Green and pleasant land

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It’s just so hard for me to comprehend a whole country where the land is mapped out into neat, tiny little quadrants, where the hills and valleys and forests have been tamed into squares bordered by little wooden fences.

I can’t get my head around the fact that everything is so settled into domesticity. Here and there the gentle rolling hillsides are studded with toy villages of brick houses and peaceful chimney stacks and church spires that stoop so as not to prick the flat English cloud banks. Here and there sprawls a giant city, a tumbling metropolis tripping over its churning mess of people and cars and animals and noise – but always, always, the sense of order is pervasive. The neat, tidy, solid organization of it all is omnipotent. I think even if I dove into it, even if I breathed it and smelled it and swam in it for a very long time I would never understand the gentle little rolling hills and the slow, steady breath of it all. I think it’s beautiful, and I think I will learn to love it. But I will never cease to be amazed.

My country is wild. My country cannot be tamed. My country is huge, gigantic, colossal, gargantuan, infinite, perpetual, massive, and even these words can’t express the immensity. Here the borders of hedgerow are always present in England; there the knowledge that just a few feet from your doorstep is unalterable wilderness – this is what I was born into, the knowledge that you could throw yourself for a lifetime at your country and never make a dent. You could chop trees down for every day of your whole life and never chop them all. Rugged: my country is constantly rumbling. Where England breathes a steady slumbering breath my country is heaving great deep lungfuls of the unending freshness of it all. Church spires are the only disturbance in the long green horizon; in my country the trees of the forests reach so tall they must be holding up the sky itself.

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I fly over this tiny little island and I’m struck again by the differences. Everywhere the darkness is full of gaps: towns and villages and cities carve holes of light into the blackness of the landscape below me. There is no great expanse of emptiness, as there is in Canada. It doesn’t matter how far you go, wherever you look the night is not the night and the dark is never quite dark. I keep waiting for civilization to fade away and surrender to the all-encompassing black. In Canada the towns may begin as powerful, coursing rivers and great waterways of humanity but no matter how big they start off as, they always, always trickle away into nothing. And yet here every time I look out the window there are people. Teeming with people, overflowing with people. I’ve never been somewhere with so many people.

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