A meandering post – a challenging walk and a reflection on remembering our loved ones.
For those of us who use a step counter of some type, whether a wrist watch, on our phone or some other device, there is often some compulsion to reach the day’s target. It might be a moderate 5,000 steps, 10,000 steps or something more ambitious.
However, steps are not always equal.
10,000 steps meandering round the shops are not the same as 10,000 steps up and down hills.
I just spent a lovely summer afternoon in the Peak District. I could have walked the Monsal Trail, as I have often done. (The route follows what used to be a railway line. It is a popular cycle track, about 8 miles long. The Trail is elevated, passing over viaducts, bridges and hills, and through tunnels of the former railway cuttings. The views are magnificent. Down below, the river winds through a lush green valley. Whichever way you look, there are white limestone outcroppings. The cliffs are popular with climbers and abseilers alike.)
Instead of following the trail on this occasion, for a change I decided to walk through the valley below. It was a narrow path that started easily enough, but it rapidly got more challenging. There was nothing dangerous, but I had to studiously avoid the overgrown weeds and nettles, and keep my eyes on the ground where limestone rocks poked out – genuine trip hazards.
The surface became rougher and rougher. The narrow path ended abruptly as the river ran next to a vertical rockface. The only way forward was over stepping stones. My legs are short and balance imperfect, so this is not my favourite activity. I made my way along slowly, looking back at the end to discover a couple filming me on their phone, no doubt amused by my cautious progress. After a bit of good humoured banter back and forth over the stepping stones, I continued on the path.
Almost vertical limestone cliffs loomed above. I came across a group of rock climbers attaching themselves to ropes and clambering up. Then there was another set of stepping stones. These were a bit closer to each other and I got over them without much difficulty.
The narrow path was now basically rocks amidst mud, with tree trunks weaving through the mix. I had to concentrate on where to place my feet as I made slow progress.
The next challenge was a set of natural limestone steps – rocks, in other words. There was no way to go but up. Short legs made the ascent difficult as I couldn’t get up easily step by step, and I had to grab a hold of the upper rocks to pull myself up. This was more scrambling than walking. Always conscious of having one replaced knee and another one that creaks, I had successfully avoided tumbles so far, and continued to do so. There were a few more sets steps up and down, although never quite as steep, for the next kilometre or so.
Happily the ground eventually evened out. The path meandered on beside the sparkling river. Birds flitted and butterflies fluttered, along with my racing heart. It was hot and I was exhausted from what had turned out to be a strenuous walk. The clambering, balancing and tricky path were not what I am accustomed to.
Finally, after climbing up some last steps, I was up on the Monsal trail, and within moments I was sat at the disused station eating my picnic lunch. After a cup of coffee, it was time for home.
I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. But still, after all of that effort, and several hours of walking, I had gone barely more than 10,000 steps!
That’s a good example of steps not being equal. A stroll along a flat seaside promenade might take 10,000 steps but its value as far as exercise would be no where near as much as this ramble.
It got me thinking about the length of someone’s life: some people have a short life and some people have a very long life but the length doesn’t necessarily denote the quality – and it certainly doesn’t denote the value.
A baby’s live could be measured in days; a young child’s life in months. My son Pax lived for 40 months. Someone else could live to be 20 or 30 or 40 years old, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100. What gives a life value is not the length but I think it has more to do with love. They loved and were loved.
Like that quote in Moulin Rouge:
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
It can be so difficult sometimes to think about a loved one’s life when their death looms very large in our thoughts. This might especially be the case if their death was recent or traumatic, or their suffering was prolonged.
But their life was so much more than their death. It was life. They loved and were loved. There were moments of happiness. We don’t have to count how many there were; each one is worthy of eternity.
Now I’m sitting at home again in my little summerhouse surrounded by flowers, listening to the birds, and I look through the photos I took yesterday. I choose to focus on the good bits of the walk, and not my aching muscles or the trepidation I felt at some points on the journey.
As we sit and think about our loved ones, let’s also focus on the reality that no matter how long or short their life (although of course we wish it had been longer), there were beautiful times. They were loved and they loved.
“Each one of us has infinite value for God: we may be small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”
For more on remembering and honouring the lives of our loved ones: Memories and Continuing Bonds
Description of the walk with a map (external link): DeepDaleMillersDaleWyedaleDerbyshire