I had not long stepped off the airplane. My ears were still popping, a release of pressure, a rush of clarity of sound. My body was still braced for turbulence. My brain was still telling my body that bracing yourself in such situations won’t do you much good. Here I was walking over the ground I was an hour earlier flying over, descending towards.
Here I was in the grounds of a church, Christ Church at Erith. A cut-through between roads. A good way to hook you in – you take the shortcut and then discover something special you would have otherwise walked past, walked around. The time I saved, I spent immediately. I paused awhile.
I looked at the trees, and the ivy that spread in their shade. I took in the green of the grass, well-kept but not fussy. I stopped by the beds of wild flowers, enjoyed the balance of nature and nurture. I couldn’t quite tell if the beds were containing the wild, or if the wild was taking over the order of the beds. I liked that conundrum. I like that kind of gardening, it offers a pleasing and invigorating tension.
It would be easy to paint this as a retreat from the real world. A place of stillness. And yet I felt closer to reality than I had walking along the road, or on the train before, or the plane before that. I no longer felt detached, no longer the traveller, the observer. The wind through the trees and the movement of the flowers were a welcome relief from the odd stasis you experience hurtling through the sky in an airtight container.
I waited a moment and enjoyed the freshness of the breeze, the whites of the daisies, the mottled brown brickwork. I took some photographs, well aware they wouldn’t quite capture the moment, and that any notes I made wouldn’t quite capture it either.
I waited no longer. I was heading home, a little way to go just yet. I am thankful for these places, that ready us for heading home, bring us closer to home, home in one sense or other. I am thankful for these places that let us think, or just be, that ground us somehow.