January 2021 - Mapping the peaks


Last week our family received some terrible news. To round off 2020 (a year that, had it been a scented candle, would carry l'odeur of a slurry lake at one of our local farms), our beloved car spectacularly failed its MOT. After some ten years of fun and frolics, (Citroen) Picasso ain't painting no more.

All this happened to coincide with my annual retreat, which is one of the great privileges of being a priest. Usually I would hole up somewhere like a monastery, and enter into the rhythm of prayer and silence, but this is 2020 and not much is usual. So, with nowhere to go, I decided to take a long walk each day, either town or country, and spend time in recollection, to wonder as I wandered. Having chosen to scrap our faithful friend (and, yes, it did have a slight whiff of taking a much loved furry companion to the vet for a final visit), I made the positive choice to not mourn the loss (or be frustrated by the cost), but to celebrate a passing.

For a whole day I recalled all the family holidays over the past decade where our car had transported us, and the fun we had, often with friends or family: Skye, Wick, Ullapool and Inverness; Derry, Dublin and Dingle; Penzance, Snowdonia, Buxton and Jedburgh; Bilbao and Santander; Sienna, Florence, Assisi and Rome; and somewhere entirely forgettable in France, apparently, of which I have no memory at all - sorry!

To look back fondly on the adventures of a growing family brought great joy from a situation that may have summonsed annoyance, and I was deeply grateful. The really interesting question now is whether one can do the same for 2020? When I plot the route of memory through the year, I could count the cost, the inconvenience, the disruption and separation (though I openly admit to having travelled more unscathed than some others, and my heart truly goes out to those who have lost work or opportunity or even family), or I can count the blessings, joys, moments of grace and gift. They will all be there in the mix, and none of it is denied, but as the year draws to a close, do I choose to map the peaks or the troughs? Perhaps we know which will bring greater joy.

May this pandemic pass and the children of the earth come out to play once more. And to each and every one of you, I wish you peace and love, and a blessed New Year.

Nick Bird
your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the Christmas 2020 / January 2021 issue of The Grapevine