The Lost Land
January 24, 2016 16 Comments
I can’t speak for you, but Jess touched a chord (several, actually) with me yesterday, both here. and with her post on AATW. She, like me, grew up in the country, and I suspect both of us feel somewhat out-of-place in town, even the quite small towns we live in. There exists in both of us a longing for the country, I think, away from the ‘Nosy Parkers’ of town life. But even more than that, I think we long for a simpler, better time when we had the time to listen to nature, and yes, to God. Her quote of Houseman is directly on point, for me.
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
There’s a deep sadness in knowing we can never go there again, and I suspect it is compounded by the knowledge that those whom we knew so well, and formed us, are no longer there. The old saying that “you can never step twice in the same river” applies forcefully here. And the simple honest folks we grew up around, are passing quickly from the scene, and with them the world they built for us, leaving us alone to face the clamorous, dissonant world of today.
For me, I have that same sense of ‘hiraeth’ (yes, it’s a Welsh word, there is no English equivalent, really) not for Wales, specifically, lovely as it looks in pictures, but for the wide open spaces, for me the high plains of Wyoming tend to hold my thoughts. In many ways, they are not as beautiful as Jess’ Wales, but they have an austere beauty of their own. They also offer a powerful sense of independence. There is just something about knowing that your nearest neighbor is twenty or so miles away.
In A Lost Lady, Willa Cather wrote this:
He had seen the end of an era, the sunset of the pioneer. He had come upon it when already its glory was nearly spent. So in the buffalo times a traveller used to come upon the embers of a hunter’s fire on the prairies, after the hunter was up and gone; the coals would be trampled out, but the ground was warm, and the flattened grass where he had slept and where his pony had grazed, told the story.
This was the very end of the road-making West; the men who had put plains and mountains under the iron harness were old; some were poor, and even the successful ones were hunting for rest and a brief reprieve from death. It was already gone, that age; nothing could ever bring it back. The taste and smell and song of it, the visions those men had seen in the air and followed, — these he had caught in a kind of afterglow in their own faces, — and this would always be his.
In many ways, that seems to sum up how we are feeling about our country today.
Jess linked to an article called Dreaming in Welsh, I’m repeating that link because I think it provides a middle ground between Jess’ hiraeth and my longing as well as can be. Do read it, if you haven’t.