How long can you be alone, and remain happy? A few days? Weeks? or maybe only hours. I’ve known people who were uncomfortable with their own company for only hours. Yet, the great hunters and explorers of North America must have spent months alone – think of John Muir, who was a six month in the Yosemite Valley with only a new testament for company.
The Linn of Dee – and the stones of Turin’s pride
At the Linn of Dee, I got out of the car and was struck immediately by the holy silence of the wilderness. Almost it is like a church; I walk with quiet tread through the woods, mindful that this is God’s front room.
At the falls there is a mighty bridge across the narrowest part of the gorge. It reminds of me of Ulmo Lord of Waters’ words to Turin in Tolkien: “throw down the stones of your pride”. For Turin would have things as he would have them, and had caused to be built across the full flood of the Narog river, a mighty bridge, the better to access the entrance of the underground fortress of Nargothrond. And Ulmo, herald-angel of the Most High, counselled Turin to cast those stones into the water. For cometh evil that would use that bridge to destroy Turin, lay waste to all that he had created, and bring hideous sack and slaughter to Nargothrond. And so it happened.
But what means this for us? The bridge at Linn of Dee allows vehicular access more easily so that walkers can get into the remote heart of the Cairngorms – one of Britain’s wildest, purest remaining places. And rightly so – this bridge should not be thrown down. But what we might throw down is dependence on stuff – idols. Technology as our master. Social media, handsets, tablets, the Cloud – all good things if they are our slaves. But if we are to hear more clearly what God has to say in the holy silence of the wilderness, then we need to put aside the clamour of our toys, and focus on what is of true value.