Category Archives: Out and About

Heads Up, Look Up

Spore capsules of a moss plant carefully testing the temperature above the ice. Victor Bos

I went out for a walk today in blizzard like conditions with the intention of taking some photographs. Unfortunately when the moment came my camera told me it’s batteries were exhausted! I was fine though.

To make up for the lost snow pictures here is a photograph which came in a New Year greeting from a Dutch reader. What a brilliant picture. There are more on the web site of Victor Bos. (I’ve downloaded the Google Toolbar, which has a translation button, just so I can read his blog.)

I’d like to take the opportunity to applaud my Dutch friend who is undergoing major surgery on the 16th of this month. She is one brave woman, and such fun too!

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The Second Thought

Along with the life saving ColdFX capsules from Edmonton (thanks Mike) were a couple of clippings from Canadian Geographic. I’d heard Mike tell of the ice roads in the Northwest Territories, and beyond into Nunavut which reaches into the Arctic Circle. Each spring in late January or early February Mike dispatches truck loads of supplies to the diamond and gold mines in the far north. It is a big eye opener to see what is going on in an area of the world we could be forgiven for thinking is uninhabited and uninhabitable.

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road runs for 360 miles. Driving speed is 22 mph or less, trucks go out in convoys of three at a time, the ice has to be 40 ft thick to take the weight of the largest trucks. There always has to be two up in a truck and apparently drivers wave the seat belt rule to give themselves needed seconds to jump clear of their vehicle if the ice breaks. If I were up in Lac de Gras at -31c I’d have second thoughts about the wisdom of being there.

At the start of our feast today we recited the customary meal time verse, the Five Thoughts. The second thought is ‘we must consider our merit when accepting it’. One can understand this in a number of ways, for me it is a right now consideration. Eating a meal is not a life threatening activity however in terms of practice there is ultimately no room for past or future. I guess that must be the same for those truckers out on the ice.

Be careful out there!

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With Frills Please

Brr, it was cold and windy out on the moors today, however their subtle beauty was not diminished. I’d not been up to the Hexhamshire Common above Allendale, village of the year, before and can anticipate another walk in the not too distant future. Maybe when the snow comes. Back in our valley with grey clouds receding from the high moors to reveal a sprinkling of white I realize Brr, it really is getting colder. But not half as cold as in Edmonton at the moment.

On our way back to Throssel my walking companion and I stopped for a hot chocolate, with frills, at Pebbles Art Cafe in Allendale. Ah, civilisation at last we cryed. Aoww! I can feel the cold coming off you two! What will you have? Pebbles is a haven and no mistake. Each time I visit, which is not often, I’m reminded anew of the great refreshments, tasteful arts and crafts and the ever changing gallery treats upstairs. But perhaps the best thing about a visit is the level of familiarity and friendliness of the people there. They have it just right, just perfect. Thanks Pebbles people, you are artists.

Note on photographs. Sorry to say the quality of these pictures have suffered because of slow uploading speed. The hot chocolate picture suffered from camera shake!

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Driving Windscreen Wiping

Driving over the Pennines to Penrith. Driving on the M6 motorway. South to Preston Lancashire yesterday, back north this morning. In and out of Westmorland Services for coffee and scone. Listening to the car radio, Radio 4 exclusively. Whizzing along, passing lorries, cars passing me. Sometimes raining and sometimes foggy. Headlights on. Headlights off.

Then, getting back to the monastery, walking up the lane with my bags. Monks from A, or B, Team coming out of kitchen clean-up. Walking up the lane. Trees bare. Sky grey and low. Find my slippers in the gloom. Unpack. Place the donation envelope in the Alms Bowl. Put a receipt for petrol on the Bursars desk, for reimbursement. Secure it under the stapler to make sure it’s not lost. Return the satnav to the Bursars cupboard. (What a gem that gadget it.) Quick nap. Hunt up lunch from the kitchen fridge. Microwave. Eat while chatting with a visiting monk from the south.

Yes, it is good to get out and about. To connect up with old friends. To look in the window of peoples lives. To step inside and join them, for a short while. People doing their best to live the practice where they are. Proving the teachings true for themselves. Proving that it is possible to sit still in seemingly intolerable circumstances. To completely live now.

A hat tip to my hosts, and the offer of a brief peek into the window of my driving, windscreen wiping, life. Good to get out and about, and good to get back. And no doubt this is how life is for everybody.

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Over the Hills and Far Away

The woman behind the counter at Boots the Chemist had yellow fuzzy ears on. Owww! she said they do pinch. They’re giving me a head ache. I’ll ask them in the dispensary if they’ll give me something. All in a good cause though. It’s the BBC Children In Need fund raising day. Oh, and here’s a £2 off voucher for hair care products. I’d got my hat on but she knew I was a monk. Well sometimes you grow some, don’t you? Finally I agreed to accept the voucher and give it to somebody who could use it. At the electrical shop the man knew right away what size night-light bulbs I needed. The good people of Hexham know us through and through. I enjoy the familiarity of strangers, their kindness and their openness.

And later, after a Chinese lunch back at the monastery, back on the road again south to Harrogate. My chance to sample the tranquility of Northumberland. Perhaps however a tad more solitude than I’d intended having entered into yet another adventure with the TomTom satnav. Climbing up a thin ribbon of black, single track, tarmac out of Weardale I did wonder if this was the fastest or the shortest route I’d chosen. A distinction that is really important when it comes to travel in these parts. As the high moors opened in all their bleakness I’d have been glad of some familiarity of strangers, anybody even a sheep!

I last traveled this road over from Weardale to Teesdale on Good Friday 1990. I remember it well. I remember the stopping and opening and closing of gates, three of them this time! Even then the gates where potent symbols. I was on my way to Reading to be introduced into the ins and outs of running a small church, priory as we called them. That day marked a huge change, from living in the middle of moors to living in a notoriously rough housing estate. Thankfully I came to know that practice is not dependent on tranquil surroundings, I even came to see beauty in the litter blowing in the street.

A good friend is heading off for a big adventure tomorrow. I hope she experiences the kindness of strangers, and chooses the fastest route to return by. I’m still not sure if it was the fastest or the shortest route I took to Harrogate but it certainly gave me enough time and space to contemplate my friends adventure. In the end I chose not to say goodbye. Just good fortune.

To Leeds tomorrow for a day retreat and then back to the moors.

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