Last weekend a friend came round and we just sat out on the back deck all afternoon. Talking, watching the breezes move the trees, eating lunch, listening to music.
We were talking about things we miss, and one of my greatest ones is travel. Not the constant travel – I’m getting my eyes opened to the fact I was rushing too much, going too many places too fast, more “work travel” than I had energy for. But I do miss the freedom to be able to go somewhere when I take the notion. Particularly my favourite places, like the Isle of Mull (or any of the Scottish islands), and Glenfinnan, and Glencoe, and these remote places in the highlands and islands which never seemed that far away. (But now they seem very far.)
My friend asked, what is it which makes those places feel so restful, such a break from being where I am? What is it about them which is so appealing and so difficult to do without? (Other than the beauty and quiet.)
After all, I do have a lot of beauty here, right round the corner from my house. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will be familiar with the woodsy walking paths I take every day – the flowers, the trees, the river, the deer and squirrels and foxes, the everyday beauty that never gets old. How grateful I am for those! How much more difficult lockdown would be without them!
But even with those – even with all that beauty, the flowing river and quiet spaces and greenery – I still feel a bit confined, a bit restless.
So when she asked what it was, I thought about it, and imagined myself sitting on the edge of the sea, with little yellow flowers all around me and the vast skies reaching out to the horizon, and the quiet and the peace – and the space. The endless space.
I thought about the traveling to get there. The preparation of snacks (every road trip must have a snack satchel, naturally), the long car ride, the changing scenery and weather all along the way. When I go to the islands, the waiting for the ferry to come in, then driving on, walking up to the top decks, watching the mainland drift away, arriving in another world.
And I realised it’s not only the distance from here to there, but the time required to get there which is part of the peace and rest. Part of helping me to break from the now, the daily, the work, everything filling my mind constantly.
It’s like the time and the movement and the distance actually physically give me a break from everything going on in my own head.
Currently in Scotland we’re not supposed to be traveling beyond locally. This means roughly 5 miles from our homes.(Everyone I talk to seems to feel that’s a “guideline” and not a hard and fast rule, but even those who have been stretching it themselves agree that 90 miles to Glenfinnan is definitely beyond the guidelines, and doesn’t honour the intention of the rules.)
I’ve kept very near home the whole lockdown time – partly because that’s how I understand the rules, but partly because I’m sort of an all-or-nothing kind of person. I could look around for places nearby to visit, but it’s actually not new, near places I want to go to. It’s the far, familiar places I want to go back to. To take my time, and drive, and see, and listen, and get space. Space for my head, space from everything swirling around in it, and distance from the daily life.
This week in Scotland we’ve got the first hints of tourism opening up in a month or so. It’s extremely exciting and for the first time in months I’m looking at places to go and things to do which are further away from my house.
There’s a little part of me which is saying “don’t get too excited” – we’ve all seen how quickly plans can change – but I’m trying now to go ahead and make some plans, and hold them with an open hand. If I get to finally go a further distance, and get some space for my head, that will be a blessing and I will enjoy it (perhaps more than I even did before!). And if we have to put it off and wait a little longer, I can do that too.
After all, “control” was always an illusion. I don’t have control over the weather, the world’s health, my own health, or even my ability to go anywhere. I do believe God’s got this – me, the world, and all these things – and there is good coming from it. I will love it when I can go a further distance than I have for months, but the distance isn’t what saves me. The distance isn’t what sorts my problems out. The distance is just a reminder of the process my mind goes through to sort through what’s going on in my head.
Hope you’re doing okay, and beginning to see hope wherever you are.