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I Linger as Long as I Can

Jul 23, 2020

‘ I linger for as long as I can. I pray and allow nature to bring me to silence – the beauty that brings us to peace and whispers that there is something more.’
C.S. Lewis on Addisons Walk Oxford

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

In a previous letter I talked of how ‘refreshment’ can often come through our being in close touch with nature and with our natural environment. This time I would like to develop that theme further.

I recently read a book entitled The Living Mountain by a Scottish author – Nan Shepherd (written in 1945 and first published in 1977). Nan Shepherd lived in the small village of West Cults – near Aberdeen on the banks of the River Dee.

She spent years climbing and exploring the Cairngorm Mountains in the Grampian region of Scotland. This book is a meditation in poetic prose of her experiences in and on the mountains. Far from being a travelogue or a climbers handbook it is a deeply spiritual journey in which the author reflects of the relationship between herself and the mountains she devotes her energies to climbing, exploring and ‘dwelling in.’

Reflecting on the work of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty ( The Phenomenology of Perception – 1945) “Nan Shepherd’s belief in bodily thinking gives The Living Mountain a contemporary relevance. More and more of us live more and more separately from contact with nature. We have come increasingly to forget that our minds are shaped by the bodily experience of being in the world – its spaces, textures, sounds, smells and habits – as well as by genetic traits we inherit and ideologies we absorb. We are literally losing touch, becoming disembodied, more than in any previous historical period. Shepherd saw this process starting over sixty years ago, and her book is both a mourning and a warning. ‘One should use the whole of one’s body to instruct the spirit.’ ….. Her book is a hymn to ‘living all the way through’ : to touching, tasting, smelling and hearing the world. ” (Robert Macfarlane – Introduction to The Living Mountain).

Thinking of refreshment when we are deprived of the immediate companionship and close proximity of human relationships – people with whom we can share our hopes and fears with intimacy and physical connection – we still have the presence of the natural world : the beauty of God’s love shown in creation all around us. Nan Shepherd’s experience of this, alone on a mountainside and the renewal of her innermost being through this ‘connection’ with nature is evidence of what we too have available to us beyond simply the aesthetic enjoyment of our environment – going deeper into the language of our senses as they can enrich and renew our spirit.

Blessings – Keep well and safe,
JOHN