Walking

Walking, as an infant could tell you if s/he could speak, is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. It is quite a remarkable accomplishment, as you can see in the delight on the face of that infant taking his/her first steps (and on the faces of his/her parents) and hear in the squeal of pleasure. I have seen and heard this in my nephews and nieces, and again in their children.

Long-distance walking is simply putting one foot in front of the other, but doing it over a sustained period of time. I could not do it in the first days of my camino, but nowadays I manage to do it fairly regularly. For example, a few days ago, with occasional rest breaks, I walked for about 6 hours, covering some 27.5 kms.

With this idea of putting one foot in front of another, I thought of the prayer of Cardinal John Henry Newman. I remembered that my brother, John, had referred to it in the eulogy at my father’s funeral in 2004. Little did he or we know that in ten year’s time, John’s eulogy would be delivered from the same pulpit. At that time, John commented that my father’s prayer book had been found open on the page at this particular prayer and he speculated that it was the last formal prayer that my father prayed. John then recited the prayer, and since it was on the back of the funeral booklet, many in the congregation joined in, which was very touching.

The particular line that I remembered and seemed most relevant to my situation was:

“I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.”

I am sure the long-distance pedestrian pilgrim would add,

“and one more step,
and one more step,
and one more step,
and one more step,
and one more step …..”

The prayer is titled “Lead Thou me on”. The full text of the prayer is as follows:

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

My cousin, Kieran F, mindful of the northerly direction of my present camino path, offered some lines of encouragement along the way from an Australian bush poem by William Henry Ogilvie.

Let us steer to the northward, comrade,
To the Bush, with her witching spells,
The sun-bright days and the camp-fire blaze
And the chime of the bullock-bell–

Thanks, Kieran, for the encouragement. Much appreciated. Yes, we each must keep on, on our respective journeys. I hope my present journey is an encouragement to you on yours, as you and your family have been on mine.

For those interested in bush lore, I found the full poem at http://www.middlemiss.org/rhymes_rudely_strung/2011/04/beyond-the-barrier-by-will-h-ogilvie.html

Beyond the Barrier by Will H. Ogilvie

Are you tired of the South Land, comrade
The smoke and the city’s din,
And the roar of the chiding ocean
When the sobbing tide comes in?
Would you ride to the northward, rather,
To the skirmish-posts of earth,
Where the darkest dust-storms gather
And the wildest floods have birth?
Are you tired of the revel, comrade,
The life of folly and wine
With its one half lived in the shadow
And one half lived in shine?
Are you tired of the poison glasses,
The lawless love and the kiss,
Out East where the brown range passes
Do you hope for dearer than this —
Where the sweetest maid that ever knew
Love’s bliss and parting’s pain
Is waiting open-armed for you
Beyond the Barrier Chain?
Let us steer to the northward, comrade,
To the Bush, with her witching spells,
The sun-bright days and the camp-fire blaze
And the chime of the bullock-bell–
Down the long, long leagues behind us
The rain shall cover our track,
And the dust of the North shall blind us
Or ever we follow it back,
Away from the old friends, comrade,
The grasp of the strong, brown hand,
The love and the life and the laughter
That brighten the brave North Land —
So long as the sunlight fills it,
So long as the red stars shine,
So long as the Master wills it
The North is your home and mine.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 April 1894;
and later in
Fair Girls and Gray Horses: With Other Verses by Will H. Ogilvie, 1958; and
Breaker’s Mate: Will Ogilvie in Australia edited by John Meredith, 1996.

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