Snow permitting, I am on my travels again briefly, and heading north. Regular visitors may have noticed that on very rare occasions I may mention the North of England. Just the odd, passing reference perhaps, here and there, to Yorkshire or the moors, barely anything at all really… hardly even a whisper…. I may not even have mentioned it is known as God’s own county…
Oh? Ok I did. But only quietly. You probably didn’t notice.
I have lived in the south for a long time. It was , I freely admit, my own fault and an accident. I stuck a pin in a map blindfold one day and it landed here. I should have peeked. And that is perfectly true. It was … is… only temporary. Yes… two decades still counts as temporary. It dawned on me I’d been saying fifteen years for a while now so I had to recalculate. Even so…
I have nothing at all against the south in general or Buckinghamshire in particular. It is beautiful, green and rural. It revels in better weather than the north, as a rule. It is more affluent on the whole. Many parts of the south have their own particular wildness, with hills and moorland, great stones and mystery. Chocolate box villages scatter the countryside, thatched cottages abound and their roofs are not moss green from the damp.
The villages are delightful. An odd juxtaposition of buildings spanning six hundred years or so, all jostling for attention on tiny high streets. Every style of domestic architecture from the past few centuries. Churches date back a thousand years, castles even longer. Miles of one track lanes wind through the maze of hedgerows and there are flowers and birds, deer and badgers.
So one day, I stuffed the camera in my pocket when I drove into town, determined to photograph the landscape at its best in the sunshine. Completely set on doing it justice, redressing the balance and in the interests of that great British institution, fair play, I determined to drive the long way home.
The five mile journey became fifteen… which is a very long way on potholed tracks on lanes too narrow to stop when the inevitable car is right behind you. Not that I mind. I love driving. Though it would be nice to be able to see over the hedgerows. Give me a dry stone wall any day…
So I pottered off through the villages and the lanes between, absolutely determined to find some beautiful shots to show you how pretty the countryside is around here. I can’t say it worked very well. I could have photographed architecture all day, the history and diversity are incredible in these parts. But I wanted to show you the landscape. Although we are right on the edge of the Chiltern hills here, the land is relatively flat. Well, compared to, say, the Pennines.
Sighs… see? It always turns back to the north. Roots are roots after all and mine go deep into the land there. I suppose it is the shared life, tuned to the pitch of the very earth.
Life itself is an indefinable thing. We can measure whether a creature is alive or not, because we have learned how. We recognise life in human, animal, insect and plant. Where there is sentience it is easy to see life’s presence or absence. Yet ‘life’ is such an inexact term really… we do not, I think, know exactly what it is. Look up the word in a dictionary… they describe but cannot define.
I think there is only one kind of ‘life’. It is manifested in different ways, at different speeds or frequencies, perhaps, in animal and plant, crystal and insect, its expression defined by its vehicle. Who can say if the earth beneath our feet also lives, with a life too long and deep and slow for us to see? I feel somehow that it does. So I think it not unlikely that there is something in the harmonics of a place and a person that can resonate and it becomes home.
Perhaps the land, with its rocks and verdure, the minerals and wildlife together sing a particular harmony that plays on our heartstrings and finds an answering song in the soul. Perhaps it is that strain of inner music that makes a place feel like somewhere we belong. Maybe it is an echo of a greater song we are too small to hear but catch a whisper when we stand where our hearts sing.