The Mountains of Mourne

You just never know where a day will take you. What’s that old saying, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry ‘ (Robert Burns) …

Christmas day came and went and while there was great joy and happiness had, I would dishonour those who struggle around food, if I said I was untouched by some of these difficulties during the festive season. Acknowledging this struggle isn’t always easy. There is a tension within between wanting to appear fully recovered while also trying to own where I am at in this journey. The truth of the matter is that healing journeys take time and they are not always linear.

Often there is a temptation within me to give way to overwhelm when I experience difficult days. I reckon if we’re honest, we all experience moments like this. Today was one such day. I woke with a haziness over my mind, just like the fog that covered the valley as I looked out my window. Thankfully I could not dwell too long with this feeling as my kiddies crowded into my room beckoning me to get up because today we were going on an adventure!

We were going to the Mountains of Mourne, to Castlewellan. There is an abundance of beauty to be witnessed at this forest park; set within the backdrop of the mountains it has a lake, forest trails, a castle and pleasure gardens. It holds a special place in all of our hearts. It was where we first holidayed as a family of three many years ago and we have returned on many occasions for family time. My favourite places to explore are the walled gardens, full of exotic and native trees, and sprinkled with ornate fountains and sculptures. Oh, I could get lost in there for hours! We planned to visit the lake and the gardens.

As soon as we arrived, my children clambered over each other to get out, to be free! The long journey was worth making as we stepped into this spacious landscape. We decided to walk around the lake first. I have always found walks to be a powerful vehicle to connect with people. I recall many a walk with my Dad growing up and I treasure those connected times.

As we began along the trail, I could sense my children’s exuberance as the air filled with their chatterings and laughter. Being out in nature with my little family started to bring a softening to my anxious heart and as I breathed in the goodness of this moment I could sense a renewed strength within, it was good to be outdoors.

We had completed the first half of the lake and had a choice to make. Do we continue on the main pathway and eventually end up at my beloved walled gardens…or do we go off the beaten track and explore a new unknown path? There wasn’t much discussion needed, as the promise of adventure and intrigue got the better of us all and we altered our route to embrace the path less trodden.

Taking this step proved to be very rewarding, as we saw parts of this landscape we had never seen before. We walked through still quiet trees, with vegetation growing undisturbed around us. As I drank in this new beauty, I glanced to my right and through the trees I caught a glimpse of the Mourne mountains I had never seen from this vantage point, mystical, with low lying clouds settling, like frosting, over the peaks. It was enchanting.

I am sure our altered course added an extra hour to our walk but there wasn’t too much complaining from my tribe. Although as we neared the carpark I could hear the thumping sound of tired feet in wellies trundling along. I asked my son if he was ok and he said, ‘Yea, I’m just tired but I’m cool”.

Sometimes the unexpected path or circumstance can transport us to a very different place in our hearts and minds. There is a temptation to hold back when we are not clear of the destination or indeed the path. But sometimes in life it’s the small steps, the small steps of bravery which can make all the difference to our experience of life. We could have kept going along the familiar path and ended up at the walled gardens but we would have missed out on the excitement of discovery, the new sights that were ours to enjoy, a reward for our simple step of faith.

Often we think we know where we are going, and in despair we can envisage a difficult day but sometimes making that choice to get up and try another way can be the very thing that keeps you moving forward.

And like my son reminded me, it’s ok to feel tired and worn out sometimes. It is then time for a rest and we can stay cool 😉

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