For those readers who have been following my blog, they would know by now that a recurring theme in my writing is the mindset which does not give up easily and wallow in self-pity.
Last week, I skipped a blog post not because of the lack of anything to say. Far from it! I was away in the Peak District of England and then Snowdonia in Wales, exploring the countryside and deliberately losing myself in nature. It wasn’t my first time to either places. Yet the novelty of being there and liberated from the shackles of city life had not worn off. Dipping into a completely different ‘otherness’ is not only refreshing and exhilirating. It’s actually necessary. Like how a good dose of hot lemon and ginger offsets a bad flu, so an escape to the country is the perfect panacea for the humdrum monotony of life.
Our holiday this summer was a long time in the planning. In fact, it had been postponed from 2020 due to Covid. For a while I was doubting if we’d even manage to get away this year. Alhamdulillah though, we did. Myself, my boys and their cousins – eight of us all footloose and fancy free.
Being in the open countryside meant being away from home and its beckoning calls to take care of this and that. I immediately felt my mind and my soul empty themselves of any distractions. I was fully present – physically, emotionally and spiritually – in my surroundings of green fields, forests, lakes and rivers. Allah is the ultimate artist and I was standing on His palette of pristine blues and greens and relishing the visual perfection.
Each day we explored new places, climbed new mountains and hills and from high and low I never stopped marvelling at the beauty and majesty of the natural world Allah has created on Earth. It was so hard to imagine how much of this planet is suffering at the hands of humans when I was sitting in places that seemed to have remained completely untouched since the beginning of time. It is easy to understand why many prophets were shepherds. Out in the open, away from the distractions of people, they must have enjoyed a deep connection to nature and ultimately, a connection to their Creator. It allows for a purity of thought and, no doubt, a lot of soul-searching. Back to today and despite the influx of summer tourists, for the most part, there is a deep regard for the preservation of the countryside and most of it remains unspoiled. So it’s still very easy to find a way back to Allah in those silent moments on a mountain, in awe of the vista from up there.
On our Snowdonia leg of our trip, we were joined by my oldest nephew and his wife, so our group size had increased to ten. We had all agreed to try see Mount Snowdon up close. I had erroneously assumed the rest of the group would have been content to stay at ground level. Silly me! I should have realised that youth is a synonym for audacity. So, it wasn’t long before I found myself nervously tagging along at the back of a fearless line of novice mountain hikers. Not daring to look down, for fear of falling and neither daring to look up, for fear of not seeing a convenient stopping point, I gingerly clambered on.
The weather had started off on a promising note with clouds providing cover but no rain in sight. Every so often, I was lead to believe that we had reached our final stop but when I paused to catch my breath, the others simply carried on upwards. It wasn’t long before I realised the group had been secretly planning to reach the summit! By then, I was damned if I were to turn back and return alone. The only option was to continue on regardless of how apprehensive I was.
About halfway up Snowdon, I was silently satisfied with the knowledge that I had climbed about 540m. That was good enough for me. I was mentally preparing to retrace my steps and head back down. However, my middle son quipped that I wouldn’t be returning to Snowdon any time soon and questioned if I was prepared to write in my next blog that I had only partially climbed Snowdon? Of course, he knew which buttons to push. His trick had worked and precisely at that moment, I knew I was going to see this mission through to the very end. I don’t deny it was a very tough undertaking. Further on, the clouds had decided to offload their burdens upon us and visibility was poor. Our waterproofs were anything but that and my puddled boots squelched water with every step. We were all soaked to the skin but determined to complete our mission.
Three cold and blustery hours later, we finally emerged at the top of Snowdon. I wish I could tell my readers of the wonderful vista from up there. But the truth is we were shrouded in cloud and mist and could barely see 10m in front of us. Additionally, the wind was very strong in the exposed parts so, pausing just long enough to take a few quick photos to document our accomplishment, we soon started our descent. But none of that mattered too much. I was still reeling from the fact that I had actually made it to the top. I had defied my own self-expectations and found myself standing 1085m high up in the world. It is a moment I will never forget.
And this is how I came to find myself accidentally climbing Snowdon. Any regrets? Absolutely not! It was one occasion that I was so grateful for the tenacity of the young people around me. Had it not been for their gentle coaxing and encouragement, I probably would never have stepped foot on Snowdon itself. I can’t explain how surreal it was for me standing at the summit when I had never envisaged hiking up a hill let alone the highest mountain in Wales. It was something only other people did. Not me.
All the way down, I was contemplating the enormity of what I had just achieved. I had just proved to myself that I can (and should) pursue new goals outside my comfort zone. Yet the main lesson which the Snowdon experience confirmed to me was that I am living my best life now since my divorce. I actually had an epiphany right there. Not only am I a survivor but I am thriving, Alhamdulillah. I have ventured into new unchartered territory on many fronts. My life is not over just because my marriage expired. I am simply in a new phase and I will embrace new opportunities and adventures with open arms, inshaAllah.
Nobody knows exactly how much time they have on this Earth but inshaAllah I plan to continue my journey of discovery. For years I had thought I knew myself but I see I am still learning. Without doubt, the most wonderfully inexplicable thing in all of this is that I have not lost my faith in Allah at all. On the contrary, the last few years He has taken me down an unexpected road only for me to realise that His design, His beauty and His mercy were (and are) always there. I just needed to see them from a very different perspective. To use that loathsome cliche Facebook-speak, “I am feeling blessed.” I see now that I have accomplished things in recent years that I probably would never have dared try had I been married still.
This is the subliminal message I internalised from Mount Snowdon. I will always look back on that place with awe and respect. On the 7th of August, 2021, a handful of people would have unwittingly witnessed a 50 year old first-timer hike up a mountain and go back down. The truth is I did much more than that. I conquered a mental impasse and feel poised to scale many more self-imposed emotional embargoes, with Allah’s help.