Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Green Energy 

I’d been walking for about 14 hours, and covered about 35 miles since dawn. We’d seen almost four seasons of weather in a single day – a beautifully warm summer morning had given way to a prolonged hailstorm, turning to sleet on the hills then rain. The Scouts’ challenge walk – 40 miles in a single day - was on a section of Offa’s Dyke, in the Welsh borders, through farmland, woodland, then up onto the heights of Hay Bluff, which is where the weather struck.

I’d stayed with a lad who was having trouble; he really should have stopped at the 25 mile checkpoint – he could have done so with honour; plenty of older, more experienced walkers decided in the miserable conditions that they’d had enough, but he was determined and pressed on. The ground grew steeper though, and he was getting slower and slower, in real difficulty. I even tried giving him a pick-a-back ride for a while, but my physique isn’t up to it. It was a slow, slow few paces forward, wait for him, few more paces and so on to get to the next checkpoint.

Once I’d found another leader there who could take care of him, I sorted myself out - took my boots off, wrung out my sopping wet socks, put them back on again - and set off once more. In the wait, I’d become separated from the group I was with, but I had a map and knew where the route lay, and in any case I enjoy walking alone.

Now it was evening. I’d just struggled up a steep muddy section of path made all the more slippery by the passage of many dozens of pairs of boots before me, all constrained to the narrow fenced track between a wood on the left and field on the right. Eventually I came out onto a road near the top of the hill. It was a glorious evening – I remember a shapely hawthorn silhouetted against a golden sun low in the sky – but after the concerns and exertions of the day my energy was all but drained. The view was wonderful, but the next couple of hundred yards lay up a dauntingly steep section of tarmac road. I moved forward, but my steps were just a shuffle; at this rate it’d take me half an hour just to cover that short distance.

But now that my pace had slowed, now that I wasn’t striding purposefully forward, head down, my goal in the forefront of my mind, I had more time to become more closely aware of my surroundings. The energy of the sun seemed to command the entire scene; looking over the fields it dazzled my eyes, and even though it was evening, its warmth on my skin was still strong. Looking away from the glare, I turned instead to the greenery all around at the sides of the road. In late June, everything was at the height of its growth; I visualised the greenery eagerly drawing its life from the sunlight, capturing and containing that energy to fuel its own growth. Wildflowers and grasses, briars and nettles, every green thing was thick with an abundance of lush bright green leaves, bursting out from the hedgerows to reach half way into the middle of this quiet country lane.

And as I sensed this green energy, it felt as though it was too much to be contained within these green cells; it felt as though an excess of energy was streaming out of these plants, forming an aura around them – and as I shuffled forward, I imagined this energy from either side of the road joining up behind me to form a wave propelling me forwards. I almost felt I could lean back into it and feel green hands supporting me, gently driving me on.

And so I came, barely noticing it, to the top of the hill. From there on, it was literally downhill all the way, and I almost floated down, still pondering the wonder of that green energy.

Thanks to Christy for the comment to my previous post which reminded me of this. It must have been about ten years ago. One of those significant little happenings that lodges dormant in the memory, to be triggered just when you need it…

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