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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Escaping the Heavy Imprint of Man

Holmfirth's beautiful Holy Trinity Church

Growing up, I was never all that enthused by scenery.  Whenever we would go away on vacation, I would sit in the back seat of our old Plymouth and play with my toys.  I lost one of my favorites, a spaceman, when he strayed too close to the open window while we sped along the freeway.  “Wait!” I cried.  “Please, we have to go back for him!”  My father, ever wise, explained that a rescue was impossible: all the cars behind us would have already squashed the life from my beloved spaceman.  And that was that: the last time my toys strayed near the vortex created by the sheer velocity with which our brick-like car pushed through the seemingly empty air.

Which side of the street am I supposed to walk on?

Later, my interests expanded from toys to reading, and I would encircle myself on the bench seat with my favorite books.  “Look up at the scenery,” my mother would admonish.  I thought this strange, as at home she usually urged me to turn off the TV and read.  But she never took my books from me, which I was grateful for, because in those days the scenery conjured up by authors far outstripped anything that the real world could provide.  Visits to planets filled with giant mushrooms, journeys aboard rockets with talking animals, or bouncing across the Moon’s rugged landscape in a spacesuit, making the most of the lesser gravity: these were the vistas that thrilled me.

"Ah...breathe in that air!"  (Okay, maybe not so deeply).

While I never lost interest in the imagined world conjured up by authors of Fiction, my interests in what the real world had to offer gradually ripened.  Jagged chasms with multicolored layers of rock like the Grand Canyon, or huge, placid expanses of sparkling blue water, such as Lake Tahoe, roused my appreciation on family outings.  But I don’t think it was until I settled down into my post-college life in suburbia, with a wife and a job and a house and a dog, that escaping the city, and driving off to explore landscapes less altered by man, really began to appeal.

Finally, I find my lonely road.

Stephen King once said, “Character is plot,” and of course, he is right.  An author draws in the reader or viewer with the people who inhabit his stories.  For “Last of the Summer Wine,” those characters were primarily Foggy, Norman, and Compo.  Yet, as my appreciation for the series grew, I realized that as much as I enjoyed watching the antics of these men who refused to relinquish their youth, I also loved the Yorkshire countryside.  Visiting Holmfirth, taking the bus tour, and walking around the town in the early morning hours were all great, but what I really yearned to do was walk along the rural roads.  I’m not a great walker at home, but I feel a certain thrill when the trio walk along these twisting, narrow, wall-lined roads, surrounded by empty fields, abandoned barns, unpeopled parks, or tranquil stretches of woodland.  Wesley might pull up in his Land Rover, say, “How do, lads,” and offer to give them a lift.  They might come across someone in need of assistance (who might later wish these three men had not happened along).  They would almost certainly bump into Howard and Marina, the two erstwhile lovers who never manage to be completely alone.  But mostly I loved how the pastoral countryside drove the dialogue, solidified the characters’ relationship, and their musings on life.  Some of their best misadventures were born along the road.  It wasn’t all that unusual for Foggy to experience a eureka-moment, inspired to attempt some grand scheme by the vast, uncluttered vista. 

"Where will it lead me next?"

To escape the hubbub of Holmfirth, to walk roads largely devoid of traffic, to see the gentle countryside unfolding around me, that was what I yearned for.  I recognize that inspiration can strike anywhere and at any time, even in the heart of a bustling city, and even in the noisiest environment.  Still, I yearned for a place of peace and quiet, devoid of distractions and the heavy imprint of man.

This entry will conclude with Walking in an Artist’s Footsteps.

Thanks for walkin' along,
Dragon Dave

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