I’ve been thinking a lot about paths lately. Primarily-because my beloved is constructing a gravel path at the side of the house. Work on the path commenced two years ago, continued for about a week, then stopped and it’s stayed stopped ever since.
(The problem being that the job list is too long, the days too short and the bank balance insufficient for the various demands on it!)
During the stoppage, the route from wash house to washing line became perilous. The dug out section would fill with water in winter, becoming quite moat like at times. It all looked a bit like a building site. Very unfinished and unloved.
I have always been partial to this particular snippet of zen wisdom.
‘There is no path to happiness, Happiness is the path’
At the moment, I am taking this very literally. Happiness is my gravel path. Every time I look out the kitchen window, I’m overjoyed. No more ankle twisting forays to the washing line for me!
There is something very metaphorical about paths. There was a time, a few years ago, that someone very close to me was sick. They had travelled a long way down a path where the only glimmer of light to be found was at the bottom of bottle. It looked as if there was no way back.
But there was. With help and support they got back on track, kicked the bottle and found some real joy in life.
At the time, I discovered a poem by Patrick Kavanagh about a hospital, which had an uncanny resemblance to the hospital I was spending so much time visiting.
Let me quote you a few lines:
A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row Plain concrete, wash basins - an art lover's woe, Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored. But nothing whatever is by love debarred, The common and banal her heat can know. The corridor led to a stairway and below Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.
Our hospital had a garden surrounded by a gravel path.
Walking around the garden, talking to other people in a similar boat was an intrinsic part of the recovery process.
‘The Hospital’ became a sort of mantra for me during that period, because of Kavanagh’s unique ability to find beauty, hope and radiance in ordinariness.
It was what I needed to believe in.
During visits, we too trudged around the path enjoying the spring sunshine, the crunch of the gravel, and reflecting on the inexhaustible adventure of it.
Forgive me if this post has been a bit meandering. Paths are a bit like that. Sometimes it takes longer than you expect to get to the end of them. Sometimes you don’t end up where you expected.