The Leaving of England

The days we leave are always the best of days. There is a pure shaft of sunlight illuminating the marble across the floor and a morning chill outside the heavy door.

Beyond the rambling houses and this comfortable suburbia the landscape beckons. It's a morning to lose yourself in deep lanes with high hedges and fields lined with beech trees and gleaming cowslip above the downs.

You feel the essence of England most keenly when you leave. There's a fresh smell to the air that's lost on the natives. There's a distant hum of planes in the fragile blue sky.  it's a day to find ruined castles clad in avenues of briars or to see the quicksilver of the Thames from a nearby escarpment.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in feeling this essence of paradise lost. I don't believe in Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land. But I realize now in the leaving that's it's the closest thing to home; England with all its contradictions, its subtle understatements, its hedge mazes that flatter to deceive and it's perfectly landscaped vistas. I feel I was always nomadic and destined to wander. Growing up, I had hated the claustrophobia of the mild hills that held me in; I had yearned for ruggedness, big horizons, and jagged mountain tops to climb.

Now I don't know anymore. I'll miss the cozy pub gardens, the stores that never change their names, the half-smiles and the memories of those high banked lanes we drove down as kids. Does the place we grew up define us or are we a reflection of the stops along the road?

Right now I'm not sure but I'm missing the places I never got to see and the people I meant to catch up with who slipped by because there was not enough time. England has gone on without me and better mortals. The vaults of Westminster Abbey are full of the learned and the powerful, yet today they have less influence than the men and women in red jackets on the tickets desk. We are just a moment in time but we should take the time to watch that shaft of sunlight play on the marble floor because it's part of this blessed plot, this earth, this England.


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