It had to be fixed, of course, that poor flat tyre.. and as I had to drive to get it there, and as there is no power steering on my little old car and it is infinitely easier to drive with a little momentum.. and it has been sitting all forlorn for a week….I went for a short drive. I admit, not as short as intended, but not far. I went to a very special place and rested awhile in the beautiful and peaceful light there.
Though I have to say that the light has been beautiful everywhere today. The countryside is glorious, the birds are everywhere, wildflowers abound and the hedgerows are in blossom.
I stopped at a few of the village churches too. Many date back to medieval times and the history they hold in their very foundations is enough to take the mind wandering down may highways.
It is a curious part of the country here. So much that is ancient has survived for so long and is still in use, from Norman churches to Elizabethan cottages, 14th century courthouses to 12th century murals. The villages seem each to have a church, often no more than a mile or two apart. Some are tiny chapels, some magnificent structures in what are now hamlets but which once must have been rich manors.
As the heart of the village life hundreds of years ago these churches and chapels hold the social history of the area, and of the land itself in many ways. One can see the local economies reflected in the architecture and memorials, read the history of the country in the names great and small of those who lie there.
In less than a day I have spanned a thousand years and more of England’s past, and walked upon a landscape older still, with human traces that stretch back over five thousand years.
Older still is the green and beautiful earth upon which we live and upon whose face the seasons of man come and go in a scintilla of time. To see the ivy and lichen take hold of the stones we leave to mark our lives’ passing, the wind and sun erasing our names gently, makes one think about mortality and the mark we each, great or small, leave on the world.
But one ancient tile made me smile. It was made in Penn, the same Buckinghamshire village that gave its name to Pennsylvania, in medieval times and it bears the symbol of three hares who share three ears. It is itself a curious symbol, and one I love for many reasons. Not least because I wear it at my throat today, a gift shared with me by a very dear friend on a recent visit.
She was here from the States, and the pendants we found in Avebury, a site many miles away and thousands of years old. The transatlantic connections between tile and symbol show how little time and space really mean to the heart.