I decided to do something a bit different this time and have written a story with fictional characters. However, the events described could actually happen when God's love and fellowship is involved!
Blessings from Drew.
The Mountains come to Mrs Montgomery
Mrs Montgomery opened the ornate panelled door which was adorned with a large Christmas holly wreath. A smile lit up her face.
“Ah, it's you my dear, come in. You're just in time for tea.”
She was always glad when her niece Marjory came to visit. Her presence seemed to immediately brighten up what was a dark and gloomy afternoon. The best part about it all was that Marjory would tell her the latest news about last Saturday's hill walking expedition. She tried to hide her hands which were red and swollen and grimaced a little as she stepped back to let Marjory in.
“You're not looking so well, Aunt Gladys. Is your arthritis really bad today? Marjory asked, concerned.
“Och I have good days and bad days, my dear. This isn't one of my best, but I've had much worse.”
She added, “Don't worry about it. Here, give me your coat. Sit down over there by the fire. I've got some tea ready and I'm just dying to hear how you both got on last Saturday. It was Ben Ledi you were climbing, wasn't it?”
“Yes that's right Aunt Gladys,” Marjory replied still concerned. “Your directions and drawings were out of this world. How do you manage to put so much detail on such a small sheet of paper?”
Mrs Montgomery smiled, genuinely touched by her niece's praise. Years ago, she had compiled lots of neat concise files on each hill, with lots of notes, drawings and useful information. Gingerly, she walked over to her armchair, trying not to grimace as the pain shot up her left leg. It was such a struggle these days to walk even a short distance.
It hadn't always been like this. Not so long ago, Mrs Montgomery had been the president of the Central Scotland Hill Walkers Association. She had been regarded as a legendary figure among the hill walking fraternity. At one time, she had frequently toured Scotland , visiting hill walking clubs and Guilds, organising get - togethers and rallying up support for the hobby. Her encyclopaedic knowledge of the hills and mountains of Scotland , together with her limitless enthusiasm were infectious. Many a person took up the hobby after spending an evening at one of her talks, listening to her adventures in the hills. But this didn't just extend to total strangers. Mrs Montgomery attended a small church in the village and every year she would take a party from the church on a very special walk in the hills above Largs.
At first they had travelled to other locations, but there was something so special about this place, with its gentle splendour and excellent views, that the requests just kept coming in time after time to go back there. In the end, the annual outing became a treasure in the church calendar which was eagerly awaited. It was a wonderful chance for fellowship on the trip and when the summit was reached there was a chance for quiet reflection, enjoying the wonderful views and marvelling at the world God has created. Mrs Montgomery had seen some of the best views in Scotland and had stood on the summits of its highest mountains, but this was the walk she loved most, as her dearest friends were with her to share her joy.
So it was all the more devastating for her, when the arthritis that before, had only given her an occasional twinge, had steadily become worse over the last two years. Her health had deteriorated to such an extent, that a hill walking expedition was now only a golden memory of halcyon days, which she relived over and over in her mind. Nobody really knew just how much she missed her wonderful hobby, with the exception of her niece Marjory and Dennis, her husband. They were very close to their aunt. They both wanted so much to do something to help her experience the freedom and sense of achievement in reaching the summit of a mountain again.
Alas, both of them were absolutely stumped. They felt so helpless watching this brave lady trying to deal with her sense of loss. Marjory and her husband had taken over running the annual church hill walking expedition. The only consolation was that both of them sensed that Mrs Montgomery seemed to have new sense of purpose, giving them advice and hints, as well as helping with the preparations. They both knew however that it just wasn't the same. The sparkle that Mrs Montgomery brought to it all with her wealth of experience, unlimited patience and entertaining stories which had the party in stitches, just wasn't there.
As they finished their tea and biscuits, Mrs Montgomery went over to the large teak bookcase and brought out a small blue folder neatly labelled “Douglas Park, Largs.”
Just last week, she had asked Marjory and Dennis if they could go back there, just to tell her what it was like in winter and to see if anything had changed. With a smile, she carefully gave Marjory the folder.
Later, back home, Marjory marvelled at how her aunt had managed to put so much detail on the small sheets of paper. There it all was - the park, the paths, the summit. Everything was all sketched out in loving and meticulous detail, with accompanying notes that were so easy to understand, a child could follow them. Her eyes misted with tears as she read her aunt's cheery and anecdotal notations. As usual, she felt totally useless, wishing more than anything in the world she could do something. An armada of rain clouds had arrived and the battering rain with its twisting rivulets tracing wistful patterns on the windows only added to her depression.
She was still poring over the neatly handwritten pages, when Dennis arrived home from work and it was the sound of his footsteps that brought her back from a world of mountains, glens and lochs.
“Huh? Is it that time already?” she asked dreamily.
“It certainly is!” he replied. “I know. . .Dinner is in the oven!”
He then spotted the folder.
“Great! You've got next Saturday's route!” Dennis shouted, enthusiastically lifting and laying the folder and papers, which Marjory had at first laid out meticulously and were now spread-eagled all over the place.
“Careful! These were all in the right order! Don't move them about all over the place! Honestly, I sometimes wonder why I married you!” she teased, knowing that as much as she loved her husband, she could never get used to his infuriating habit of bringing chaos where there was order, especially where any kind of paperwork was concerned. He also never fixed anything in the house for ages. Those were his only faults.
“I'm sorry Marj. You've been worrying about your aunt again, haven't you?” Dennis asked, deeply ashamed that he had let his enthusiasm for their hobby get the better of him and hadn't noticed his wife was now close to tears.
“I just wish we could do something to help her. It's so unfair.”
With a sigh, Marjory looked over at the many photographs on the sideboard, as her husband hugged her.
“She was so happy. You just have to look at the photographs. She must have went through hundreds of spools of film…..”
“Film!!!... That's it!”
“Dennis, I'm not with you. What do you mean?”
“Don't you see...! Oh my goodness! Why didn't I think of this before!” he exclaimed in awe, “It's so simple…and yet…I think it just might work!”
He grasped his wife's hand, “Come with me, my dear! Mrs Montgomery may not be able to go to the mountains, but I'll show you how we can bring the mountains to Mrs Montgomery!”
Dennis led her to his study halfway down the hall. The door opened with a creak that would rival any haunted residence in the country. Boris Karloff would have approved. Marjory only groaned, knowing that her husband would one day get round to oiling the hinges, maybe still during this decade. A wiser part of her knew though she would probably end up carrying out the task herself. But then she saw what her husband was looking at and became excited herself. Following her husband's gaze upwards towards the top shelf, she immediately saw the small blue box and began to get an inkling of what Dennis had in mind.
All of his life, Dennis had been a film buff. As a teenager, he had owned a 35 millimeter film projector and had watched almost every old movie that had ever been made. When the new camcorders came out…well…Dennis thought he had died and gone to heaven! As a result, he had bought each new model when they had come out and now had the latest high definition, state of the art equipment, which was practically up to professional standard. Not even satisfied with this, the spare room was converted into a home cinema, boasting a 60 inch 3D tv which made you feel as if you were actually in the film.
Reaching up to the top shelf, being careful not to dislodge the mountain of videos, dvds, reels of film and other equipment which had been stored rather haphazardly for safe keeping, Dennis carefully brought down the box.
“Here's what we're going to do. Next Saturday we'll drive down to Largs and once we get to Douglas Park, I'll film the walk up the hill and we'll make a special dvd for your aunt. We'll show it to her when we bring her over on Christmas Day”
Marjory was not so convinced, “But are you sure this'll work? Won't the camera shake badly while you're walking. It would be pointless if it does that.”
“No it won't Marj,” her husband replied. Showing her the camera he explained “This is actually what's called an action camcorder. It's the very latest one out in the market and is designed for sports. It's got a gadget on it that'll help to stabilise the image and dampen a lot of the movement. That's the beauty of it!”
As the rest of the week slowly passed by, Marjory and Dennis agonised about the Christmas surprise that they had in mind for their aunt.
“Oh Dennis, do you think we're doing the right thing?” Marjory asked for what must be the tenth time. “Won't it just make her feel worse?”
“No I'm convinced this is going to work,” Dennis replied, “It'll be very realistic. Trust me, she'll feel like she's actually there.”
Marjory looked a little more convinced, however, both of them knew they were taking a gamble, however well meaning it was.
Saturday morning dawned rather hazily, but the winter sun was soon peeping through, clearing the mist and an excellent day was promised. The journey was pleasant and uneventful, with the traffic being so light. Soon the urban sprawl of Glasgow and Paisley gave way to the countryside and in no time they were in Ayrshire and starting to descend the Haylie Brae, with the town of Largs far below them and the River Clyde stretching out cornflower blue in the winter sun. The water looked so calm you would have felt you could walk right across its glassy surface to the Isle of Cumbrae.
Dennis parked the car just along the road from Douglas Park. Immediately, the cold crisp winter air greeted them as they walked unhurriedly towards the park, beckoning them to the climb they were so looking forward to.
“I'm so glad we came here today. Isn't it just lovely?” Marjory said softly, squeezing her husband's hand. With an answering squeeze Dennis replied, “Yes we really landed lucky. Isn't this weather just great. We'll get some really good views from the top.”
Then, holding out his hand again he said excitedly, “Come on Marj, let's go. It'll only take a few moments to set up the camera.”
The ascent of the hill beyond Douglas Park is quite steep right from the very beginning, but in these conditions it posed no problem to either Marjory or Dennis. They easily climbed the grassy slopes which were dotted here and there with steps which were fashioned out of old railway sleepers. A wooden bench had been thoughtfully placed about half way up the slope on a piece of relatively flat land, for the more weary climber to rest. Marjory gazed dreamily towards the Isle of Cumbrae which was already visible from this viewpoint, half way up the hill. But she knew from past experience that Douglas Park saves the best for last. Already, she was looking forward once more, to seeing the view from the summit which would be ten times better than this one.
Up they went, with Dennis leading, the camcorder's motor whirring almost silently as they ascended the steep wooden steps which marked the last part of the climb, now beginning to feel the affect of the steep slope on their experienced limbs. Then with one last push up the grassy and uneven hillside, they were finally there at the summit. It was breathtaking.
Far below them, the town of Largs stretched out, crystal clear in the winter sunlight and beyond that, the cornflower blue of the Firth of Clyde with its islands scattered like jewels as far as the eye could see. Beyond that, your imagination could convince you that it would actually be possible to see the Atlantic on a day like this, but it would be wishful thinking, as the hills of Bute and Kintyre would obscure it. To the south, in the far distance, Ailsa Craig rose majestically up out of the waters, almost halfway to the coast of Ireland .
And Dennis filmed it all.
Back home, late that evening, Dennis was still editing the pieces of film he had shot. Every detail had come out and sitting on the comfortable little settee in his cosy home cinema, they marvelled at the view which was only slightly diminished on the enormous t.v. He looked at the small calendar which was on the wall - December 18 th – still time to add a special extra ingredient to the film. When he told Marjory what he had in mind she hugged him.
“Dennis, you're a genius! She's going to love this!”
On Christmas Day, everything was set up. After a fantastic meal, Mrs Montgomery was just finishing her cup of strong tea. As expected, she asked the usual question.
“Well then, how did the walk go last week, my dears?”
Gently taking her hand, Marjory replied enigmatically, “Let's go into the next room Aunty and find out.”
As Mrs Montgomery watched the dvd on the huge television there were tears streaming down her face. Marjory's heart sank. At first she thought her aunt was upset, but then she saw the look on her aunt's face and realised they were tears of joy.
For the next forty five minutes, Mrs. Montgomery sat enthralled. “There's Cumbrae Island ,” she gasped. “Oh look, there's Ailsa Craig - and - how close it seems,” she marvelled with tears still streaming down her face. “It's so real, I feel as if I'm actually there!”
But there was another surprise still to come. In the week running up to Christmas, Marjory and Dennis had somehow managed to visit six of Mrs Montgomery's dearest friends who had always accompanied her on the church trip to Largs. As the camera panned around taking in the marvellous view, a small square would appear at the top left hand corner of the huge screen and each friend would appear with a special message.
One lady had joined the church a few years ago after moving into the area. The first outing she had participated in was the trip to Largs. She told Mrs Montgomery that she had been made to feel so welcome by the rest of the group and now considered every one of them as her dearest friends. Another related how she had been going through a difficult time at home. Then she found herself in this peaceful place with close friends that she loved. All of a sudden, a solution to a problem which seemed insoluble at home, seemed to come effortlessly to her as she sat in silent reflection with the rest of the group at the summit and enjoyed the wonderful views.
Each person had a moving testimony of how they enjoyed the fellowship so much with this group of friends and it was all due to her. It was last person who had the most touching thing to say.
“Gladys, you may not be able to come with us anymore, but in our hearts you are always there, guiding and encouraging us with your gentle humour and love for life. Dennis is going to film the outing every year so you'll always be with us. Once the dvd's ready, we'll all come round to watch the video and share this walk with you. We're so looking forward to this.”
When the dvd was finally over, Mrs Montgomery sat stunned. “I've just walked up Douglas Park Hill and been reunited with all my friends….and I never left this chair!” “What a wonderful Christmas! Please, let's watch it again!”
She already looked ten years younger and what's more, Marjory was delighted to see the sparkle, which had died when she finished hill walking, was back in her Aunt's eyes. She had thought that she would never see this again.
“No problem Aunt Gladys and this is only the beginning. Dennis will film every walk we go on from now on, so you'll always be with us, no matter where we go and you'll never miss another walk again.
Mrs Montgomery hugged them both. Then as she enjoyed a piece of very rich, moist Christmas cake, washed down with Earl Grey tea whilst the dvd was being put on again, she added with the old excitement and exhilaration that had come back into her voice for the first time in two years,
“I can't wait till my next ‘walk' in the hills.”