~I wondered about McRory-Smith’s journey north. What questions had he asked of those he had met on his way? What ghosts had he been in flight from, or in search of, that had brought him to this land? What had decided him that he should settle here? Perhaps it was only that there was nowhere further north to go.~
p. 138, The Wild Places, by Robert Macfarlane.
Aside from this quotation being from an exquisitely painted book…one into which I do not dip so much as sigh, settle, and steep…there are two things I love about the above quotation which I read this morning while in the farmer’s market.
First, the idea that there was no where further north to go. (“Travel as far north-west on the British mainland as the public roads will allow..then carry on, along wild mountain tracks, over a sweeping river and across a wide swathe of barren moorland, and you will each the cottage of Strathchailleach…”) And that ‘no where further’ was reason to stop. End of the line; No more; Here, or head south again. And it seems like heading south would have put him in closer proximity to what he was trying to leave behind…be that a fullness that became too much or an absence that became a yearning too keen to ignore.
And then the wondering about ghosts…whether they were behind him, baying after him on the moors, so to speak…or were they images, imaginings, that he sought to concretize? Visions he was hoping for? Either one can be reason for pulling up stakes and heading onward.
Later on in this same chapter, The Cape, Macfarlane speaks of cartography…grid maps and story maps. One followed to prevent mystery, the other composed to express it, to give it contour.
If I look at my life as a story map and give name to the glaciers, waterfalls, and wiggly bits of roadway that I have navigated…Yes, there is Mystery. It’s a mystery that all of that topography has ended up in the same map; it’s a mystery that this journey has landed me in my current cross-section of time and geography; and, yes, there have been ghosts behind and before me—though fewer as the years go onward.
No less mysteriously—in fact, most mysteriously of all, God too has been behind and before me; charting this incredible journey…accompanying me through fields of peace, delighting me with rushing waters of awe, offering a calibrating balm when my spirits ache from the exertion of an uphill climb.
McRory-Smith stopped when there was no where further north to go. I don’t know that I’ll ever be quite that content when the journey into the Heart of God is never without further to go…until at last we Arrive.
And even then, into lands I can not yet know or even imagine, the story-map continues, with paths of Mystery lit with the sunrise of Grace, dappled with shadows of Glory.
No ghosts, though. Only God, only God, only God.