Bugger* and I have been on the open road for two glorious weeks! We’ve flown, driven and rolled through some of my favourite places, and spent rich hours with many of my closest friends. We’ve been in Melbourne, in Sydney, and around the New England which still feels somehow like home. Even the clouds in the sky are different there, not to mention the fabulous crackle of dry thunder in the afternoon. We just don’t do that in Victoria!
Driving a wheelchair is a little like parenting, in so far as they both come without instructions. In hindsight it seems obvious that if you hang a heavy back-pack from the rear handles it will dramatically increase the likelihood of flipping over backwards when you go up a ramp. I’m embarrassed to admit a complete stranger had to point this out to me after three very close shaves! And I learned rather quickly that it’s critically important to put your brakes on when sitting in your wheelchair on the back of a Qantas buggy, scooting across the Tarmac. Again, it seems simple enough after the event. Another tip for the trainee would be to expect the airport security folks to touch you in a number of socially inappropriate ways. Needless to say, I was not expecting such a frisky encounter!
I’m not sure that I’ve ever enjoyed two weeks as much. Sitting with so many of my closest friends, each meeting has been charged with an exceptional energy arising, perhaps, from the challenges involved. Conversations have been fuelled with an unexpected and pure humour. It’s been so funny! I love finding myself well able to laugh with others in the very midst of challenge.
I’ve said many hellos and many goodbyes this fortnight, and on each occasion our parting words seemed ordinary and commonplace compared to the many ‘sacred’ moments we shared. I began my trip with a certain apprehension about these farewells; based, I guess, in the knowledge that each journey during the past year has been significantly more difficult than the one before it. Frankly, I don’t know when I will see some friends again; in fact it has been hard to avoid the vague sense that my itinerary was a kind of ‘bucket list’. I had particularly feared lifting off from Tamworth and Sydney, expecting a tide of emotion at any moment. But instead of the sadness and bleak dread that I had anticipated, I found myself surprised – once again – by joy. With the Sun now setting on Canberra 16,000 feet below the airplane I feel a sense of profound gratitude for the encounters of the past fortnight, and for the rich history that lies behind each friendship.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about two small words, leave and follow, that Karen and I had discovered. During one farewell in Tamworth a friend of many years reminded me that it was when the nets were full that the disciples were called to leave and to follow. Well, my nets are certainly full! I think our natural instinct is to cling to treasure in any form. It’s instinctive to stop where we find security. But the call of the spirit can be to move on into a new season just when the nets are at their fullest. I have an odd and undeniable anticipation for the season of life which lies ahead. I don’t know what it holds, but I’m ready to find out.
* Bugger, for new readers, is a recently acquired wheelchair with which I seem destined to travel for a season.