Today was so dreamy I don’t know how to write about it in a way that will hold your attention as much as it held mine. But I will try.
We explore Dover Castle – buffeted by the ocean winds, climbing the steep stone stairs, wrestling backpacks and tourists and cameras – and picnic in a ruined, outdoor tower area. Egg and cress has become a staple.
The bus takes us to the cliffs after a couple hours later. I fall in love at first sight. Kailin and I realize there’s no way we can only spend one hour here, so we ask for permission to wander on our own while the rest of the group goes into town to get dinner. It’s the first time I’m doing anything of the sort and I have no fears or doubts about it, though I chuckle to wonder what my parents will say when they find out I’ve done something so scandalously rugged. Nonetheless, permission granted, we hike, stopping occasionally to pick wildflowers, stare, giggle, and hop over puddles. The ground is rough, rocky, raw.
We climb a little higher and reach the lighthouse where we indulge in cream tea for five pounds fifty pence.
Longing to feel the wildness of it all, we leave the gravel path and descend into a low valley, clinging to the stones as we make our way through sprawling grasses.
Sitting there, watching the ocean wash in and out against the white cliffs, I feel sorrowful. As I look out on the vast beauty that surrounds me, my mind feels the pressing presence of God but my heart can’t seem to grasp it, drink it in, or be overwhelmed by it. I know He’s here but I can’t convince my heart this is true. I feel numb, like my heart is so heavy that it cannot properly respond to encountering God’s glory. But what is proper?
My heart nods in God’s direction rather than beating for Him.
Staring up at the cliffs, I realize just how far we have to climb to get back to the main trail. Coming down didn’t seem so difficult, but it’s a steep hike up with no clear path to follow.
We walk to the grassy face and scan for trodden ground. There are spurts of rough steps cut into the dirt wearing puddles filled with muddy water. We start to climb like hobbits.
I panic when we get to the steepest part of the climb. My limbs cease to feel like my own and my breath comes in little gasps. I make the mistake of looking up. It feels like there is still much left to go and all I see is sky. Kailin speaks to me in a low voice and when I anxiously stop, holding a root with white-knuckled grip, she patiently urges me onward. I’m convinced my heavy backpack will send me toppling to my death, or else weigh me down so I can’t reach the top. Kailin’s strength and encouragement are the only things holding me together.
I focus on each tiny step in front of me, trying to ignore the building nausea and the fear of dying. I can’t have a panic attack here; that would not be romantic. When we finally scramble over the corner and onto flat ground again, I realize I’m trembling.
From the journal: “Leaving the valley is hard. It’s scary. It’s necessary. We can’t [get stuck] in the sadness. I don’t think I’m out of the valley yet.”
It was worth it.
High on adrenaline, we make our way back to the visitor’s center and walk a little over a mile into town to meet up with the rest of our group.
I’m still not really sure any of this happened; if I didn’t have any photos and you told me I had dreamed it all, I would believe you.