The in-flight service is finally over and despite the inevitable mass toilet-run, a sense of calm is creeping in on board this plane, step 1 on my journey home from New Zealand.
It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting on a flight going the other way, flying into the unknown, trying (and, despite many descriptions and perusal of guide books, miserably failing) to imagine what sights, sounds, experiences may lay ahead.
Now, almost to the day 4 weeks on, I have covered a total of 4700km in my faithful little camper; and my eyes and ears have rejoiced every single day, in more ways than I ever thought possible. Even if I never go on holiday again, this trip has added to many special experiences already in the treasure chest of my memory amd will be sufficient to brighten up rainy days for the rest of my life if necessary. My heart feels a little heavy because it is all over, yet the predominant feeling is a sense of profound privilege and gratitude: for being alive and well enough to travel; for the friends and family who, through their generous 40th birthday and Christmas gifts to me , almost a year ago now, made it possible for me to go on this incredible trip; for the beauty of this world we live in, and for God’s faithfulness which shines through every bird, every majestic mountain and lake, every tiny rose bud or beautifully curling koru (fern) that I have glimpsed.
This has been such healing, restoring time for me. Yes, there is still ugliness, suffering and injustice in this world; yes, some of the not -so -good experiences I have had (and perhaps anxiety about the future, too) may well creep back into my heart and mind in the comingweeks and months, particularly on rainy days when the glory that surrounds us is perhaps less evident than on others.
But on those grey days, I will be able to close my eyes and hear, once again, the song of a bellbird or Tui; feel the warmth of the sun and wind or gentle drops of rain on my skin while hiking through rainforest or around a beautiful lake; drive out the image of grey London skies through recalling the intense blue of lakes, of the sea and rivers, the silvery blue shading of Franz Joseph Glacier, or the golden hills with grazing sheep surrounded by the lush green and brown of fields and forests; rejoice in the memory of the dolphins I saw and swam with and smile at the memory of waddling penguins, lazy fur seals amd curious robins; hold my breath as I did when I saw that kiwi busy on that dusky beach or the albatross circling above our boat before landing right beside it; and recall the joy I felt when I first gazed at the koru, gentle reminder of the vulnerabilty, tenderness and beauty of new beginnings.
Perhaps in future moments, when anxiety or even pain overwhelms me, I will be able to just quiet my heart, still my mind and just “be”; to just sit with whatever emotion it is that is causing turbulence to my soul and sense, again, the immense permanence of God’s love and the beauty His creation which rekindles, at least in me, a sense of deep awe, humility and trust that my storms, too, will pass; and I will remember moments with old friends or new encounters during my trip which will bring me back to the present and remind me of the many special people in my life who are loving me, journeying with me and who are ready to share with me all that is good as well as the rockier moments. Knowing that noone and nothing can ever take all that away is a powerful gift, one which will, again and again, put a smile on my face.