Walking with my Quaker God

30th October 2023

May 2nd, 2022, I’d been home, from a week away with my partner, only 3 days, when I had a series of mini-strokes: transitory ischemic attacks, (TIAs). Five in all. I was taken to hospital and released two days later. The discharge document says, “Diagnosis: acute stroke” and that’s good enough for me.

Even in hospital I was aware of how lucky I was. One in every three strokes are fatal, and I was barely touched. But I was, and I am, convinced that that’s what had happened: I was touched by God. A sideways slap to the head from the Almighty. A wakeup call. Time to stop waiting for “the right moment” and get my arse in gear. “Get a move on, Steven, you haven’t got forever!” I was 71 years old and still thinking my time was ahead of me. “Right, Lord. Where do I start? Oh, and thank You, thank You, thank You. Holy, holy, holy etc.” How can you praise the Creator of everything without risking insulting with faint praise? And I wasn’t thanking God that I was still alive, I was thanking for being “touched”. My stroke was and continues to be a great blessing. God loves me.

So I figured I’d start by trying to walk the length of the A6 from Carlisle to Luton. I don’t know how far it is, and don’t care much, as it isn’t about the achieving but about the doing. I don’t expect to live long enough to finish it, but that’s ok.

Make what you will of them/it. It may be hard to see the Divine in any of it, but the Divine was there. That night that I lay 10 feet away from the 16 wheelers coming from the various slate and stone quarries, it was in August. And August is the start of the Perseid meteor showers. I saw a dozen and more shooting stars that night, but God showed me something more. GLORY. And when God shows you glory, you can turn away but you still see. You just can’t say.


A Death in the Night

In the meadow by the truck run.
Stars burst like fireworks but the moon outshines the suns.
I lie like a worm, wet in the dirt. Lie like a bad fakir on too few blunt nails.
I slept a little. Pissed a bit. And I bitched and bitched and bitched all night and….
yes, briefly was visited by – I can’t say.

Bedknobs and broomsticks carry me away. Natural high is the worst high in the world and chemical poison is the sky. Ride, my white swan from dawn to morn, let me fly, fly, fly on her mighty wings.

The track skips.
Dismembered bodies lurch their way on until the feet are found – or not.
I’m tripping, like Alice, falling down that hole. STOP IT!
The cripple apprentice likewise: Stands! Does. Takes stock.

Love can look like hate through the right lenses, and hate can look good through the wrong ones.
But a blind man needs no audio description. He has his own horse.

Later. After.

Heavy guts. Crying song.
Night coming on. Is here. Is none. Blackness.
Those trucks are going to crush me. Back to blackness.
I’m losing it. I’m losing it. Not that I ever had it or knew it.

Look Mr Rabbit I’m on your tail and whiskers! I’m going to be early for MY funeral.
Pastel watercolours or thick gouache vivids. Screams or chant. Not mine.
Not mine, never mine.
All art fails. All failings fail too, and success sucks –
Or so they say.

Steven Johnson