God’s Green Earth

July 13, 2007

Today we drove around Cotswold, and area of English country still pastoral, rolling farmland. The villages are small and very, very old. We stopped at an ancient church and graveyard, the home of William Morris (the founder of the arts and crafts movement), and, finally, White Horse Hill. The White Horse is a huge drawing of a white stallion made by digging the grass out of chalk hills in the Downs. It is only fully visible from the air. It is 3,000 years old. This country actually cares about history- every single historical thing is lovingly preserved. Oh, and the Downs are, in fact, very much up. I have never walked on an incline for so long in my life. Very steep, intensely beautiful.
White Horse Hill
I get frustrated when surrounded by so much beauty. There is a certain anger that comes with seeing great beauty, I think because you are looking at a piece of God and it is unreachable. You can stare at a painting, or sit in a landscape, or take photographs, or say to your neighbor “That is beautiful”, but what can you do but look at it? You cannot make it a part of you, or take it’s beauty for yourself. And do you become more beautiful for having experienced beauty? No, you can only think with your whole mind: that is beautiful. I think the purpose of my life is to be found here.

We drove by fields golden with sunlight, freshly rolled bales of hay throughout and blackbirds in the sun, eating the seeds left by the rolling of the hay. The field literally glows with the light of the sun. At White Horse Hill it was as if a giant took a spoon and scooped the earth right up and dumped the contents of his spoon right next to the hole. Have you ever seen rolling hills? They roll out from under your feet like a carpet of the brightest green you have ever seen. Have you seen flocks of lambs tucked into the spoon-holes of hills where men stood 3,000 years ago and said “God is here”? They eat the grass and sleep in the sun, unaware that the ground around them bleeds history.The roots of the trees here, that tangle the roadside ditches and wrap themselves around each other, drip with history. The brambles and bushes and hedges and thickets that just coat the landscape here cover stone walls and wells and lamp posts and gravestones and Roman roads. Every few feet there is a spot that is just frozen in time, preserved since ages and ages ago. In the next minute, the next few feet over, the world moves on.

There is such unparalleled, glorious, untouchable beauty and its is heart-breaking to look at it. Not just because it is beautiful but because it is old, sometimes ancient. It is quite literally part of Heaven on earth, and there is nothing you can do to be closer to it in your whole life. It is frustrating, not being able to accurately communicate the immensity of something through neither word nor picture. I just want to explain how amazing this place is, but I can’t because it is too beautiful to be expressed.

These things that I have seen have been here for as  long as men can remember and they will be there long after I pass on and the thought of them is too big for the mind. I wonder if I study history, if anyone studies history, because of the frustration of not being able to get any closer to those places and objects and stories of such beauty and glory and age. There is a danger of losing yourself in the great intensity of the past. Tempting, though, when it presents you with such captivating and bittersweet experiences.

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