Within these pages there are not all that many accounts, written by me, of what the plethora of activities described might mean beyond their "face value". The current Advent journey has been one of great personal challenge and has prompted much reflection on what "time spent" and "effort exerted" engaging with our Created environment entails - beyond the physical and mental exertion of completing a particular activity.
At different times over the years different activities have received more or less focus at a given time. Life and work in the North East of England saw much devotion to developing the skills to thoroughly enjoy the rivers of the Tyne & Tees by both open canoe and kayak. The move to Cumbria was with anticipation of more paddle sport and time in the fells but life's twists and turns had their say and the demands of a busy Outdoor Activity and Residential Centre alongside some extreme personal circumstances confined activities to evenings and night time hours - caving and mine exploration became an area of focus.
Canoes and kayaks; caves and mines are all things I enjoy immensely, however, for me outdoor activity all started in the mountains. A recent browse of log books revealed nearly 400 mountain day entries from: Yosemite to Spain's Las Alpajurras; Snowdonia to the North West Highlands with the epicentre being the Lake District and the North of England.
There have been days spent climbing mountains with friends and days spent trying to motivate groups. Days spent with family and many days spent on my own. There have been memorable days spent climbing to the high ground and simply wandering around soaking in the unique atmosphere and often just watching the day go by. There have been nights camped high in the fells having watched the sun set and then witnessing it rise again the following morning. Conversely there was an intense period of fell running where large distances were covered necessitating great endeavour but with the most profound sense of freedom moving fast and light through these high places. Looking back on all of this activity its hard to remember a day that was not a most enjoyable experience, I believe there is something memorable about every one of them, that's not to say, however, that these days were easy. Just about every day in the mountains has involved a degree of physical hard work; long slogs up steep slopes that seem to go on forever and knee jarring descents over harsh rocky terrain.Similarly there have been times when mentally the demands have been great: navigating through difficult weather conditions or trying to motivate un-interested groups.
Amongst these positive, life affirming, memories its difficult not be drawn into the spiritual dimension of this activity and to consider what unites the mental and the physical. Is it that in an environment such as the mountains that the "life spark" which is our spirit recognises the spirit of the creator of both ourselves and the landscape we are engaging with?
It seems to me that there are many parallels which can be drawn between the endeavour, challenge, solitude, companionship and ultimately the satisfaction of a journey in the mountains: with life's personal spiritual journey which too can at times be difficult & lonely but which upon reflection also offers un-surpassed reward.
"In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him";
Psalm 95 v4