There are sections of road in Nebraska or Oklahoma where the uniformity of your surroundings lend themselves to the mindset that you aren’t really even moving at all, even when you are speeding along at 70+ mph. This section of the Coast to Coast had a similar feel to it. We spent the day in a working landscape, full of farms with the occasional pasture. Our path followed the roads that those farmers no doubt use on a daily basis to earn their living. They may not be the most beautiful roads, but they are purposeful.
Hemmed in by hedges and wooden fences, our path transitioned seamlessly between roads and often unkempt paths. Many of Wainwrights original rights of way plodded directly through cultivated crop land. Farmers, as you can probably imagine, have a vested interest in using that land. As a result, the paths have been altered using signs and fences so that they minimize the impact on the productivity of the farmland. On these redirected routes, it is clear that something is different. The paths are overgrown and crowded by brambles and field grasses. The right side of one path seemed to be full of plants that held onto the morning dew far longer than their compadres. I left that path with a totally soaked right leg and shoe. Life is tough.
All in all, today marked our second day crossing the Vale of Mowbray, the flatlands east of Richmond. Unlike yesterday, the North Yorkshire Moors were clearly on our horizon with each step eastward. After sprinting across the busy A19 highway, we were safely out of the Vale and moving into the hills once more. Our conversations focused again on my future. On the people I should visit on my trip and on the books I should be reading. My dad offered hours of suggestions while I hurriedly took notes, trying to avoid cow poop as my eyes flitted between my notes and the ground in front of me. Exciting conversations make the time melt away.
Before we headed into Osmotherley, our home for the night, we stopped at Mount Grace Priory, the site of a Carthusian monastery. Like many such monastic orders, the residents at Mount Grace lived their faith by a regimented schedule and often in total solitude. Although much of the Priory is in ruins, the foundations outline each monk’s living quarters in stark detail. The Priory contains a large cloister surrounded by cells that the monks lived in. The English Heritage Association sponsored a recreation of one such cell, cell number 8, that visitors can still walk through today. It is a stunning reminder of how simple life can be. The entrance to each cell had a hole next to it, through which the monks received their two vegetarian meals a day. Upon entering the reconstructed room, you are transported to their 15th century world. Although by no means small, the cell contains a bedroom, a room for prayer, a room for study, a room for weaving, an outdoor latrine, and a food garden. In this space, these monks lived their faith in silence. There is something remarkably inviting about such a dedicated existence.
Even though I am about to shed much of my worldly possessions and focus my life entirely on travel, I still cannot begin to relate to the experience of a monk at Mount Grace Priory. I admire that level of dedication, but there are too many distractions in the life I am choosing to live. It may be a nomadic, minimalistic, and semi-hermitic lifestyle, but it is entirely modern. The most blatant contradiction would be this blog. I am writing for myself, to unpack my experience, but I am always aware of my audience. In doing so, I have chosen to not only live for myself, but for those who choose to share in my experience. I am sure I will share more of my thoughts on that relationship in the months to come.