In search of a fold

hutcircleThere are at least two ways of seeing in every situation.  Seeing what is before you in isolation and seeing in the context of everything else.  One way of seeing our readings today could be I suppose as an encouragement to see things from another’s point of view.  Take the image of a stone circle on the cover for example.  There is an old stone circle of which I know the whereabouts.  (This may or may not be a photo of the very one.)  The way I got to it was up a long winding bracken covered path on a hillside seldom walked.  It’s stones are covered in moss and surrounded by heather.  There is a gap in the stones which I take for what was once an entrance of sorts.  I know of no myth or legend about this particular stone circle.  It appears on the OS map with an ‘hut circle’ marker close by.  I found it by accident walking the Dog and it became a regular place to sit for a while.  It is unremarkable and yet at the same time a truly special place.  When the mist came swirling down and encompassed that hillside it was as if there was no other part of the world save for that place.  As you walked on, the landscape revealed itself metre by metre.  There was nothing else to see, save what was just in front of you.  Often I found myself emerging from the mists somewhere other than where I thought I ought to have been.  I have a vague memory of these being the circumstances in which I first stumbled over the stone circle.  Of course as it turns out there are actually hundreds of these stone circles across Wales’ hills.  Some are in better condition than others having been cared for and maintained.  The one I frequented was, it seemed, not visited particularly often nor cared for in any way.  Those who know such things tell us that many of these are indeed ancient hut circles as the maps would have us believe.  They would have had a timber and thatch roof on top of a stone base.  Their significance can only be guessed at.  A summer dwelling for the shepherd or part of a forgotten Iron age settlement.  We’ll never really know.  It is a life that is hidden to us within time past.  I’m reading a book called ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ by James Redbanks.  It is the story of a part of the Lake District, though for him whilst growing up there was no Lake District, there was only home and the fells on which the sheep were grazed in the summer months. It is possible to see the land in very different ways.  Our point of view depends how close to a situation we are.  James Redbanks reflects that the romanticism of tourist writers about the lakes was alien to his understanding of the land.  For him the fells around the farm were simply the heft where the sheep would graze.    They would not stray too far for they knew their place, they were hefted sheep.  The 99 out on the fells come in to the call of the shepherd and his dogs, the one that strays is searched out from farms who gather from distant fells.  That thousands of others saw those hills in totally different ways, as somewhere to ‘get away from it all’ was anathema – they were fair weather fans of the hills.  When the mist came down, or the rains moved in, the walkers and climbers stay away.  Yet without seeing the hills in this drab hue, they miss the beauty of a rain soaked hillside, to see it being formed and moulded out of the mists.  Jesus invites us to see with different eyes.  Jesus invites us to see both the now and the not yet.  To see the kingdom in the light of the now, it is at hand, within our grasp and it is offered to all, but especially to those who are wandering the hillside in search of a fold.

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