It is amazing what a difference a year makes. Last May I was totally immersed in a battle to save the property tax exemption for the Pres House Apartments. This May is a month of joyful renewal while on sabbatical. Last year at this time I was visiting legislators in the Wisconsin State Capitol by day, calling and emailing Pres House supporters in the evening, and praying and freaking out by night. This year…well, for the past two days I have been riding my bike almost exclusively. Last year my mind was full with property tax law, the names and office numbers of legislators, and strategies for responding to an unfair attack on Pres House. This year all I can seem to think (and blog about) is sheep, ancient Northumbrian saints, and cycling.
And what a gift that is. It is a truly remarkable experience of grace to have moved through a time of enormous stress into a time of restoration. My ability to disengage from the weight of responsiblity in my role as Co-Pastor and Executive Director at Pres House has been greatly enhanced by the fact that the staff and board members at Pres House have really, truly, let us get away. We don’t hear any news, any requests, any pressing updates from the great folks running things in our absence. I admit that on one level that is disconcerting. Are we that dispensable that they can really get along without us?! Seriously, I don’t think we are dispensable, but I also believe that yes, they can get along without us (at least for a little while!). And they have. And it has been a special gift. We will be picking up the yoke of responsiblity again soon enough and new problems will most certainly arise, but for this brief stretch of time we have been given the wonderful gift of space for restoration and renewal that is the aim of a sabbatical.
And so I will indulge this gift to write (yet again) about my joyful cycling adventures in England. On Monday I took the train from Hexham to Whitehaven on the west coast of England. I set out from there on a two-day, 115 mile ride back to Hexham. For most of the ride I followed an excellently marked national cycle route called the C2C (sea to sea) that runs across the country from coast to coast. Shortly after leaving the west coast I entered the spectacular Lake District of county Cumbria. The Lake District is a stunningly beautiful area where natural lakes are nestled amidst soaring peaks. At almost every turn I had to stop to gasp (and then pull out my camera).
The region contains the tallest mountains in England, but the cycling isn’t too difficult as most of the roads travel along valleys…Except for the ones that go over the passes like this one:
When I told folks I ran into later in the day that I had ridden over Honister Pass they invariably asked if I had to get off and walk my bike. Well I didn’t. But I might as well have as I could have walked just as fast as I was able to manage pedaling.
After spending a perfect day winding my way through the Lake District heading generally east I stopped for the night at a bed and breakfast in a tiny hamlet called Troutbeck. After trying to catch up on lost calories with dinner and washing my jersey in the sink with shampoo I crashed for the night.
Today was harder riding than yesterday. I left the Lake District after about 15 miles but then I had to climb up into, and eventually over, the Pennines – a ridge of hills that runs most of the length of England down its spine. That took basically the rest of the day.
And that is one of the marvelous gifts that this sabbatical has given me – time. Time to ride all day, to stop whenever I feel like it, to sing songs into the wind, to feel burning in my legs from a steep uphill rather than the ache of stress pounding in my head. Thanks be to God.