Ben Nevis

When one first arrives in Scotland, everything seems a wee bit, well, smaller or, as they might put it, ‘wee-er’. The streets are narrow, even cramped at times, the houses built close together, the cars and trucks -sorry, lorries- are more compact, even on the ‘highways’, if such they can be called, cars and buses swish by in near contact sometimes too close to call.

That is, until one takes those motorways into the Highlands, and then the expanse of even a small nation like Scotland opens up.

I began this reflection while wrapped up in a sleeping bag, with pencil and paper, camped on a field on the side of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland, indeed, in all the United Kingdom, after clambering up, full pack, something for which my quadriceps will never forgive me. As I turned around one switchback after another, I thought, ‘this must be the last….’, as I saw other hikers like dots below me, and others, even smaller dots, high above, for the lack of trees in Scotland allow you to see the whole face of the mountain you’re facing.

But the view at the summit was worth every penny; a rare event, really, since Nevis is often covered in impenetrable clouds, which has led more than one unsuspecting hiker off the northern preciptious cliff edge, thousands of feet down.

I can see why God’s prophets, and God Himself in His Incarnate form, often prayed on mountain tops, for His glory is revealed in the creation that stretches before one’s eyes, and, yes, one is a wee bit closer to heaven. Also, as I ponder, the very effort involved in getting there, as I wrote in my reflection on pilgrimaging, helps elevate one’s devotion.

Men have been trekking up Ben Nevis, I suppose, since well before recorded history, and I am likely not the first to say Compline near its summit. The beauty of one’s own native land stirs a strong devotion in the heart, and I have a glimpse why generations of Scots were willing to defend and die for this ‘wee bit hill and glen’.

For freedom Christ has set us free, wrote Saint Paul, and we should use that freedom well, to break out of the doldrums, to walk, explore, gallavant, breath in fresh air, as you are able. You may well be surprised at what wonders you find.