Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some days, it all seems like so much "fluff"...

Those who may visit here now and again know that, for the most part, I write on matters related to sea kayaking or trail running, passions Joan and I have shared for many, many years. Yesterday, I wrote about a tomato - a tiny, green tomato. Perhaps to legitimize, or to give some significance (at least in my own mind) to whatever the subject matter happens to be, I usually try to layer into the posting some little "gem" of wisdom. I suppose that it is simply in the hope that when the right index finger clicks "Publish Post", there will be launched into the blogosphere something of at least some value to someone, somewhere.

Reflecting on paddling, or minimalist running, or even on a tiny green tomato provides, at times, a gentle catharsis from my "day job", a calling that I have found deeply meaningful for some thirty-four years now. My vocation as a parish minister is one which often invites me to enter into some of the most difficult moments of people's lives, as well as occasions of their greatest joys. The former, I have never found to be easy, but I have always considered it a privilege. In light of this, reflecting on activities such as running and paddling is good fun, but it's also good therapy.

Running has been, for many years, an activity that can always be counted on to restore balance and perspective. The increase in the heart rate is accompanied by a soothing release of new energy. The pleasant effort of side-stepping rocks and roots on the trail focuses the mind. The regular cadence, that governs the timing of the placement of each foot, reassures and comforts. On a good day, you feel nimble and wonder how you could ever be as old as the birthdate in your passport would suggest! On a different kind of day when you wonder if you're ever going to make it make it home. However the run goes, you feel renewed and refreshed and thankful for the experience.

That's why I write about running. Paddling a kayak on the ocean does exactly the same thing. And that's why I write about kayaking. Writing about tomatoes? Well, I'm not sure about that except that yesterday, what I saw growing outside our window, touched me.

Today, two more of our soldiers, both medics, died in a distant and dangerous place. For us, as a family, that place is not so distant. The picture above was taken by our son, also deployed to this remote and unforgiving land, during what was for us as parents, the longest seven months of our lives. So very few people could understand what we were feeling. As an army chaplain, I have had a further deep and personal connection with it all. And so on the most difficult and painful of days, we always seemed to find respite on the trail or on the water. As I look at the little child in the image, however, I know that I really can't begin to understand the nature of human need and human suffering, and I am deeply humbled by that fact. I know also that I must never be indifferent to it all.

The world needs us to be filled with the kind of hopefulness and creative energy that only compassion and our willingness to value one another can sustain. If writing about running or paddling, or even tiny, green tomatoes in an upside-down garden, gives us moments in which to regain our strength and our resolve for this very purpose, then none of it is really "fluff".

Take good care.



  1. Duncan,
    Your writings are never "fluff". You write in such a peaceful manner and are so descriptive, I (at least) am taken away from my present happenings and paddle or run along with you and Joan. Continue your writings....So many men in my family were Military and when Scott almost went to Bosnia as a Medic, it was terrifying - especially so when he let me know that he really wasn't safe as the ambulance had a huge red target on the side (the medical red logo). At the last minute in Gagetown he was pulled and didn't leave. Every soldier who dies tugs on my emotions.
    See you soon, Sheila

  2. I agree your writings are never "fluff". I thoroughly enjoy following you on your journey, whether it be running, kayaking or having an adrenaline rush about a little green tomato. Sometimes one has to stop, think and examine oneself after reading your blog. Keep it up and keep those green thumbs going for a bountiful harvest.

  3. Hi Sheila and J, thanks for your comments and so glad that you "accompany" us on paddles and runs. There is a mystical quality to both activities - easy to sense that you are not alone out there. See you again, same place.

  4. Yep, when life gets a little overwhelming, I don't hesitate to hit the trails...and Giv'r. Always good to go after that. Thanks, very personal stuff. Gen.