The first morning was first swallow of a long summer in terms of pace. Leisurely. You never ever felt pressured to hurry. Time was taken, everyone could have their last cup of tea, pack and repack as one does, squash another sandwich into a pocket, we formed a ring and Andrew read us a poem. I cant remember what it was about, just that we all felt shaken, our hearts opened a little more towards what was all around us. And then we set off, our bags, food etc. being transported by Nigels team to our rendezvous later.
We walked along St Cuthberts way. So who on earth was this St Cuthbert? One thing I heard from the Venerable Bede alive at the same time.
Cuthbert wanted to be ‘alone’. What we call alone, actually when you are living out here in fields and forests you are far far from alone, but perhaps he wanted a break from us chattering people. So he went off to an island and the monks built him a little place and he pointed at the ground and they were skeptical but dug him a pit and sure enough soon it was filled with fresh water from a spring beneath. They left him a bag of wheat and he planted it but it didn’t come up so then he planted barley and although by now it was late in the year it germinated so he could live there ‘alone’.
They wanted him as Bishop of the kingdom but he said no way, he wanted to stay ‘alone’ in the company of God. So at last the king himself was rowed over to the island and his eyes full of tears he begged him to take the job so he did.
After Cuthbert died and after 11 years they decided to dig up the body and it looked as good as new, (incorruptible).Then monks put him in a coffin and carried the body around for years and miracles occurred, and this is the path they walked.
So we trod along St Cuthberts way, grassy ancient paths. And as we did so this first day we chattered. Great fun to get to know people but at the same time growing in me a discomfort to be disturbing the sanctity of Nature with all this clatter, so I couldn’t even see where I was going.
Malcolm asked us to walk in silence for a time, then we sat down to Renga (連歌), collaborative poetry). We sat in an ocean of grasses,
Ten 100 thousand whisperers
Bending their heads in crowds
Describing light and wind.
As I walked at times I imagined a tiny coffin inside my heart, with something holy inside it.