Day Total (cleaning): 2 miles, no locks, didn’t time it
Final Total: 536.25 miles, 462 locks
So this is it.
90 days…. 536.25 miles…. 462 locks…. 248 hours 57 minutes…. 3.99 lmph.
And this is where my journey will end tomorrow when I return NB Essence to her rightful skipper and her trusty driver! I am expectedly sad as I write this… It has been quite an adventure.
It seems a lifetime ago that I navigated the Stoke locks on my own with ice on the canal; ages ago that we reached the last (and first) lock of the Grand Union Canal; a long time ago that I rested in Leamington after a stunning week hurtling up the Grand Union with Darren at my side; months ago that we spent time with my cousin in Banbury; weeks ago that I celebrated my birthday on the River Thames; and three weeks in Newbury felt like forever (in a good way). And now it ends.
But it doesn’t.
It doesn’t end.
C.S. Lewis wrote the incredible Chronicles of Narnia – the adventures of a small group of children who discover routes into that wonderful world and meet Aslan – the Lion who rules that land. At the end of the last book Narnia is coming to an end and all the faithful people and creatures are brought into “Aslan’s Country” and they run “further up and further in” to meet, finally, with Aslan himself, in a garden, with a tree.
The children had come to Narnia in what seemed to be a railway collision, but thought no more about it, and when they were there they found their mother and father there too, and once they have reached the very centre of Aslan’s country the great Lion turns to them and says…
Then Aslan turned to them and said:
“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
from The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
Aslan is the way Jesus appears to the children in the stories – and the allegory of the stories is unashamed and unequivocal. Those who follow Aslan/Jesus will have a story that never ends – where every chapter is better than the one before.
And if that great story is also the story written for me, then I am not at the end of the book, nor even the end of the title page. There is much more “further up and further in” for me to explore with Jesus, and the companions he has given me for the journey.
This is not an end, but another beginning.
To borrow a metaphor from C. S. Lewis’ great friend and fellow author J. R. R. Tolkein it is a time to return to the peaceful glades of Hobbiton and find that I have grown – that the journey has changed me, as it changed the rather plump and overly comfortable Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”.
This verse is one I have often used at times of change and new adventure – this version comes from the lips of Bilbo Baggins’ nephew, Frodo.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say!
from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
And I do not walk this road alone….
I walk it with my beloved Jacquie, whose hard work and sacrifice made this sabbatical possible.
I walk it with Joshua and Joel, the two amazing young men we have been given to nurture and encourage.
I walk it with my wider family, who eagerly await my return.
I walk it with my Church Family, whom I have missed more than I could have imagined.
And I walk it with Jesus, who is my companion on the journey, the reason for the journey, and its ultimate destination.
Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I not have seen.
Bright skies will shine with glory,
Where threatening clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure.
My path to life is free.
My Saviour has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
from the hymn “In Heavenly Love Abiding” by Anna L. Waring
The journey has barely begun!