It was an unexpected set of circumstances that lead me up the hill today. A day of cancelled appointments became a day resembling a blank page calling out to be drawn upon. I had more energy than yesterday, so I decided to put it to good use.
My nose lead me to Chanctonbury Ring. An iron age hill fort. For some weeks now I have been eyeing it up as a personal challenge, could I make it to the top? and today was the day. Conditions were perfect for my little pilgrimage: It feels like spring is in the air. I hear the birds, as I begin the climb and leave the commotion of the road behind me.
Although the incline is gentle, it’s long. At least, it feels long. One step at a time, until, finally, I come out up on the level, through the wood and high above the road looking north across the patchwork plains of Sussex.
The view is the reward. That and the knowledge that I made it to the top. Brilliant. And then Doris hit me. Wow, what a force, even her coat tails. Buffeting me sideways. Diagaonal-walking where I don’t want to go. The wind and air rattling through my brain with vigour and life and vitatilty, blowing the cobwebs away. Cleansing negativity. Stuckness. Staleness. There on the brow of my own personal mountain I feel all the elements, the air , water, fire and earth envelop me in the spirit of being alive. I’d made it. And nothing could knock me. Not even Doris.
In yoga, there is a pose called tadasana which translates in Sanskrit to mountain pose.(Those of you who know Chanctonbury will know it isn’t a mountain in any way shape or form, more of a big hill, technically speaking).
To all appearances the posture is just standing: feet together, hands by your sides. But the simplicity of its execution, belies the potency of its teaching. For what the mountain teaches us, is to stand on our own to feet, to stand up for what one believes in, and stability. It is the posture which represents where heaven and earth meet within us. The mountain teaches us about our aspirations our hopes and dreams, and just how hard it is to achieve them. What an arduous climb it can all feel like sometimes, just as you take a step forward you stumble, and take two steps back. The summit: your goal can seem so far out of reach. Yet, the mountain also teaches us, that with belief, faith, persistence, determination, courage, failure, effort, resilience we can reach the summit. We can plant the flag. We can survey the view.
As I walked among the trees, I remembered the last time I was here. Now I come to think of it, it was probably exactly a year before I received my diagnosis. Strange. We had just come back from an incredible pilgrimage across ancient and sacred sites of these lands, walking with our wonderful friends from Mexico and the Huichol tribe. And had come to make an offering up there on the ring.
Today, the memory of that time BC (before cancer) when I didn’t know what I know now, awakens the ghosts of my memories of that day. I can see us all there, sitting with the trees, finding four leaf clovers, the evening autumn sun descending over the sea. I can smell the memory, the love and joy of that moment. It both saddens and fills me with gratitude.
Today, I have another offering. I just want to say, thank you for my life, with the wind and earth and sun and sea as my witness.
Life continues to be an unexplored road, and, like the Fool, a step off the cliff into the unknown, perchance to fly.