Definition: noun – The horizon: the line where the earth or sea seems to meet the sky
Dawn… the dog sits in the open doorway watching the morning as the first glow creeps into the east. It isn’t much of a horizon from this vantage point, from the back door there is only view to the fields, bonded by hedgerows. We cannot see far. Yes, we…I sit there with her too, coffee in hand and watch the sky paint itself in light.
Funny things, horizons. Away from our towns, cities and villages they are wide, bounded by the hills, the forests or the curving grace of the earth. We can see for miles… vision freed from the artificial boundaries of concrete. Where our homes cluster together, the horizon may be no more than a rooftop or a chimney stack, close and limiting.
From the back door of my home I can see the rooftops of the farm… and yet beyond it is an avenue of space, a path the dawn lights to the fields where the small dog and I walk. From the door of my son’s home a mere few miles away in the town I can see only roof ridges and chimneypots. Sunrise comes late above the rooftops, already high in the sky. The altered, artificial horizon hides the true dawn. The perceived horizon encloses us and we do not see it, cannot see it, for the barriers of our own construction.
The horizon: the limit or range of a person’s knowledge, understanding, or experience
Horizons shift constantly as we move. I walk down the lane with the small dog and in just a few minutes my horizon becomes the crest of the open field, then distant hills, or the broken vista of naked branches before I am plunged into the sunless shadows of the trees and the orb disappears. The sun continues its apparent ascent, although in truth it is the world on which I stand that turns. I see it differently depending on where I stand. Sometimes it is a mere glow through the trees, sometimes a jewel of flame sailing free of the earth. Where it is, or seems to be, depends on where I stand, not where it is. The small dog trotting beside me sees it differently again. She is closer to the earth even than I and her vision is other than mine.
It is quite strange when you consider it. As no two people stand in exactly the same place at the same time, no-one ever sees the sun in exactly the same way. We all recognise it, we can all show where the sun rises and turn our face to the heavens at noon to bathe in its light. Even the sightless can feel its warmth. Yet were it not too bright for our eyes to see, too distant to capture its detail, we might be more aware that our view of the great orb is entirely unique… never precisely the same. The sun itself is ever-changing, a mass of movement…. Time and space and the blinding light make it impossible for us to share the same view. Although the difference between what you and I see may be minute to our perception, in reality that split second or few feet between our gaze will show a different sunscape. It is impossible for any two people to share their vision. What we see is ours alone.
The horizon: the limit of what is possible in a particular field or activity
Yet we share a common idea of the sun. We may be unable to describe it with precision given that we cannot truly see it with the naked eye, but even its name conjures up a vision in our minds. From the yellow circle on a child’s painting, to the attempts of great artists and photographers to capture its light as it plays upon the earth, the golden eye in the sky has fascinated us since time began, giving birth to our gods and kindling the first light of awe and wonder in the most ancient times.
As with the sun itself, we all have an idea of what those gods may be… even if we believe there is no divinity or that all are One. Our vision here too is personal and cannot be wholly shared. Just as we can only capture in words and images the face of the sun… the half that is turned towards us… just as its qualities of warmth and light can only be suggested in colour and shadow, seen by their effects on the world around us, so can we only partly share our personal vision of divinity.
There are words common to all that we can use to communicate our ideas… images and symbols that suggest more to our inner mind than words may ever do… yet the attempt to share our vision is always hampered by the shifting horizon of understanding. Our horizons are the boundaries of our vision. We may revel in the wide vistas of the mountains, or build our barriers from concrete and steel, but while our eyes may not see the sunrise for the rooftops of our cities, our hearts and minds are always free to find the wild open places if we choose. The heart is its own horizon.