On sea, land and soon the sky

Cornwall Cogitation #13 Sunday 3 May 2015–So soon our sojourn in Cornwall ends. But not yet. We have Monday and Tuesday to wrap up locally and then we take the Night Riviera train to London and fly across the pond on Wednesday.

We’re looking forward to May Day events in St Ives on Monday and then a visit with Lynne and Noel to a nearby estate to see bluebell and related gardens. We end the day with dinner with Doreen and Roger at a Chinese restaurant in Camborne.

We’ve got milk, cereal, a few slices of Emmental cheese, four apples and two oranges in the fridge. Downsizing our food supply is only one of the tasks we’ve worked on these days. Some of Marty’s extra clothes went to a women’s shelter. Our boots will go to a charity that takes urban youth on summer walking marathons. Extra books have gone to Oxfam. We have to fit our lives into two suitcases and two backpacks.

Downsizing in any form can be a chore. It can also be fun–and the right thing to do. On Wednesday we had lunch with Jenny Fairfax, a St Anta member. Jenny used the term, “life laundry work” to describe the tasks that call for our attention as we age. I like the term. It means getting paperwork in order for your executor, getting rid of stuff, ironing out relationships, spending time with family and friends. Doing life laundry clears the way for us to enjoy the life God took the trouble to give us.

Doing life laundry can also include giving deliberate attention to slowing down. The book, Go Slow England (Little Bookroom), suggests 48 places to eat, stay and savor in England. It defines the “go slow” movement as “a philosophy that resists the homogenization of contemporary  culture, instead promoting local food and customs.” Travel on foot certainly has slowed us down. Today we walked to The Watermill Inn and Pub in Lelant for lunch. Our walk home, after coffee and cake at Wyevale Garden Center, certainly qualified as slow.

Some of my extra clothes went to Cancer Research UK. In their newsletter they say that in the 1970s only a quarter of people diagnosed with cancer survived. Today, 2 in 4 survive for 10 years or longer. “Our ambition is to improve this rate to 75% of sufferers surviving the disease [in the next 20 years].”

Other medical advances are sorely needed around the globe. The Independent a week ago had a news brief on access to surgery. “A large majority of people in the world do not have access to safe and affordable basic surgery . . . an estimated five billion people, from a total population of seven billion, are unable to get surgical help when they need it. In low- and middle-income countries as many as nine out of 10 individuals were said to lack basic surgical care. As a result, millions of people were dying needlessly from common and easily treated conditions such as appendicitis, fractures and childbirth complications, the authors, writing in the Lancet medical journal, said.”

From medicine to literature: The book section in Saturday’s The Guardian had a full page interview with Miriam Toews, whose sixth novel, All My Puny Sorrows, features two sisters in a Canadian Mennonite community, one who wants to die and the other who wants to keep her alive. The pull quote says, “The Canadian author on transforming family tragedy into a novel suffused with joy.” Miriam says, “There is criticism of my work, but with Mennonites, it’s not overt. Old women come up to me and whisper, ”I am Nomi’– that’s really satisfying.”  It:’s basically a good interview; the Mennonite thing deserves greater definition, but that’s secondary to the familial focus.

From literature to history: Last Tuesday we explored past and  prese along  the tidal waterways around St Mawes and Falmouth. We took the ferry from Malpas (Truro) to St Mawes where we toured one of the castles built by King Henry VIII. En route we saw mussel beds, the launching site for US forces to the continent in WW II, a yacht you can buy for an unheard of millions of GBP, the chain-link operated King Harry Ferry and green forests and fields. It was our first time traveling on Cornwall waters. The duchy is surrounded on three sides by the sea and divided from Devon by the Tamar River.

On Thursday we went with Lynne and Noel to another historic site, Cotehele, on the Tamar. Fine, fine, day. We waved across the river to Devon.

Soon we’ll be taking the slow night train to London. Passenger railways were born in Britain. In the past weeks, though, Japan has set a rail speed record of 367 mph. These test trains are magnetic levitation trains. I marvel at technological innovations. I don’t begrudge anyone fast and safe travel. For me, though, at this moment, I’m pausing to cogitate, to let the walks and travels of the last three months among headlands, coastal valleys, estuaries, harbours, rivers, woodlands, beaches, towns, villages and fields sink in. It’s been a brilliant time.

At St Anta this morning Rev Carlyn Wilton surprised us by calling Marty and me forward and gave us a farewell card and offered a prayer. The card says, in part, “It has been great to have you as part of our church family again, over the last three months . . . Safe journey home, love from us all at St Anta.”

In an article in the church’s May New Contact, I wrote, “In the beginning we came to Cornwall in winter for the footpaths–and the weather. Yes, the weather. Winter’s cold, snow and ice in Indiana, and gross lack of footpaths, are like day and night  to what Cornwall offers.” I went  on to comment on how we’ve come to appreciate the blessing of being part of the worshipping, fellowshipping and serving community at St Anta  and St Uny, It has been real. The footpaths and the weather, yes, but the people–brilliant! -John

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