Some places just seem to have a timeless quality. Almost exactly seven years after our first visit, ‘our blue chapel’ looked the same… still as beautiful and serene as ever. We sat on the rickety bench that is still there, basking in the sunlight of a perfect spring day, in a churchyard decked in flowers and with the obligatory hawks in abundant attendance.
It is not really the same, though… change is the one constant in life. The churchyard was not full of snowdrops on that first visit… there are more graves, more memorials and a different generation of birds watched over us, less elusive and less camera-shy than their forebears.
The biggest change, though, is in us. It is not just that we are seven years older, or that the then-nascent friendship has gone on to produce books and workshops inspired by what we have learned from our adventures in the landscape. There is a connection to the land here that was lacking before… an odd feeling of being welcomed when we revisit old haunts.
It is difficult to describe…and goes deeper than memory or familiarity. I had known this area well for many years and before we began to explore it together, it seemed to have nothing to offer except beauty and history. While I believe that both of those are to be cherished in their own right, the living presence of the land had never caught at my heart in the way that my northern hills have always done.
I had looked at and appreciated the green fields and chocolate-box landscape but I was closed to it; I never reached out to it or allowed it to touch me. I had taken a good many friends out in the area too, to show them how pretty it is here… so it had to be something more than the simple act of sharing the landscape that made the difference and finally made me feel, after twenty years or so, a sense of ‘home’.
The one thing that had really changed was that instead of looking at the landscape, I was engaged in learning from and working with it. Seeing beyond the surface prettiness to the thousands of years of human history and reverence that it has known, learning to see and recognise the regional quirks and differences of the human quest for the sacred that spans the millennia and defies the labels that separate belief systems… or the borders that humankind has imposed. Such engagement makes the relationship with the land, its creatures and its history both intimate and personal.
Perhaps it is simply that paying attention opens doors in the mind. I doubt we have ever been out on a foray in this familiar area without seeing, learning or realising something new… or finding a speculative theory backed by something we have seen any number of times, but never really seen.
On this sortie, we were reconnoitring the upcoming workshop. Places that we know like the backs of our hands. And the well-known sites changed what we had planned quite dramatically… while our little blue chapel managed to reveal a secret, hidden in plain sight, that we have studied and photographed… and yet, its full mystery was not unveiled until we were ready. It is moments like that which make ‘playing out’ in the landscape a constant delight.
Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story
17-19 April 2020
A Living Lore Workshop.
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