweeping arms, bending knees and lots of twirling. It made me want to join in.

Like most things, dancing begins not with the arms or the legs or the body, or even in the mind.  Dancing is birthed deep inside the heart.  Dancing is a response to something that touches the heart. 

I think we all need our Harold moments – dancing because the moment demands it.

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