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The wall that became a path

  • Posted on July 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

It’s funny, the thoughts that come spontaneously to you. I remember in my late teens helping out on summer camps with younger kids. We were called ‘officers’ and the real adults were ‘house parents’. The end of the week away would be marked by an ‘officer hunt’, where we would all disguise ourselves in some way, scoot off into the nearest town, and the kids would follow shortly after and have to find us all, getting our signatures by approaching us. Scary stuff in this day and age! Well, one feature was that we could either blend in, or choose to do something absolutely bizarre and obvious instead, if only to amuse a populace otherwise invaded by a bunch of excited kids!

A memorable and oft-used choice was for two or three officers to get together with ropes and climbing gear (you had to think ahead on these trips!) and scale the pavement. An otherwise authentic climb, but horizontal. And great fun.

wallflowersThe second spontaneous thought I had was from when I was just two years old. The photos have been thrown away now, but I still remember blue shorts, a yellow jumper with buttons on the shoulder, and a toy bulldozer, also blue and yellow – and the scent of wallflowers. Even now it is a smell that takes me right back to my pre-school days. I was in the garden as my dad dismantled a wall that had fallen between our garden and the next. He built a fence instead and reclaimed the bricks. They were really useful, and once cleaned became a compost bin, edging for all the flower beds, and a path the length of the garden. So we had, like the climbers to amuse the kids, a horizontal wall to walk up, into the sun at the end where my mother grew flowers on a small rockery.

And now I hold my head in my hands, because I can just imagine that, had I become a church minister as I once intended, this is how I would write sermons. Or Thought for the Day (which is worse?). So apologies if it sounds like that; I’m just sayin’ . . .

There are places in our lives and times where we go to where the brick wall is. If it’s a nice place, all well and good. Walls can be safe, sheltering, protective. But sometimes we hit our heads against a wall, time and again. The wall is a boundary, a limit, a place beyond which we just know we cannot go. The wall is safe, the wall frustrates, it hurts us when we come up against it, and we don’t climb. And the higher the wall, the less we can see beyond it. Nonetheless it is a predictable boundary, familiar and unchallenging. It is just there, OK?

I faced a wall over the issue of why I felt such an outsider, such unbelonging, in the way I was. I faced it for over 40 years and banged my head over and over. Maybe that was why it began to crumble, and I began to see the other side. I did manage to take it down without it completely falling down around my ears, and somehow, out of all the bits I made a path. My wall became my feasible climb, my way through and forward. The bricks became more useful for walking on than they ever were when blocking my way.

Crap sermon isn’t it? (And none of these bricks were yellow.) But there is a fragment of truth in it, because life has few real walls that we don’t, if we are honest, actually choose to keep. Of course we can go on doing that, but walls aren’t kind to heads and we never see the possibilities on the other side.

If there is one thing I got right in my life, it was the wall that became the path. Now to plant wallfowers . . .