The weather wasn’t particularly inviting me out the door. There were moments of sunshine that were quickly blown away by bouts of rainfall only to be overtaken by another blast of sunshine. The skies were a battleground. The washing on the line danced dry, then wet, then dry again.
I headed to the hills above Loch Ness for a drive, armed with a notebook, a pencil, a bottle of blackcurrant juice and a “How to...” sheet of tips to writing nature poems. Most days I don’t need a “How to...” sheet to write a poem but it’s only recently the cotton wool has left the brain. The neurons are slow to spark.
I think the challenge I set myself was beyond the neurons. I should have taken the main road down the south side of Loch Ness. I took the back roads – lots of hills and twists and turns and blind summits and…single tracks with passing places. There are people who live in them there hills and drive accordingly – certainly faster than I would go, and much more confidently.
I found myself at the Farigaig Forest Classroom, with picnic tables and a toilet.
A man and his friendly dog sat at one table. He tried to engage me in conversation. I suppose I could have written something down in my notebook along the lines of “I’m not being rude. I have lost my voice.” His car had a caravan attached. It wasn’t your white Jubilee 4 berth, but something that looked more like a large metal tube, with a door. The door was open, his wife was inside making tea. Seeing as I was deemed not friendly no one offered me a cup.
The whole exercise of getting in touch with my senses was not a success. I could see plenty of things – trees mostly and birds and lots of daisies in the grass. Had I been sitting on the other side of the picnic table there were mountains to admire, but I didn’t see them until the rain forced me back to my car. Hearing things didn’t happen. I hadn’t put my hearing aids in and the noisy tinnitus in my ears was masking every other sound. Smelling things? I was mopping up mucus with paper tissues and the nose wasn’t up to the task.
I must have been sitting very quietly as a robin landed on the table and cocked his head at me. I am glad he was a robin. There are very few birds I can identify.
Sitting and being quiet was very nice. I didn’t feel the need to tackle any of the coloured walks on the board next to the path. The timings on these things I find to be very misleading. Something that promises to be just a half hour stroll turns out to be a two hour scramble. As much as I wanted to see the viewpoints marked out, I just wanted to chill. The dog and the man and the wife with their cups of tea were out to scramble.
I might have been able by being very quiet to coax a robin to sit on the table, but I couldn’t coax a poem out of the trees. The rain was falling in heavy splats. It was getting colder and the wind was beginning to bite.
I headed home – not the way I came. I turned on to the main road back to Dores and on to Inverness.
Although it was the main road there were sections of it that were two lanes and other sections that were single track with passing places. Of course, it just had to be the single track part of it with the passing place when the bus was heading in my direction. The passing place was on my side of the road and I tucked myself in, closed my eyes and hoped he had enough space to get by. I hoped my mobile phone was sufficiently topped up if I needed rescuing. The other side of the passing place was a steep slope leading down to the loch. I thought the primroses and the bluebells on the grassy slope looked pretty but didn’t want to see them close-up. The bus driver was no doubt used to these close encounters and didn’t bat an eyelid and the bus slithered by.
My morning Bible reading came to mind:-
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matt 7:13-14 NLT)
One thing about the road to life, said the Bible study notes I was reading, is that it is a one-way road. Yes, you can stop along the road, but you can only go forward. You can’t turn around and go back and nothing will be coming from the opposite direction.
No bus. No passing places.
Do you ever get that feeling, when life is not nice to you, and losing my voice is not nice, that maybe you have come off that road to life? You didn't think you took a left turn, or a right one, but it seems that God's hand of blessing has fallen on someone else's head.
I asked God this morning if I had strayed from the road to life?
"Remember that word "difficult" in the verse?" He said, "This is a difficult bit. That's all."