Last week we were away deep into England near Kidderminster for my niece’s wedding. It took place over the weekend and the happy couple very much did their own thing, not following some notion of how things should be and how much should be spent. Much of the proceedings took place on a camp site with the guests camping and the reception and dancing in a marquee. Their families made all the decorations, table cloths and table centre-pieces and everything had a bicycle theme. They are really serious about their cycling and spent 11 months cycling through the Far East a couple of years ago. If their relationship can stand that it can probably stand anything. We also visited my parents in Shropshire and saw how the other half live by visiting Chatsworth, which we have wanted to visit for some time.
Then we got home to the smell of burning and a note on the kitchen table from our neighbour assuring us that any burning smell was as a result of a fire that had raged for three days in the woods at Spinningdale. Sure enough, the fire brigade turned up for the third day running. It seems likely that someone camping by the side or the road or a carelessly discarded cigarette end might have set the tinder-dry vegetation alight and fanned by a very strong wind, the fire soon took hold and swept through a large patch of the broad-leaved woodland between the main road and the shore of the Dornoch Firth. What a contrast with our joyous camping weekend.
We walked through the woods this morning and it looks a mess. It will be some time before the full extent of the damage becomes clear – just how many trees have been damaged along with the devastated understory. It doesn’t take much to turn a peaceful scene or a peaceful life into something which looks bleak and hopeless. Just one little act or omission and things change in a very short space of time. A cigarette end beside the road, a bomb at the Manchester Arena, and light and joy turns to blackness and despair. As the summer progresses, new life will emerge from the blackened ground, and the kindness of strangers, friends and family in Manchester will show the love of God to those whose lives have been torn apart by the senseless action of a single individual. Things will never be the same again, some trees in Spinningdale Wood will die, just as 22 people have died in Manchester. Both will leave a huge hole. Young folk and their parents will have to live with the psychological trauma and lasting physical injuries. but we pray that the miracle of God’s healing power will be there and slowly new life and growth will happen. Our Christian hope is that good things will emerge out of tragedy, though the road will not be easy for many many people Meantime our prayer are with those who weep and watch and wait.