Today feels like I’m coming up for air after a long stretch underwater. It’s surprising how a crisis can throw everything else you’ve been worrying about into a vague blur. A bit like swimming under water, you can see the bottom of the pool and random arms and legs of other swimmers bubble past without much meaning. All you can hear is the sound of your own breathing. It’s a whole other world.
I went swimming in a pool for the first time in months this week and was happy that I hadn’t forgotten how to do front crawl. Amazingly it even felt quite natural and I didn’t arrive at the end of the pool desperate for air. I was still a lot slower than my current swim buddy – who is significantly younger. Ploughing up and down the pool gave me time to reflect on the last couple of weeks and the sound of my own breath in and out reminded me of sitting beside a hospital bed and watching my son breathe. He had to think about breathing, something most of us rarely do. At points he was using his whole body to help him draw in air. It was painful to watch.
This particular family crisis is over for now. I’m no longer lying awake in bed wondering if my son will make it through the night and praying for him to have the strength to go on breathing. I can look back with a grateful heart, that the tears and the fears – spoken and unspoken – are now consigned to a flashback or occasional nightmare. And I’m a believer in the power of prayer. The prayers and support of so many friends and family were a comfort for our family as we found ourselves in a very dark and scary place for a few days.
My perspective on life earlier this month felt a bit like swimming under water and coming up for air. Now I’m wondering if it’s the other way round. Do I live my life underwater, looking at the world through misty goggles, when I should be getting my head above water? Facing issues of life and death puts things into sharp focus – issues that were a worry become insignificant compared with the reality that is this moment.
I’ve heard someone say we should make each day count because we never know what the next day will bring. Perhaps it’s time for a change in perspective. Time to embark on that adventure we’ve talked about, but never actually set off on… time to make the most of every moment of every day.
I want to breathe it all in because it’s God that gives me breath and that breath is life.
I’m waiting for winter. I thought it had arrived a few weeks ago when we
were hit by a cold snap with temperatures below zero at night. Now the sun
is shining again, the birds are singing and I’m wondering when the rain will
come. The landscape around the house has changed a little in the last few
weeks and although I can still see the tropical line of palm trees
silhouetted against the horizon, instead of fields of dry earth and yellowed
patches of grass and scrubland, a few green fields have popped up and the
road is edged with bright green grass.
I’ve also been walking again. The tracks across the fields that were too hot
to venture onto in the summer heat, now offer a pleasant walk. Although it’s
not quite Nottinghamshire’s rolling fields and hedges, there are different
things to look at. The houses dotted around the landscape can fairly be
described as scruffy, painted in shades of yellow and ochre, with numerous
outbuildings, lean-to shacks and machinery lying all around. Sheep have been
pulled into ramshackle pens beside farm buildings and there’s a lot of
baa-ing and bleating mixed in with cockerels crowing and dogs barking from
behind wire fences. Fruit that should have been picked in the summer is now
fermenting on the trees and a few deep brown over ripe pomegranates hang in
an abandoned orchard next to the track. But oranges and grapefruits are just
becoming ripe and they provide a splash of colour in the greenery of nearby
gardens and fields.
There’s a bend in the track which leads through a darkened area lined with
tall pines. The first time I walked this route I hesitated about walking on,
wondering what would be around the corner and if I wanted to walk below the
overhanging branches such a long way from the main road. Having walked for
whole days in Italy on my own without meeting a soul, I ploughed on, and the
towering pines were soon behind me, giving way to familiar olive groves and
a tumbled-down stone house perched on a rise above the track. I had a
destination in mind. In the distance I had spotted a wood on a small hill,
where I knew there was an ancient church I’d visited before. Taking that
unknown curve in the road meant I had eventually reached my goal and around
another bend on a small hill, a tiny stone church came into view nestled in
amongst the trees.
Leaning against the stone walls warmed by the sun, I thought about the path
and the bend in the road. I wasn’t sure it led to where I wanted to go and
it could even have been a dead end, but I would never have got there if I
had turned back or stopped walking because I wasn’t sure. Now I’m thinking
curves in the ‘road of life’ are exciting….you never know quite what’s
coming and that’s the beauty of it.