A few days ago I was driving back from Exeter, along the A38 in Devon. As I drove I suddenly had this image of God laying down beautiful, intricate green blankets across the hills he had just made. Firstly, I noticed that God looked younger than I previously had seen him. In the old days he was a cross old man, sitting in his throne sending down lighting bolts of thunder to all who disobeyed. These days, having thrown off the ideas of church versions of God, God now appears younger to me. He was still very big – his head nearly as big as the hillside, but he looked about 40, with brown hair and beard – but a softer, smaller beard than the white one. His profile as he laid down, with such love, those green blankets, revealed a straight nose, well-proportioned lips and deep, brown, very kind eyes which sparkled from the task at hand. He was paying attention to every detail, ensuring the green, grass blankets were exactly in place. He then placed the trees in certain spots, very delicately and put in some hedgerows to create interesting borders to each field. He was pleased with his work. I was so touched by the attention to detail and love that was going into that one action and it made me think about all of creation and how it tells me that nothing this beautiful could be here so randomly. In fact, there is nothing random about nature: it is highly organised to function well and regenerate and create all the time. Secondly, that there is SO much love and care involved in what has been created; every detail thought out, planned and placed with consideration for what the function of each plant and creature would fulfil. I can not even begin to number how many elements are involved. And why? to make a beautiful home for all her children. How amazing is that. Well I think so, at least.
Those of you who don’t know Devon, it is one of the most beautiful places in England: full of green rolling hills, waterways, wild moors, incredible coastlines and quaint, pretty villages. It’s name rhymes with heaven and that is how I see it: my little taste of Heaven in Devon.
As I drive, I always notice the countryside and always enjoy the pleasure it gives me to live in such a stunning environment. Between places, my car winds down country roads, surrounded my numerous, small, green hillsides, dotted with the shapes of a variety of trees and hedgerows. On some of those hillsides, sheep contentedly graze, and small brooks trickle around the bottom curves of the land. Driving further, more trees arise and create woodland-covered hills, that eventually create wonderful tunnels over the road of shade and light, where ferns and ivy grow and spread onto the roadside. The ground under the trees are either covered with a bed of moist winter leaves, in brown and golds, or the blues, greens and yellows of spring and summer. As I emerge from these tree tunnels and my eyes adjust to the light, I pass the odd small group of cottages, with pretty windows and small doors, enjoying their quiet lives.
More rolling hills emerge and then I am driving alongside a widening, roaring river, tumbling over rocks, edged with the roots of trees and mud clinging onto it’s side. The water is clear and bright, sparkling and energised, full of life. It is on it’s way to the coast, journeying from it’s source, which can now be seen in the near distance: the rugged hills and rocks of the moors.
To drive through the moors is like journeying through time and space for me. There is a different feel there, a different energy, whispering of ancient times and secrets. There are miniature worlds there. Small, sturdy, trees permanently blown by years of strong winds to grow either east or west, rather than up, standing in small groups with soft, green beds of grass and heather below their feet. Rocks are dotted everywhere: all shapes and sizes. Some are huge creating the giant stones of the Tors: the highest points of the moors that can be seen for miles around. They are like a monument to creation, a test of time and endurance. Sometimes I almost think I can hear them whispering.
Then there are forests of tall pine trees, carpeted by their own spiky leaves. Rivers and brooks run everywhere: some a quiet trickle; some a loud roar, tumbling over and down huge boulders in the bed of the river; some turn into waterfalls as they gush down the hillside. There is a contrast of utter peace with the utter vibrancy of life. The weather can change like lightening up here. A clear day of wide views can become a thick, blinding fog where you can only see one foot stepping in front of the other. Bright sunshine can turn into heavy, grey clouds that rain down and across the land in biting winds. I love this change, this wildness, this no-holds barred expression of life.
Everyday I drive through such land, I am grateful. It can lift my spirits and remind me of the bigger picture on my darkest days. It breathes new life into any soul weary of life. For me, it also, tells me more about God than anything. It tells me God loves me – look what he made for me. It tells me God is intelligent, incredibly kind and loving. He is also incredibly patient – waiting and waiting for us to see with our hearts what is around us to know Him. She is nurturing, powerful and the most amazing artist ever.
Wherever I am, I find something to remind me of the abundance, love and possibility that nature reveals – even a isolated flower, growing from a wall in a town tells me God is there, waiting, watching ready for when I come fully home, when I realise my own worth and beauty and when I am ready to surrender to a Love, I only have the tiniest idea of right now.
What a gift to see God laying those green blankets. It was a lesson in how lovingly he treats his creation, how beautiful the world he wants us to enjoy, but also for me, how he wants me to treat myself, others and this world, so that it can shine as it was truly meant to, as I was truly meant to. To understand that he feels that tenderly about me, about us all, is a true magical wonder.
Maxine Bell @2016