Yes. I was staying in Greater Manchester again. Perhaps not again, because my last post was about the same visit. Friday had arrived and when I'm in Manchester and Friday arrives I know that I have to fend for myself. That's not much of an issue as there are plenty of places to explore in dry weather. And when visiting recently I discovered a great way to spend a day when it's pouring with rain.
Six months ago the day was going to be dry and I spent a while with online walk guides and planned myself a walk. The idea was to catch a train to Entwistle, a request stop that doesn't feel like it's near anything particularly. I would then walk down from the station to Wayoh reservoir, walk from the far end of that reservoir to the pleasingly named Jumbles reservoir, and from the far end of there over the hills and down again at the Turton and Entwistle reservoir which I would walk round before returning to the railway station where I had begun.
That's a longish walk for someone as unfit as me. But I was as confident of completion as I was of having a stunning day walking (nearly) alone in (mainly) peaceful places. Accompanying me would be my soft toy Blob Thing. He wrote at that beginning of July about his experiences on the walk. Now it's my turn.
I had caught a train to Entwistle once before, with Amanda. We had taken a short walk and seen the first of the three reservoirs before returning to the station by another route. That had been a good day - even though I suspect she further damaged her knee when we left the path. The other happening when we left the path was that I gained a very long green scarf. I saw something along a branch that looked like some kind of netting and I pulled it, discovering a very pretty but quite dirty garment. I lifted the whole thing and put it in a bag to take home. It was only then that I had noticed the remains of lots of candles around the scarf. I reckon it was left there in some kind of ritual by some type of witches unknown. I don't seem to have drawn down any curses upon myself for recovering something that must have been left to nature or the goddess as an offering. I think I'm safe.
As I began my walk I remembered that earlier day and the laughter and joy we had shared together. I like to remember glorious days. And I like to experience more glorious things to remember, as best as I am able to go out and gain experiences.
I set off from the station. The weather was an improvement from my first visit. When we stepped off the train that day it was snowing. No snow in May. And no rain either. I walked down the track and looked down the hill towards Wayoh reservoir.
The memories returned to me and I smiled. At the bottom of the hill I followed the path once again towards the reservoir, crossing over the stream that feeds the lake. I remembered that previous day and the joy on Amanda's face as she stood by that water and felt the elements on her face and hands and as she listened and watched everything and how the noise of the city seemed to fall away from her manner. This time I had Blob with me instead, and his face is always a smile - and I'm not posting photos of him because he's already done that.
The path continued and the sky and the trees and the ground exuded wonder. This morning I was experiencing the noise of central Newcastle. The many people living their lives. I passed a cafe where a group from the local philosophical society were meeting. What would they say about the many people living their lives? Would they cast doubts on that living? Would they ask whether the many people were living examined lives? Perhaps.
All I can say is that I have discovered that for me there is more life in walking along a path like this than there is on that city street. There's nothing wrong with that street. But the path and the air and the light and the lack of city noise vivifies me. I have learned that - or relearned that - this year more than in any year previously. And that gladdens me.
And so the path reached the reservoir. That open expanse of water, artificially created to serve the needs of a city. Artificial but no less beautiful.
I walked a little and sad for a moment on a bench. It was there that Amanda and I had shared a simple lunch and noticed a card pinned to a tree with the inscription "This is NOT a cemetery." I went and stood by the water. Three ducks and a goose suddenly swooped down and landed at my feet. Unless they were just happy to bask in my presence, an unlikelihood, they would have been disappointed. I had little to feed them. I had little to feed myself and it was well before lunchtime.
From that picnic site - a bench - my path deviated from the one I had taken before. I continued the walk along the reservoir and where possible stopped and looked at the water and breathed in the life and light from my surroundings.
The path rose and rising up further from it was a broad field with the most wonderful display of yellow flowers. A nearby noticeboard announced that this type of grassland is one of the rarest habitats in Britain.
Inevitably, I found another tree to take a photograph of. Someone on facebook asked the other day whether tree hugging is a real thing. I think it had been mentioned on a programme on television that I have never seen. The answer?
Yes. It is. I do it.
I didn't hug this tree. But I have been known to hug trees. It's an amazing feeling to hold close to a tree and to be united with (or imagine it) the energy it possesses and to become more firmly rooted into the earth and into the life and wisdom and spectacular cycles of nature.
And so I approached the end of Wayoh reservoir. The day was already being as much as I dreamed it would be. I looked back across the water and forwards to the dam.
And both ways in a panorama of the scene. The photos do not express the reality. They are just pixels on a screen. Pretty pixels hopefully. But just pixels. The reality transcends the pixels as much as a cube transcends the depth of a square. I love to look back on my days. But the days are where the source of life is to be found.
It's tempting to go off on one of my wild tangents about God - or the divine, source, Being - here. Because for two decades I often fell into the temptation of seeking to find and know God (whatever that concept means) in a book or a belief. God was not to be found there.
The book is like the pixels. Whether that book is The Bible, The Qu'ran, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, or any other sacred book. It's like pixels.
As I share my days in posts on this blog I can use words to try to express what they meant to me. I can give facts about the days. I can give information about the places. And I can try to use phrases to express a little of what it was like to live those days, a little of what those days did and do within my mind, my heart, my spirit. And I can happily share some of the photos taken during those days.
But in the end they're all just combinations of letters and pixels. They're not life.
I lived the life. Just as you live your life.
The holy book is like this blog post. It's not life. You will never know from reading this post what it felt like to see the joy on Amanda's face. You will never truly know what flowed through me as I watched the water and the sky or walked up a path and felt such passion upon unexpectedly discovering those fields of yellows and greens. If I had the eloquence of Shakespeare or Wordsworth or Rumi you would still never truly know from my words. If I had the brilliance to win photographic awards you would love my photos but would still not fully grasp them.
You will never find life by reading my words or looking at my pictures.
Just an echo of it. Imperfectly expressed.
And you will never find God by reading a holy book.
Just an echo of the divine. Imperfectly expressed.
Whatever the divine is, whoever the divine may be, you will only find clues in a book set down by other people.
Whatever the divine is, you will never find it until you live it.
God is eternal life, eternal energy and fire. Not fragile paper and words from the mouths of dead people.
The divine is love and wonder and passion and the infinite. Not a piece of paper. Not a skilfully crafted poem.
God is THE WORD, not words.
Drat. I fell into that temptation.
I will make amends by sharing one more photograph of Wayoh.
That's me that is! No. It's not me. Of course it isn't. It's just pixels and an approximation of my appearance.
Amanda complained about this photograph that I wasn't smiling brightly enough, too focused on trying to take the picture. We have a way in which I am guaranteed to smile a very real smile for photographs. It concerns Jesus. And that's all I'm going to say about that!
Next time I'll share photographs of the walk to and around Jumbles Reservoir. There will even be another photograph of me. And another photograph of a tree. Have I mentioned that I like trees?!