Wilderness

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This time last week I was on a far island.

I spent a weekend on a wilderness retreat: just over 2 days of surviving, deep and frivolous conversation, silence, prayer & whisky. It is the 4th time in the last 5 years I have taken part and many of the disparate group of blokes that go have become friends: some of whom I would share things with that I would with few others. Again, we were in the Inner Hebrides: in sight of the mainland, but also with the wild vastness of the Atlantic around us.

It sounds romantic and, indeed, this year the weather was glorious which made it easier than it has been in the past. It is, however, not easy- there is no ‘civilisation’ as much: no warm shelter, heating, water or toilets, although we take enough with us to survive. Daily tasks take longer, require more thought and cooperation.

We need each other: no retreating to warm, self catered rooms where we can upload to social media and facebrag about ‘having a #deep time. amazing room’ and subtly boasting about the ‘gorgeous’ place we can afford that sets us apart from the herd who can’t do so.

Each time I return, however, I return feeling better (initially by the use of the first warm shower and proper toilet...); there is something about a time where the normal barriers of middle class existence drop and we can’t hide behind any of the usual comforts that separate us from each other. Conversations seem deeper and intense enjoyment of the little things become more profound; staring out to sea in wonder and sometimes verbal or wordless prayer opens the soul to light a little more.

There was a time when big gatherings, exuberant preaching and loud music inspired me ; I know for the majority it still does. For me, however, it is the small, the stillness beyond words and the wild that nurtures me more than ever.

I am profoundly grateful and thankful for times like these.

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