West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton

April 2006 Anglican Church Letter

April 2006

Keith waxes lyrical on the joys of living in England

It is the middle of March and it is very, very cold - bitter. And we have not had much rain since Christmas at all. But I feel so lucky to live just where I do. I have spent many years living abroad and always knew that England's gently, green countryside (or that of France, if it comes to that) was what I wanted to come back to in due course. But since living in this part of West Norfolk, I have become even more committed.

What gives me especial pleasure at this time of year is the drive along Ryston Road from the A10 through West Dereham towards Wretton. As I come past Ryston Hall, to the South (on my right), I come to a wood on the right hand side, which, if you stop to look through the hedges is a carpet of white snowdrops, peeping through the deadwood and undergrowth. From here there are two routes. Turning right towards Wroxham and travelling slowly, the carpet of snowdrops continues on the right hand side. On the other hand continuing straight on towards West Dereham and travelling SLOWLY (unfortunately to the annoyance of local drivers), you can peep through the high hedge which guards a copse on the left, a gentle dell, which again is carpeted with snowdrops. And, on the right, high up the bank the snowdrops peep through the deadwood below the young new plantation of trees.

After that you have to do a little driving, heading through West Dereham towards Wretton. After turning right around the old school the road goes straight on until it gently bears to the right to go past the gates of the old West Dereham Abbey. It is the very light copse on the right as the road curves around it that demands that you stop and spend time. I have already referred to carpets of flowers, but this really is one - a mass of snowdrops and aconites that I come to visit several times every Spring. It is s privilege and a delight to live so close to such a beautiful spot.

Maybe I should not have written this, as many more of you will now know where it is. It is fenced, so it is protected from trampling, but queues of cars would hardly enhance the area. Of course, when you come to read this, they will all have gone and you will have to wait till next year. Maybe you will have forgotten!

Not all is lost for this year however. One of the delights of Norfolk is the prevalence of wild daffodils growing along the country road margins. They can also be seen crowding into the same spots as the snowdrops. Any of our readers who are used to driving into Lynn along the A10 will also know about the delightful field of daffodils on the left hand side of the road just after passing the A134 & Watlington roundabout - they are about to shout out their existence in a swathe of colour.

We see so much ugliness about us, which is almost always - if not always - manmade and we can only marvel at how beautiful nature is by contrast. We are inundated with documentary nature films on the television - the BBC's Planet Earth extragavanza only being the latest. They are marvellous and full of wonderful sights -also with terrible and sad sights - usually only terrible and sad to our susceptibilities. But however terrible, however sad, they are never ugly.

To those who find it difficult or impossible to believe in a Creator God, I would ask the question Why? Why is all the ugliness manmade? When we make things ugly, we usually do so by destroying what is beautiful. But, as we destroy, we seem to thrive as a species. When the elephants in parts of Namibia start to overwhelm the resources available to them and as they destroy the scrubland, they destroy their own sustenance and a new natural balance follows, as their young survive less often as numbers start to fall and a new balance is achieved. Or they move on, having superficially reduceed an area to desert, but it revives after they have gone. By contrast, the dustbowl areas of the southern USA have never recovered from the depredations of mankind in the decades before the Second World War.

I believe in a Creator God, which necessarily involves my belief that He created mankind as well as all else. But we are fundamentally unique in that He did not just give us the animal instincts that elephants have but also Will - self-will. With that we can force massive changes to the natural balance of nature and run the risk of our own total destruction - a concept that we all got used to in the last century - destruction by nuclear holocaust or, now, by uncontrollable climate change. We run these risks through petty and localised greed, unable to join our Wills into a co-operative whole - not deliberately, but through our own little jealousies. This is where the uglinesses come from.

Joyfully, that is not the whole story. No one can sing Franz Biebl's Ave Maria (as we are currently doing in the KL Festival Choir) and not be astonished at the beauty of what man can make, which an elephant cannot ever aspire to emulate. No one can look at the Millenium Bridge in Newcastle-upon Tyne without being entranced by its grace. Who can watch a Gold Medal ice-dance performance without being struck dumb by its elegance?

Animals protect their young until instinct tells them not to bother any more. Our children are special objects of our love and we behold them as beautiful, whatever anyone else may say.

Where does all this come from? Well I don't have any doubt, even though I am incapable of properly describing or explaining what or who my Creator God is. I am most sure of Him, not when I try to describe and explain Him, but when I do as I am about to do and walk down to that tiny copse of snowdrops and aconites on the south side of West Dereham, where I only have to stop and look and I know that He is talking to me and softening my cares.

Keith MacLeod

Licensed Lay Minister

Keith Mcleod

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