So, I’m walking through each pandemic day, trying to live my best life, especially as we are in the season of Lent when I need to reflect on my many shortcomings and ask forgiveness, especially for those things I have knowingly done wrong. As the 1662 Book of Common Prayer smugly says, ‘I have left undone those things which I ought to have done and I have done those things I ought not to have done.’ Like yesterday when bits of shredded paper blew all over my old mum’s garden from her neighbour’s wheely-bin. This able-bodied thirty-something-year old bloke had somehow neglected to dump his detritus in the actual bin and left it to float freely, liberally littering my mum’s space which distressed her deeply. So I grabbed a dustpan and brush and swept it all up and in a fit of rage dumped it back on his drive which was neither the sensible nor the loving thing to do.
And there is no health in us.
Walking has become my lockdown metaphor. Wanting to make a difference in these Lenten times, I guess I could start by walking through the day without trying to wind up those who cross me or those who upset my mother. And so every day begins with walking through some meditation and reading a bit of the Bible. And that does centre me and ground me. At best it tells me who I am and where I am going. Even when I’m not at my best, it makes me sit down and attempt a conversation.
And then I sit at my computer and walk through some words. One word, then the next and maybe another although it doesn’t always happen that way. And sometimes this ties in very neatly, thank-you, with the prayer before, and becomes itself a kind of prayer. Like asking for forgiveness when I have knowingly and vindictively tried to hurt my mum’s neighbour. And the words begin to take shape and I feel something inside being restored even in tiny incremental steps, and I begin to breathe again and feel I can do this.
And then in my pandemic day, I take myself off for a walk around the old railway track at the back of our house to smell the fresh air, so cold lately that it makes my back teeth hurt and I wind a scarf tightly around my mouth so I can have a hot drink when I get back. Otherwise, the pain shoots though the top of my head and my husband has to scrape me (metaphorically) off the conservatory roof.
I have rung my dentist.
But on the walk, even now, the Greenway offers up a pallet of lilac crocuses, creamy white snowdrops and sunshine daffodils. And again, as with the prayer and the writing, the walking soothes me deep inside where the sun doesn’t shine and makes me just want to live better and not be the sort of grumpy old woman who dumps rubbish back on next door’s drive, even if he deserves it.
And then I walk through the people I love and the people I care for and the people who I worry about and the people who have it much much worse than me in all this, and I make some telephone calls and I drink that scalding mug of tea as my teeth ache and I listen to other’s days and how they have been and how hard it has been for some people to just get up and walk.
At the end of the day, I walk through the TV channels. Netflix, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Gold – and find watering holes, places to lay my head offering sustenance and succour on the very long walk that is a pandemic day. And I lose myself in other stories, in other places, in very different times and feel momentarily disconcerted when I see people standing next to each other and not wearing a mask and buying drinks in a pub. At the start of lockdown last year, my husband and I called this our ‘Coronavirus-Free Zone’ when we gave ourselves permission to just stop walking through the day for a couple of hours and sit and rest and be entertained.
And finally, I go upstairs to walk through sleep. I start with Compline when I ask God to keep me safe on this part of my walk from ‘fears and terrors of this night.’ Sometimes I think that maybe he’s listening to a lot of people asking that and I kind of get missed out because often this part of my walk is peppered with mayhem and death and destruction. Maybe I should just stop watching stories about headless bodies in freezers until 10pm and give God a break.
And underneath it all, all this walking, Lent is running like the background processes in a computer. I know it’s there. I know it’s having an effect. I know I want to walk this particular journey with Jesus in the wilderness and often on my walk I listen to a piece of music or I read a prayer to tell him that I’m here and I really haven’t forgotten. And as ever I beat myself up for not walking better – or faster – or further – but this is what I can do now and no-one said I had to tackle the Pennine Way or the Matterhorn before I’m ready.
So I’ll carry on walking – as we all are towards Easter – towards resurrection – towards the wondrous sight of the stone rolled away and our grandchildren running to meet us with open arms.