I have been reading “Surprised by Joy” by C.S. Lewis – in fact took it to Mt. Rainier with me, but never got around to finishing it there. It has its rather dull moments, where Lewis talks about little instances of his life that are not necessarily fascinating or written in a fascinating way. As he grows older in the memoir, however, the book has become increasingly better. He was talking about the view of the Ireland hills and mountains he enjoyed as he walked, and wrote the following words after he had described the fielded hills spotted with white homes and white, winding roads. I enjoyed it so I thought I would share the words with you.

First, here is his marvelous description of the landscape:

Now step a little way – only two fields and a cross a lane and up to the top of the bank on the far side – and you will see, looking south with a little east in it, a different world. And having seen it, blame me if you can for being a romantic. For here is the thing itself, utterly irresistible, the way to the world’s end, the land of longing, the breaking and blessing of hearts. You are looking across what may be called, in a certain sense, the plain of Down, and seeing beyond it the Mourne Mountains…
Here is the recipe for imagining it. Take a number of medium sized potatoes and lay them down (one layer of them only) in a flat-bottomed tin basin. Now shake loose earth over them till the potatoes themselves, but not the shape of them, is hidden; and of course the crevices between them will now be depressions of earth. Now magnify the whole thing till those crevices are large enough to conceal each its stream and its huddle of trees. And then, for colouring, change your brown earth into the chequered pattern of fields, always small fields (a couple of acres each), with all their normal variety of crop, grass, and plough.
You have now got a picture of the ‘plain’ of Down, which is a plain only in this sense that if you were a very large giant you would regard it as level but very ill to walk on – like cobbles. And now remember that every cottage is white. The whole expanse laughs with these little white dots; it is like nothing so much as the assembly of white foam caps when a fresh breeze is on a summer sea. And the roads are white too; there is no tarmac yet. And because the whole country is a turbulent demo-crazy of little hills, these roads shoot in every direction, disappearing and reappearing.
But you must not spread over this landscape your hard English sunlight; make it paler, make it softer, blur the edges of the white cumuli, cover it with watery gleams, deepening it, making all unsubstantial. And beyond all this, so remote that they seem fantastically abrupt at the very limit of your vision, imagine the mountains. They are no stragglers. They are steep and compact and pointed and toothed and jagged. They seem to have nothing to do with the little hills and cottages that divide you from them. And sometimes they are blue, sometimes violet; but quite often they look transparent – as if huge sheets of gauze had been cut into mountainous shapes and hung up there, so that you could see through them the light of the invisible sea at their backs.

And here are his following words:

I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. This meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me.

I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.”

The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten.

Of course if a man hates apace and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.

*Chuckles*

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