I particularly thought of England today for two reasons. The first is that when the weather is good, I drive through the countryside to get to church, which is about 15 minutes north of my house. There is one spot on the drive where the Little Spokane River looks a lot like a spot my study group hiked to in Wales. Here's a photo from the hike:
There is also a walking trail down to the Little Spokane River about a mile from my house. I walked to the river on the trail this afternoon. There's something about the rushing water and the leaf mold smell and the fresh, clean air of the trail that brings beautiful memories to the forefront of my mind: memories of my grandpa's farm and the Columbia River Gorge and the walks I took in England in the Cotswolds and the Lake District. I think these places are the building blocks of many of my most poignant memories of creation's beauty.
When I was shielding my eyes from the bright sun and looking out over the river and the marshes and trees this afternoon, I identified the emotion I was feeling. Sehnsucht. C.S. Lewis is known particularly for his use of this word. Sehnsucht at its essence means a yearning or longing for beauty and goodness that cannot be satisfied through human experience. Lewis uses the term sehnsucht as an anchor for his autobiography Surprised by Joy, pointing to instances throughout his life in which he encountered beauty that left him longing for more. At the river today, I realized that God uses Sehnsucht for the purpose of drawing us to the end of ourselves. When we yearn for beauty beyond what we see and experience on earth (the nagging Sehnsucht), we realize that it is the beautiful reality of the Trinity--Living God, Word-Made-Flesh, Life-Giving Spirit--for which we ultimately long.
The second reason for thinking of England today (by now you've likely forgotten there was a second point!) is that I made Cornish pasties (pass-tees) for dinner from an English cookbook called River Cottage Every Day. River Cottage is also the name of an English cooking show I watch on YouTube. When I tell people this, they usually make a strange face and say something like "Why would you want to watch an English cooking show?" Whatever your stereotype of English food is, the Cornish pasty is a tradition that's worth keeping. River Cottage Every Day has recipes for three pasties, so I made the vegetarian filling with lentils and butternut squash (and a little too much mustard, but oh well). They looked so lovely and authentic that I had to take some photos:
Like a pasty, you got all the "meat" of this blog in the middle. I'm sure that you, too, have experiences both of beauty and of Sehnsucht. As always, I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments section, over e-mail (even better), or in person (best!). May the beauty of this life always draw us into the beauty of God and may we be especially aware of beauty as signs of spring begin to emerge!