Monday, September 24, 2012

Hexham, Northumbria, England - Monday, September 24, 2012

I m closer to figuring out why i am here. It is rainy and cold and blustery and it is supposed to remain this way for 3-4 days. Had Sharyn and I walked the length of the wall, tolday would have been the first day of at best long, hard trudge, at worst, misery.

I wasa still determined to walk today, so I put on layers and loaded up my lunch (leftover salami and brie on a crusty roll with 2 plums). I decided not to use the gps (the call gps "the tom tom" here) because the lovely young woman at the Corbridge Roman Town gave me a simple map that I reasoned surely I could follow. Wrong. The mistake came somewhere and I ended up in Hexham, not on Military Road (where Hadrian's Wall lies). Because I had a ticket for an a capella concert tonight in Hexham (part of the Hexham Abbey Arts Festival), I decided as long as I wasa here, I might as well figure out where the Abbey was and where I could park tonight.

I headed into the city center in the Audi. Mind you, I am still fearful each time I make a turn in the car. Behold, right beside me.....a sports store! I am searching for a Newcastle soccer jersey for Sam. I figure out how to park, going back and forth about 18 times in a parallel spot. I make my way to the store.

Sadness. No jersey. Not only are there no jeseys, but I am told by the very kind owner, that I am not going to find a Newcastle jersey except for at the stadium. "Why?" I ask. It turns out the guy who owns the team, owns the t-shirt manufacurer and the sports store in newastle, which is in a very busy part of town. The store owner advises me not to drive there (maybe he saw me park?) He suggests ordering it off the internet. Too bad, Sammy. On a better note, the store owner shows me I am very close to the Abbey and where I can park this evening.

It is raining harder now. I decide to walk to the Abbey to see for myself where it is. And...because I am there now, I go in. I take a "Welcome to Hexham Abbey" brochure and go in.

It is an old, warm, dry, lovely place. Immediately to the right is "St. Etheldreda's Chapel". Note to self: look him/her up. Then St. Acca's cross-shaft. Need to look up both St. Acca and cross-shaft, as well.

There are a effegies of knights and ladies.

I come to St. Wilifrid's Chapel (again, look this up) where a sign says, "St. Wilifrid's chapel is set aside for quiet prayer." I go in. To the right is an icon of St. Wilifrid. He holds his right hand out and has his thumb and ring finger together, his hand outstretched. In front, there is a stained glass window of a bishop (probably Wilifrid, I presume?) with three young angels under his feet. The angels in the middle and on the right are in color. The one on the left is grey. Interesting. Why? Damaged? Never colored? Strange and out of place, it seems. What does it mean? To my immediate left is a niche with some sort of strange little statue on the left, a large candle on the right and a bunch of rocks that look very intentionally placed. Not the kind of stone the Abbey is made of, but smooth, egg sized stones of various shades of grey and differing textures. These stones make me know I am meant to be here. So I quiet myself and settle in.

Why am I here? In the quiet, stillness of this small space of this chapel within the huge space of this Abbey in Northumbria in England. (I like to say Northumbria because it sounds so Narnia). Wait for it......"I brought you hhere for freedom. Do not be restrained." This comes into my head. I am skeptical enought to think that I made that up in the quiet of prayer. I also know myself enough to know that I wouldn't have chosen the word "restrained" to describe myself. I don't think of myself as a particularly restrained person. Generally, I feel I can do and say what I please in a fairly unrestrained way. I came to Northumbria, by myself, I might remind God. Restrained? OK, I think it through. "What restrains me," I ask myself. Strangely enough, a list begins to form: obligation, guilt, moods, t-do-lists, money, the rain, my body, this sports bra, my need for productivity.

There is a piano being tuned in the Abbey and I hear a ping, ping, ping, like Nora the Cat on the YouTube videos. "Slow down with the drizzly rain. I brought you here for freedome. Do not be restrained. Listen to the piano being tuned." Ping, ping, ping.

At some point I leave the chapel. The piano continues to be tuned and I can see the tuner now.

I come upon the crypts of two women. There is a carving below the crypt that reads: From the 1514 Book of Hours, often used at funerals.
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at my end, and at my departing.


I move on and look at the huge stone baptimal font with a pointy wooden steeple above it. There are stairs in the floor and a sign that reads, "Entrance to St. Wilifrid's famous 7th century crypt. Please see website for tour times." Odd and creepy to my Protestant bones how important all these old bones are to people even today. Same as yesterday at Durham where the old kings head and the bones of St. Cuthbert can be found in the cathedral. Can these bones live. Maybe, but only if they bring new life to people today.

Near the bones, I see something new. Modern. Art. I pick up a pamphlet because I so love pamphlets: "New Beginnings" Art Exhibition in Hexham Abbey featuring 19 local artists: masks, watercolor, fiber, canvas. Some are hung between windows by wire, some are propped up on wood on top of radiators. All are interpretations of creation or new life. We could do this at Palms Presbyterian. This is doable. One of the pieces catches my eye. It is a rectangular labyrinth with spectacular, interesting starts at the center. I notice there is writing in the bottom left corner of the labyrinth. The words weave themselves through the labyrinth: The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. The last inlaid on labyrinth of earth yet to discover is that which was the beginning." - Carolyn Hawkes. (I need to look her up, also. I pick up her card:

Other artists to explore:
Karen Vickers - no web address.

I notice the piano tuner has finished his work. I pull on my raincoast and head outdoors.


Epilogue to the Abbey Visit: I stayed the entire day in Hexham, poking in lots of Thrift Stores and other shops, sipping tea and writing.

When I showed up for the concert, I remembered that my seat assignment was on the front row. I was a few minutes early and noone was on my row. I went back to St. Wilifrid's Chapel and I made a cairn out of some of the stones and moved the others around. I went to the front row and sat down as some others were now seated there. Before the concert and during the beginning of intermission, I visited with the woman next to me. She explained who St. Wilifrid was (indeed, the bishop). I told her I was going to Lindisfarne and she took me to show me a picture of St. Cuthbert (of Lindisfarne) carrying the head of King Oswald. (another stange story, for another time) At the end of intermission, she told me that she was an artist and her work was displayed over in the art show. "Which ones are yours?" I asked? "The labyrinths." she answered. She is Carolyn Hawkes, whom I had written about earlier in the day. Hmmmm.....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hadrian's Wall

Corbridge England---Just off of Hadrian's Wall Responsibility traveled with me. Because of what I leave behind, I am required to come back a better person...better mom, wife, pastor, friend. Because of the opportunity, I am responsible to bring part of the world back with me in my reality and in story.

The question remains, "why am I here?'

I woke up from sleeping for 12 HOURS!! What?? 12 Hours? Yes.

I made my way to Chollerford Roman Ruins, particularly good bath ruins, I am told. This is NOT what is here from me. More interesting, I find, are the drawings of what things would have looked like. I would love to hang out in a real Roman bath --except or the part where you are naked with everyone. The idea of all the different rooms is intriguing: hot bath, cool bath, plunge rooms---why doesn't this exist now? Why hasn't Ponte Vedra Inn and Club recreated one of these? I think it could make it as a business.

I made my way to Housesteads Roman Fort, purchased a national trust 10 day international pass, glanced at the Roman Fort ruins, and was on my way up to Hadrian's Wall.

This is where I was Spirited to come....but why? Months ago, "there is something for you there" was the message. "OK, I am here, what now?" I started walking.

I don't know what is here for me, but I don't want to miss it if it is obvious (I don't think it will be obvious). But, I will pay attention while I walk the wall. After day 1, I do have "lessons I learned on the wall." Actually lessons I learned on the first 3 miles of my walk because the last 7 miles I was tired and seaty and I ran out of water and my level of perception went way down.

Lessons from the Wall

1. Sometimes you take the long way around rather than put yourslf at physical risk.

2. There is lots of poop.

3. On pretty days, there are lots of people, but they leave when it starts to get cold.

4. There are many ups and downs.

5. You should walk next to people, not in a straight line (to help preserve the land).

6. If the walk gets really steep, look down and chount each step. When you get to 100 you are either at the top or you deserve a break.

7. Dogs are good companions.

8. Sometimes, going down is more difficulut than going up.

9. Sports bras are a good invention.

10. Older couples wearing matching sweaters make me smils.

11. When you sweat, little flies follow you.

12. Some days are a great day to live and would be a fine day to die (again, this was written when I had energy and all was beautiful).

13. Sometimes, it is good not to have anyone to complain to (I was beginning to get tired here).

14. You give way to people coming up (not those going down).

15. Cows make a lot of noise eating.

16. Guidebooks are good, but don't use them as rule books.

17. If you go off the path, you might end up in deep poop (see lesson #2)

I'm not sure if any of those lessons are Spirit lessons that I was to learn. Maybe the 12 hours of sleep was what was here for me.

Now, I have had half of my pint at the Golden Lion (built in the 1700's) I ate a big fish and chip meal with some kind of mashed up peas which didn't taste like any peas I know. But, the peas were green, so I ate them because I didn't have any other green thing today.

Off to the Priorfield Bed and Breakfast. Tomorrow, Sunday, I am going to the cathedral in Durham, walking more and then Vespers at the St. Andrews Church in Corbridge.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Breath of Life

The Breath of Life

My friend, Sallie sent me a text right as I went in to evening worship. I knew that dad had gotten ill last week and had gone into the hospital last week and things had gotten very bad. The family had gathered at his bed. Her text read: “Please pray right now. They are removing the vent. He will hopefully pass quickly. Thank you. Sallie.”

I had heard the scripture in the two morning services, but this evening Genesis 2 took new meaning. God breaths into the creature just formed from the ground. The holy breath of life. A ventilator can keep oxygen going, but the holy breath is what brings life.

I knew as the service went on my friend’s father was breathing his last breath of this earth. I listened to my own breath as the musicians sang during the offering I prayed their words for Sallie and her family, inhaling and exhaling:

Light in my darkness, peace for my soul.
You are my rescue. You’ve never let go.
Light in my weakness, always the same.
Your love is my shelter. Your life is my way.

All my hope is in You. All my strength is in You.
With every breath, my soul will rest in You.
All my hope is in You. All my strength is in You.
With every breath, my soul will rest in You.

Constant Savior. Friend forever. Lord, You have my heart.
Sure foundation. Never failing. Lord You have my heart.

All my hope is in You. All my strength is in You.
With every breath, my soul will rest in You.
All the earth beneath You. All my life before You.
With every breath, my soul with rest in You.
With every breath, my soul will rest in You.

When I came out of worship an hour later I had another text. It read, “He is gone. And no longer in pain. Love you too. Sallie”