We were driving to the coast a couple of weeks ago. There are a few different routes we could take and since my husband and I differ in our choice of the ‘best’ way, we tend to go one way and come home another. The thing about living so far from a major highway means there are a lot of miles to cover on country roads. Although I wished we lived in a place where we didn’t have to travel an hour and a half to get to a road that would take us somewhere, one of the aspects of this situation is the space it allows for transition between the country and somewhere busier. That time and distance allow the space to prepare.
The other thing I like about all the distance on the country roads is the sense of a time that has passed. A glimpse of memory of a time when life wasn’t moving so quickly. You are given these snapshots in time.
On our recent trip, we drove past a derelict looking entrance to what I can only assume was a rather large estate. In its time, this entrance would have been grand. And it would have signified something. It would have been a welcoming onto a property worthy of its craftsmanship.
You couldn't see the estate from the road so I have no idea whether the grandeur of the estate went any further, or deeper, then the entrance. But I imagine the house and grounds matched what the entrance suggested.
What went through my mind, on seeing this beautiful, grand entrance was, ‘Who did they do this for’? This entry was so solid and stable and significant and my imagination went to this place being in the family for generations. This entryway being a sign of wealth and respect and welcome. Solid ground where you knew where you stood; the stories and history and sense of belonging that this estate entrance allowed.
My next thoughts were about how we don’t do this anymore. It is rare to find this sense and continuation of generations in the same space; land and houses inherited down through the generations.
And who takes the time to build something so solid, to announce and separate a crossing over from travel to home? ‘You have journeyed from afar and arrive at this gateway. Cross over to share in this family’s history. This is a place of refuge. Let go of where you have come from and where you are going. Be in the present here.’
Entryways now tend to be of the keeping out type; not the welcoming into type.
And I wonder at the man who built that entrance, or had the vision of it. What did he want to portray? Was it his way of staking his family’s existence in that time/space/place? Did he have visions of generations living there?
The world is so fast and so mobile now. Whereas before we thought it exotic, those people who left where they were born to start a life elsewhere, we now might think it quaint, to meet those born and bred and still living in the same place. The impermanence of everything seems forefront to the permanence of anything.
That grand entrance to me said, “Stop. Get off the hamster wheel. Come through the gateway and travel down the road to a place where history and people and stories matter.’
I long for a time when there was time. Everything is so fast now. Our journey to our destination on the coast was over 600 kilometres and took just seven hours. Seven hours. That same journey, at the time that entrance was built, would probably have taken weeks.
I think as time speeds up, remembering our history becomes even more important. There need to be story keepers and story tellers. We need to remember where we, and those before us, came from. For me, it’s the only way to make sense of where we are going.