Or does it? I wrote a scathing review of the Macclesfield Canal only a week or so ago. I called it a neglected, silty ditch masquerading as a canal. I criticised the towpaths, the lack of dredging and the visitors moorings. And all this was absolutely true – in my reality, at that time. But my attitude and feelings at the time had a huge influence on what I was perceiving.
I had just completed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and was exhausted. I had been dreaming of cruising the Maccy for so long that I had built up a level of expectation that the Grand Canal in Venice would not have been able to match! I was also entering a period of travel weariness, where having to plan where I was going to buy food, wash my clothes or moor for the night had started to feel like hard work and I had started to miss my home mooring for the first time on this cruise. (Note I now say home mooring and not home – after three and a half years my boat is finally home for me and not the place that it is moored!)
For the past three days I have been travelling back down the same canal, with roughly the same sort of weather (sunshine and showers) and it now seems utterly beautiful to me. I have found moorings without difficulty – the first night I returned to the idyllic mooring near High Lane. This is the only place I have found on my cruise that rivals Fradley Junction as a long term mooring spot. The next day I discovered a hidden gem in Dane’s Moss – a small but perfectly formed nature reserve really close to the mooring I had on the way up, which drove me to despair and to writing my damning account of this canal. Yesterday I managed two swing bridges, 4 miles and the 12 locks of Bosley and moored at the bottom of the flight just before the first rain of the day. Today I have only moved far enough to find a secluded mooring, facing ‘The Cloud’, with plenty of hunting opportunities for Bonny along the overgrown towpath. (She is so good now I have allowed her free rein and she has voluntarily stayed close to the boat.)
I am seeing this canal through different eyes because my attitude has changed. My expectations are now reasonable and because the end of my cruise is almost in sight, it makes me appreciate what I am experiencing here much more sharply. Also, I believe I am now more ‘in the flow’ of the journey.
When I was on the Llangollen, a boat passed me, its engine straining, the boat kicking up a big bow wave and a red faced,angry man at the tiller. Because of the speed he was travelling, he threw my boat about on its ropes. When I pointed this out, he said ‘I’m not going fast, I have to fight the flow’. He meant the flow of water you find on that canal. That phrase and picture of him and his boat stuck in my mind though.
I think for a lot of this cruise if I haven’t been actively ‘fighting the flow’, then I have at least been trying to control it. Instead of being open to what comes, whether that be weather, people or challenges, I have tried to force reality to fit my wishes and expectations. It’s hard to explain but it makes cruising – and life – feel like hard work, with lots of disappointments along the way. But when I let go and ‘go with the flow’, then, although I feel less in control and so not as safe, life is better. I am not nearly as stressed, the challenges are less daunting and I don’t waste energy on worrying whether I’ll manage, or will I find a good mooring or will someone come and moor right next to me etc. etc.
I am reading a Buddhist book at present – The Wisdom of no Escape by Pema Chodron. In it, she says that we are all at the centre of our universe. around us is a sacred circle and everything that enters that space around us, whether it be people or problems or experiences come to teach us something. Therefore we should welcome whatever comes into our sphere of existence, not labelling it good or bad, because it is there to teach us something and help us grow. This fits well with what I am beginning to understand about this journey.
So here is to ‘going with the flow!’