Ah, To Be In England!  

Posted by Heidi in

For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed of seeing England’s fair shores and everything in between. I don’t know why this should be; I think perhaps I assumed it was the one and only land of castles, princesses, dragons and princes (I especially liked the idea of princes). I was a teenager before I realized the images of famous Cinderella style castles I had seen all my life were found mostly in Germany and France. I felt a bit betrayed, yet it spurred me to learn all I could about the castles that actually do live in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

By the time I was in high school, I was reading everything I could conveniently find (I was a teenager so there were one or two things that took precedence such as boys and er, boys) and soon I had become an anglophile, an addict of all things British and official King Arthur junkie. I paid strict attention in my high school Brit Lit class and thereby learned why Grendel attacked Beowulf, what was truly meant by the lyric, “Where Eagles Soar”, and all about the aspersions cast on the name of William Shakespeare. As the years went by, I soaked up everything I could about the British monarchy, the princes of Wales, the Irish chieftains and the Scottish kings. I learned a little about the wool trade, civil government in the Middle Ages, the importance of turning pigs out to graze in the forest and why the melancholy King Charles The First had to die.
Gradually, my drive to read all I could about everything that interested me became a means of escape from my challenging life. One particularly dismal year about ten years ago my view of the future was nothing but a deep, dark well, the present only slightly less dim. We lived far from home and family and my husband had been felled by a chronic illness. In spite of his best efforts he couldn’t support us and all of my energies were focused on trying to get help for him and my oldest who at age nine was suffering from a host of ills, including severe mental illness. I lived day-by-day, hour-by-hour, convinced that the remainder of my life would be spent in drudgery and that none of my dreams could possibly come true.

Around this time, my parents took up residence in England for eighteen months. It broke my heart to have them so far away but it absolutely pulverized it knowing they were in this place that meant so much to me, a place I knew I would never get to see. To my great joy, I was wrong. Through a series of little miracles and tender mercies, I had the chance to go to England and spend a week with my parents in their little house in Stoke, just me, myself and I.

The state of my life had been so grim for so long, I could hardly believe it! Finally I was to see England, the land of my ancestors, obsessions and dreams. Yet, as happy as I was at the prospect, I had no idea how much this week would mean to me, how it would address my sorrows and heal my heart. I had my first inkling when I looked out of the plane window through the clearing fog and saw the green rolling hills dotted with black and white sheep, a scene that had remained unchanged for a thousand years.

In that moment, I felt more gratitude than I knew existed in all the world. I knew that my long-lived desire to visit this “place” was small and inconsequential in the eternal scheme of things and utterly frivolous compared to the issues I was dealing with at home. But I also knew, quite suddenly and with all my soul, that my Heavenly Father knew how much this meant to me, that it was His gift to me, His way of validating me as a person and as His child of whom He was aware and whom He loved. I felt His presence near and my heart pounded so hard I thought it would break out of my chest.
This feeling was reinforced during a conversation I had with my dad the first hour of my stay in England. On the way home from the airport, we stopped at a beautiful old mansion house, the kind that people tour. Old architectural treasures have always had great value in my eyes so I was in high alt. My dad, a highly educated, wise and knowledgeable person, was telling me a little of this and that as we went through the house. One room had beautiful hand carved trim, very ornate and intricate, all around the fireplace and as accents throughout the room. My dad tried to tell me the name of the man who did the carving (over 300 years ago) but he couldn’t quite remember it.

“Oh! You mean Grinling Gibbons!” I cried, thrilled to know I was witnessing the work of this very famous artisan. I was shocked when I turned to my father and saw that his eyes were a bit moist. “Yes,” he said, his voice full of emotion, “Grinling Gibbons,” but it was if what he really said was, “I see you, Heidi”; just me, not my twin sister or any of my other five, not his daughter or his child, just me, Heidi, a unique creation like none other. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life, as I will the entire visit, one in which my father and I saw England through the same pair of seeking, thirsting, eager eyes. I was neither wife or mother, daughter or child but student and seeker on a full time quest. One thing I learned; England is indeed the land of the princess and for seven glorious days, I was she.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at Sunday, November 23, 2008 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

24 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I can't wait til my own daughter's get the very grown up realization one day, that I see them and prize them both as the amazing individuals they are, What an incredibly special moment, I feel blessed just having you share it.

November 23, 2008 at 4:08 PM

Wow. That was just absolutely beautiful.

I have had similar experiences, where I KNOW that my Heavenly Father is looking out for me. Tender Mercies, Indeed.

Thanks for sharing yours.

November 23, 2008 at 4:11 PM

Wonderful post.

My DH served his mission in England, I hope to go there one day with a wonderful tour guide. But I must admit the place my heart longs for is Italy. I'll really consider myself lucky if somehow I get to both.

November 23, 2008 at 4:16 PM

Woah, I can definitely see why you are a writer. That was so eloquent and beautiful. I feel the same way about the French countryside. But I could never have written something as amazing as that.

November 23, 2008 at 4:22 PM

WOW. Just that. WOW. Love this post. Just love it.

November 23, 2008 at 4:31 PM

I think I have mentioned that we lived in London for two consecutive summers in '01 and '02. It was an amazing experience. We spent one day in Warwick, and that castle is pretty incredible (outside of Stratford-on-Avon). The train ride from London to Cardiff, Wales was fresh from a fairy tale, and green as green can get. And like jendoop, I am nuts for Italy. It was gorgeous too.

I believe so strongly that going somewhere else does magical things for our souls. I loved hearing about how magical it was for you. And the touching way you and your dad got acquainted on that trip. Just lovely. Thank you, Heidi.

November 23, 2008 at 4:36 PM

Sorry, last entry was done under my son's account. It was just me :)

November 23, 2008 at 4:39 PM

I think England is holy land--having served my mission there is certainly very special and dear to my heart. Whenever I read in the scriptures about the "isles of the sea" I think the Lord is talking about England.

November 23, 2008 at 4:53 PM

Beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I thought you were going to end with your dad being your prince.

November 23, 2008 at 4:55 PM

Very beautifully expressed.... I've always longed to spend time there... like you said... my own time... just sitting by watching the sky and the shore.... your post brought back so many beautiful dreams.... thank you :)

November 23, 2008 at 5:12 PM

Ladies (and, er, Gray) thank you so much! I was a little shy to share this esp. since I know my dad will read it but you all make me glad I did. (Kazzy--love the name Gray!)

November 23, 2008 at 5:42 PM

Oh, and Kazzy, I meant to mention, I did get to spend a day in Warwick. One of my fave pics of all time was taken in the library there. I have a few of my best pics of England on my author website www.heidiashworth.com

November 23, 2008 at 5:43 PM

I had a similar experience when I went to Norway around the time I was 20. It was magical and heartwarming. I also would love to go to England. The hubby and I are planning a trip in 15 years (our 25th Wedding Anniversary) to go to Europe and mostly Florence, Italy. I figure 15 years should give us enough time, plus we will have one child in college, on on a mission (hopefully) and the other in high school. We will see how this evolves. I guess there are always couple missions too.

November 23, 2008 at 6:03 PM

Holy cow, Katie, you're a baby! The Spouse and I have been married 22 1/2 years and we always thought we might be going someplace fun by the time we reached 25, too. Of course, your kids will be older by then than all mine will be. I hope you make it!

November 23, 2008 at 7:50 PM

I stopped by your website and loved your photos. Very very nice. And I was glad to hear you made it to Warwick. Next time we get the opportunity to go on study abroad you have a free place to stay!

November 23, 2008 at 8:28 PM

Kazzy-wazzy, I would love love love it!

November 23, 2008 at 10:06 PM

Oh my dear dear cousin,
I love the fact that you experienced the conclusion of your quest (or at least one of them) and you were able to do it in the company of your precious dad. What a generous Father we have that knows and loves us. Your post has inspired me!

November 24, 2008 at 6:18 AM

Ooh, lovely.

It's nice to know that I'm not alone in my obsessive Anglophilia.

November 24, 2008 at 7:15 AM

So beautiful! Now I can see why you are the published author you are! :)

November 24, 2008 at 8:17 AM

You girls make me blush! But I love it!

November 24, 2008 at 12:05 PM

What a beautifuly post, Heidi!

I can't wait for my first visit.

November 25, 2008 at 2:24 PM

What a wonderful thing to be forever grateful for a dream come true.

November 25, 2008 at 8:08 PM

Wow. What a beautiful story. Sometimes we get to have those moments. Moments when the love of God shines through.

November 29, 2008 at 6:58 AM

Thanks Kim, N. and Eowyn!

November 29, 2008 at 9:59 AM

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