"But I have only just arrived, I don't feel I have even settled in yet! " protested the monk, who had envisaged a day far less energetic.
"Yes, but we don't want you getting too set in your ways."
"But what about prayers?" babbled Mystery Monk, sensing that he was not winning the argument.
The Abbot smiled, "You require physical exercise as well as spiritual exercise! Besides the prayers are so familiar to you that you can say them in your sleep, and often do!"
Mystery Monk winced, he had hoped that his closed eyes had been interpreted as religious piety, rather than human weakness.
"Take a packed lunch and plenty of water to drink. Your companions will be here to collect you in, gosh 10 minutes. You better go and get ready. You don't want to keep them waiting!"
Mystery Monk made his sandwiches (not marmalade) and had just finished packing his bag when a car pulled up outside the front door. It was his travelling companions, a family off on a day trip, eager to share their love of the outdoors. Mystery Monk nailed a smile to his face, but soon found he was quite enjoying the journey, that was until they pulled up in a car park, and he had to get out of the car.
"Is it far?" he enquired, trying to make his tone sound enthusiastic. That was before he discovered that it was a mile, or two, or possibly three, and uphill ALL THE WAY!
Off they went, with a spring in their step. Mystery Monk followed, trying to put a spring in his plod, and failing. They stopped regularly to admire the way the water tumbled over the rocks. Mystery Monk did consider asking if he could stay there while the others went on ahead, but he KNEW the Abbot would get to hear about it, because Abbots always do....
After about a mile, the pathway moved up away from the small river, but they could still hear the sound of the water tumbling over rocks.
"It's laughing at us, telling us we are going the wrong way..." thought Mystery Monk, "we should be going down the valley, not up!"
The terrain opened out, the sun appeared and the temperature rose within the sheltered valley. Mystery Monk mopped his brow and looked up at the green hills around him, hoping that a concrete wall would magically appear somewhere, indicating that his torturous trail was terminating. Birds appeared in a line, swooping and turning in a synchronised display of aerial acrobatics, but Mystery Monk had little energy left to appreciate their artistry. Finally the dam came in to sight, but now they HAD to climb to the top to see the view. Even Mystery Monk agreed that there was no point in coming all this way to look at the base of the dam, they needed to reach the top to see the water. Mystery Monk thought longing of his lunch, which was waiting for him back at the car several miles away....
"Oh no!" he thought. "Others have perished on the way! This is it I AM DOOMED!!!"
The next stage, his hosts advised him, involved walking round the edge of the water and back down the other side.
Mystery Monk lay face down on the grass.
"I can't...." he said sadly "My reservoir is empty!"
The family smiled and told him they were only joking...
Mystery Monk paused at the top of the dam, and admired the hazy view.
"It really is a very beautiful world we live in. I hate to say it but the Abbot is right. We do need to get outside and marvel at creation.
Maybe he could send me to Norfolk next time. It is flatter there!"
The return walk was much quicker than the endless climb into the unknown, and Mystery Monk definitely did have a spring in his plod as he headed towards lunch.
They ate their belated picnic on the bank of the river, listening to the roar of water over the rocks.
Mystery Monk returned home weary but rejoicing.
"So, how was the grand expedition up to the dam?" enquired the Abbot
"Fern-tastic!" replied the weary, but happy monk, before falling into quiet repose.
Title taken from the hymn - Father hear the prayer we offer