Falling in love is a funny thing; one minute you think one thing is the ABSOLUTE BEST about the person (or in my case, the place) you love, and the next minute you notice something else that is even better. And thus it goes. Love building, growing. For me, back in the summer of 1984, falling in love with England happened immediately and gradually--both at the same time.
I immediately loved the sidewalks. Large flagstones set into concrete. Fancy. Proper. Not just plain, nondescript concrete like you have here. No, these are intentionally pretty sidewalks.
I immediately loved the architecture. History just there for the taking. Everywhere.
I immediately loved the accessibility to art and theatre and music. All of England appreciates the arts.
But much of my love affair with England happened gradually on that first trip as we drove from location to location, town to town, the landscape unfolding before me.
Oh my, the landscape.
I had grown up in the flatlands--the Midwestern plains of Illinois where all you can see for miles is row after row after row of cornstalks waving in the breeze, only broken up by the occasional farmhouse. To see lush greenery and softly rolling hillsides bordered by ancient stone fences (Who put those stones there anyway? What were their lives like?) was inspiring to say the least, life-changing to say the most.
The landscape of England is brilliantly varied, and I've had the privilege of seeing much of it--from the stark, white cliffs of Dover to the jagged fells of the Lake District. All of it beautiful, whether in full sunlight or underneath grey clouds. God has definitely kissed the green fields of England.
I recall one day, on that first trip of mine, as we were riding in our coach (English word for bus) through a particularly gorgeous part of the country. I stared out the window--green hills dotted with small stone cottages and fields of sheep--overcome by the beauty.
I knew deep within me that I would be back someday--I HAD to be back someday--with someone I loved. I got up out of my seat and walked to the front of the bus to talk to the driver. "Where are we right now?" I asked. He said something quickly that I did not understand.
(Note: I have since realized something about the English language. Even though we technically speak the same language as those in the U.K., there is a bit of a delay in understanding exactly what some people--particularly those from the North--are saying. It's like there's a two or three second delay between their speaking and my comprehending. This is especially true in Scotland where, for me, the delay is more like six minutes.)
So I didn't quite get what the driver had said. I asked him to repeat it. He again mumbled something that I took to mean "Darbuhshr."
I went back to my seat and checked my map but couldn't find a single place in England that even remotely looked like "Darbuhshr." There was a county called "Derbyshire" which, in my Midwestern twang comes out sounding pretty much like it's spelled: "Derby Shire." (I later found out that what I would call "Derby Shire" is actually pronounced sort of like "Darbuhshr." But without the hard "r" sound.)
Whatever. I just knew that somehow, some way, I would have to make my way back to that part of the country. A rolling, green-hilled county somewhere in the middle of England. The most beautiful place that I had ever seen in my 20 years of life, and for that matter, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen to this day.
Fast forward 26 years. I finally made it back to Derbyshire.
And I got to share it with someone I love.
Tell me, where is a place you would share with someone you love if you could?