A new blog – this time the theme is inspiration – everyday, because it really is all around us. The Malvern Hills, where I live, are truly amazing at this time of year with swathes of bluebells and sunshine inspiring me to climb them, run up them and cycle around them.
I decided to talk to people on my usual walk up the Malverns and ask why they were up the hills and within a mile I spoke to three very different people, each with an inspirational story.
The first guy was training for the Camino de Santiago/ Way of Saint James pilgrimage that involved walking everyday for many weeks in northern Spain. He’d driven from his home in Coventry at 6am to start hiking at 7. No fancy walking clothes, just old school cords and a shirt and a couple of poles as he said his knees needed support now that he was in his mid seventies. He trained alone, clearly at ease with his mind as his only companion. I’d slept badly the previous night so didn’t have my usual zest for the climb up, but that seemed somewhat lame compared to what this old guy was doing – he’d been out there hiking alone for 6 hours, following his dream. I had no doubt he would succeed. I mentioned the book I was reading ‘Age is just a number’ by a truly remarkable man Charles Eugster who’d written it at 97 about what kept him so fit and healthy.
My second encounter was an older woman who was sitting on a bench looking at the view and listening to the birds. No fiddling with a mobile (as I would be!), just sitting and being, and luckily quite happy to be interrupted by me. She’d booked a few nights in the local B and B on her own, coming up from Somerset to walk on the hills. I often run with my ipod to listen to music but in recent weeks I’ve been turning it down so it doesn’t compete with the birds – but she’s inspired me to leave the tech at home. For the first time with her guidance I heard the different sounds of different birds. She’d spotted a woodpecker that morning and told me that the ‘blackbirds’ are actually jays. After our talk for the rest of my hike the birds seemed louder just because I was listening more intently.
My final conversation was with was a woman who said she walked the hills everyday with her dog. She explained that she had left her job as the long hours were draining her of life and she knew she needed to take a break and work out her new path. I’m always amazed how complete strangers will open up and share their stories when out in nature, maybe it helps us all in our search for meaning if we are listened too. And an innocent question ‘Why are you up the hills?” allows that chance to share some deep reflections.
I concluded that, if within a mile, I could meet such interesting and inspiring people, then I should ask more open questions and really listen. Inspiration is all around us – if we take the time to notice it and talk to random strangers. And indeed not just strangers but spending more time listening to our friends and colleagues about what inspires us everyday.