Photo (c) Wynston Cooper 2014
We woke to a lovely day in a beautiful place and with a buoyant sort of attitude to the day - funny blighter, Johnny Psychology. We knew we were walking a "mere" 21 km, so it seemed like a bit of a rest day. Again, the forecast rain didn't materialise, and again we walked in soft autumnal sunlight in cool, clear air. Benjamin joined us for a few km and we stopped on the top of the Josephville hill for lunch. We kept a steady pace past the paddocks and trees, watching the mountains draw nearer until just after 2, or about 5 hours after starting, we strolled into Lumsden.Or to be more accurate, plodded in with probably the same amount of tiredness as on the previous couple of days. We found a cafe and sat still for a while before contacting Gillian Swift and entering the programme prepared for us for the later part of the day.
I find the time spent walking passes pleasantly and despite the many long straights and the sameness of much of the scenery it is never dull, not even a little bit. We talk as we walk, and sometimes via walkie talkie Wynston gives interesting information on local geography /botany/ zoology/ history, but for me the most precious times of the journey are the times of silence. In these I use my own kind of kind of walking meditation. I am aware of the rhythms of my body: the movement of my breath in and out, the steady fall of my feet, the swing of Te Harinui as it moves in my hand and plants itself beside my right foot once every four paces. These rhythms fall in 3 different but related patterns and over the top is a fourth: the metre of the Jesus Prayer. I am aware of the theological import attached to each of the four phrases but I resist the trap of thinking about them. Soon the prayer fades and I walk in inner silence in the eternal present, trying not too hard to be present to God but consenting to God's presence to me. There are no words, just the passing greenery and the animals and the coolness of the air and the buzz of insects and the patterns of my body in their steady interactions. Of course this lasts until I realise I am doing it, or until some other thought pops into my head -i.e. not long - and then I am just strolling in reverie until I call my attention back to the rhythms of my body and the ancient words of the staretz. This is a prayer walk, and praying means listening not talking. And listening means shutting off the internal commentary and, as far as I can manage it, the internal filters through which I usually perceive the world.
Tonight we took a mini hikoi through Lumsden, visiting all the churches in town before sharing a pot luck dinner in the RSA hall. Phil spoke with his usual energy and eloquence about an experience of sharing the Gospel. We prayed briefly and made plans for the next day. I hope to return to this parish in the very near future for a more extended stay - I know there is a lot more listening to be done in this part of the world.
Incidentally, I took my boots off this evening and noticed with alarm that they are completely worn through in a couple of places on the heels. I was pretty indignant to see this as they were a birthday present from Bridget and Scott and are thus not quite a year old. But when I sat down and, consulted my Endomondo history I realised I had walked about 860 km in them since April last year. Not brilliant but the wear is excusable, especially as most of that has been on hard pavement. I will see if I can get a new pair in Wanaka this Sunday afternoon.