Today is one of those days when I feel like taking a walk in a beautiful faraway place. Maybe it’s just because I can’t! The Stay-home directive resulting from the current Coronavirus crisis is hard on a lot of us with wanderlust. Are you like me — dreaming about your next trip?
In the meantime, we can look back on past trips when we could wander along a path in the middle of a summer’s day and explore the evolving view. On July 4, 2018 I was walking alone along the River Wear in Durham, England. I would have preferred to have a friend along, but my husband was working that day.
I came to this spot along the river where the afternoon sun lit Durham Cathedral up on the bluff as well as what appeared to be the mill house, which reflected in the river. The leafy trees near me even framed my image, and the clouds fell right into place as well. Today, nearly two years later, in May 2020, I’m channeling the peace and beauty of this day.
It’s early September, and school starts a new academic year. Does your school look like Hogwarts? This sunlit cloister of Durham Cathedral in England looks a lot like Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.
Rendered here in a sepia-toned, black and white photograph, we can appreciate the sunlight and shadows of the Norman architecture. I recall similar architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia.
When you compare the meaning of “sanctuary” in 12 c. England to 21 c. America, you might wonder about 21 century America under President Donald Trump. This year migrants are cross the American border from Mexico, seeking sanctuary from unsafe conditions, and are met with incarceration and separation from their children. Many of us Americans oppose this policy and wonder what has become of American values, in particularly freedom, individual rights and the pursuit of happiness. With these current events in mind, I was particularly touched by the mercy demonstrated in this tidbit of history from Durham Cathedral.
In 12th century England, criminals could seek sanctuary in Durham Cathedral by knocking on this bronze knocker and hanging on to it until they were admitted. “Fugitives were given 37 days to organize their affairs. They had to decide with to stand trial or to leave the country by the nearest port.” (Quote from a sign on the Cathedral wall.)
Please note, the Cathedral provided sanctuary to criminals, not migrants, but the concept of sanctuary and mercy is cause for reflection.