This past weekend I got to go rock climbing in the Peak District of the UK. It’s about four hours north of where I am studying and I cannot point it out on a map. It was beautiful. English countryside. Green. Streams. Forest. Villages with cemeteries and cobblestone and castles and cathedrals all overgrown with Ivy. Having read so much about these places, it was like visiting home. It was nostalgic almost. But boy’o was I surprised when an authentic image from my past slipped in an obscure way and invited a new friend of mine which i would like call nonsense tears.
Our little mini-bus rattled around the long bends of the rolling English countryside. We weren’t exactly overlapping one another in the seats like a crowded elevator but we weren’t comfortable either. Our gear was crammed in every corner and brimming from places that forced our elbows, knees, and necks to cock in awkward directions. The window was bearing the weight of my upper body, my forehead glued against it and with each turn it refused to peel away while the rest of me twisted and swayed.
Dusk was walking up into the saddles of the hills and brushing pink and orange shades onto the soft underbellies of the low hanging clouds. The long stretch of the pasture was deep green where the sun could no longer reach down and touch it and as the shadow grew thin along the rising slopes the emerald color underwent alchemy until it transformed entirely where the sun bathed the wet hilltops in golden light. The sheep dotted the fairway like little puffs of white lint. I was gathered up into a sense of nostalgia for a time I never knew. For the nomadic life that lived inside of me but that I had never lived.
I stared for a long time, glancing occasionally downward at the rapidly passing road directly beneath the tires and then looking back up at the hills far away that never seemed to get closer or farther as we sped along.
After a while the white specks struck me in more queer way than they had before. They looked like golf balls fallen all over the special soft grass of a driving golf course. The pangs for some past felt justified. This classically depicted pastoral image connected oddly to my childhood in this parallel vision of Golfer’s Paradise, one of several places where my dad gave golf lessons when I was a kid.
In the non-privacy of the car full of people I had just met two days ago, I eased the smile out onto my face quietly and bayed back the chuckles trying to tickle their way out of my throat.
This massive driving range of God’s woolen creation displayed before me only exaggerated the most curious thoughts. God, pants hiked up like knickers and topped with a cabby hat, was bent over a mat of synthetic grass and a rubber tee gripping a great celestial golf club engulfed by a glittering green light that curled and danced like fire but did not consume. He hurled back the club and swung it round, rocketing off shots into the lightless void where they slowed and finally hung weightless against a black backdrop. I watched him knocking off home runs with flaring tails, sending them out like tracer rounds. I never blinked.
My smile was wide. Tears broke upon my eyebrims. I checked the reflection of the window. Everyone was asleep. If anyone asked why I was crying I’d have told them I just forgot to blink for too long and my eyes got a little wet. Like when you get sand in your eyes. Or cold wind. Or get bumped on the nose.
But maybe the difference between those moments and moments like these is the current of joy that is flowing through us that makes us say, “forget it, let them come.” Maybe these are nonsense tears. Maybe joy sometimes demands a good bump on the nose when we refuse to let it have its natural flow in us. I don’t know. It sounds like nonsense.
But so does God practicing his backswing to make sure the Big Dipper ends up in the right place. But it could happen. And I bet if it did it would leave a person with such a strange and uncomfortable smile that they would forget to blink and maybe even cry nonsense tears too.
I welcome your thoughts!