Dorset is, according to some, the most beautiful and unspoilt county in England. Its rolling rural landscape, dotted with squat-towered churches, is as it was a hundred or more years ago – apart from traffic. A single-decker bus takes me along narrow lanes bordered with fading snowdrops and nodding daffodils. In the fields, lambs – still unsteady on their legs – rush to lunge at their mothers as the bus rumbles past. Cows stare, coat-clad horses continue to graze, and the odd unwary pheasant risks his life. And as I look up, I see the hill tops against a blue sky.
Here is an idyllic picture of the countryside. Emergence from winter into the promise of spring lifts the spirits. If this is a metaphor for life, however, it’s not the whole picture. There are tranquil moments and sunny days, but life is never hunky dory all the time. The bus meets obstacles – tractors, horses and riders, even a large truck, and has to move over or stop in muddy gullies by the side of the road. Cyclists, though travelling in the same direction, hold up the bus and make it difficult to pass. And so with life. We have to negotiate difficulties, deal with challenges, and recognise that the adventure of life is always going to be just that – an adventure.
What do we do if we’re stuck in a metaphorical muddy gully? Sometimes we have to wait before we can move on, sometimes we have to work hard to get out of it. But always, as David the psalmist discovered thousands of years ago, we can ‘lift our eyes to the quiet hills.’ And be encouraged.