CCS alumni Allison Halstead, recently retired from ministry in Miami, Manitoba, reflects on trusting the signs – as she walked into retirement …and along the Hadrian’s Wall path in Northern England.
Leading up to retirement, well-wishers often asked about my plans. I had no plans. There was, however, a rock in my day-timer.
I had long wanted to walk Hadrian’s Wall, coast-to-coast across northern England. So I did some reading about the trail, where it is, how long and difficult, how well serviced/remote, and how to get there.
I arrived in Newcastle at noon, and took a cab to Heddon-on-the-wall. The cabbie asked where I was planning to go. I replied I was going to walk the Wall trail. He asked where I was headed for today. I said, “West!” Was I sure? he asked. …Hmm, a bit of concern. Was I sure? …Yes, I wanted to do this, I was going to walk, and the trail went from here west, so yes, west! He asked a few more times, was I sure, then pointed out the road. “That’s west.” Then he gave me his card in case I needed a lift.
I didn’t like the road. Something wasn’t quite right. So I crossed over, and looked at a signpost I’d spotted. Yes, west to Hexham was that way, but another route was marked Hadrian’s Wall Path and had a little acorn carved on it. …Follow the signs, I thought.
I followed the signs over bridges, along roads, through many stiles and fields. A gate stile had a note tied to it: “One of our sheep has learned how to navigate the stile. Please secure with the rope as she can’t get back in after she’s out.” Perhaps sheep and people aren’t too different after all.
The signs all had numbers which at first I assumed were kilometres, but as the day wore on, I had my doubts. I asked a woman at a crossroads, feeding a dog, no buildings in sight, whether they were miles or kilometers. “Miles. I suppose you’ve now got further to walk than you thought.” Ah yes, further to walk than I thought.
Later I came upon someone at another crossroads, a busy roundabout this time. We were both weary, and she had called a cab to take her to Hexham and a hotel. I could hop in with her if I wanted. Hmm. Hexham wasn’t right before, was it right now?
I waved as she left, and I headed down the road to a closer village, and hoped I’d find a bed. It was the right decision: I found a great B&B. The strangers I met helped my way unfold.
Perhaps following a path also meant being led? I discovered I could follow the signs, could trust the people I encountered, and not try to plan out every footstep along the way.
What a great “plan” for retirement.