It sometimes feels easier to be embraced by the simple beauty of nature in rural areas. Even if the ‘Rockies’ or Yr Wyddfa (Mt Snowdon in north Wales, in my rural neighbourhood) are some way off, a small copse here or there, wayside flowers or a tree branch shed in a storm and providing a much needed seat for me, affords a remembrance or connection with the Great Outdoors.
And yet I’m now in London (UK) for a while, in an area that hosts almost 200,000 people, where the ratio of people per street is phenomenally high compared to rural Wales. I love Capel Curig. And for other reasons I love this part of London: a borough which nestles alongside the River Thames; jam-packed with a kaleidoscope of awesome, diverse people; sporting a number of cafés – great places for avid book-readers, like me; and with a number of open, green spaces.
It sometimes feels like it takes more ‘work’, but perceiving nature in this place is possible – if only for the fact that nature itself really is ubiquitous, and we may, for the most part in urban areas, merely be unware of it.
‘The trees are God’s great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene.’ Leonora Speyer
Not far from where I live (when in London) is Parson’s Green – a small area of open space, triangular in shape – was it a plague pit in medieval times? And it has great, green open area, with high trees from another era, and two public houses (it used to be tree) at its edges. It is a most wonderful, magical area, busy but with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. Yet many miss its beauty in their rush to nearby Parson’s Green (London) Underground Station.
It is a magical area. A small oasis of beauty, a swathe of green in a sea of grey. A ‘garden’ of solitude surrounded by a cacophony of sound. And in the centre are its two tallest trees. I first saw them as a boy some years ago, and they are still as tall, if not taller, than ever. They are the ‘guardians’ of this place, nature’s sentinels, and some might say they are its senior dryads. I rarely pass that way without a slight head-nod of respect to them.
There is something so sure and dignified in a tree’s presence. The Celts had a refined sense of worthy wonder of trees. For them many trees were sacred. Near their holy wells there was often either an ash or oak tree.’ John O’Donohue
These two trees are giants.
And that’s interesting, the myths from different cultures about two giants. In Roman times the myth of Gog and Magog (which are names that appear in ancient text) was ‘imported’ to Britain and quickly became the ‘protectors’ of London. Even today a few old buildings in Central London sport effigies of Gog and Magog, and at the Lord Mayor’s annual procession it is usual to see larger-than-life effigies of them on vehicles in the procession. In Greek mythology the Aloadae were two giants who were presumptuous enough to attempt to storm the home of the gods by piling three mountains – Olympus, Ossa and Pelion on top of each other. Goram and Ghyston, too, are legendary giants in the folklore of the Bristol area. And, Fulham (this borough in question) had its own myth of two giant sisters who, it is said, built the churches on either side of the River Thames [see here].
‘Oh Trees, Trees, Trees…wake. Don’t you remember it? Don’t you remember me? Dryads and hamadryads, come out, come [out] to me.’ C S Lewis
Yes, these two tall trees amongst dozens of others, are giants, sentinels of Parson’s Green, in the heart of London.
And, for those who pause in their rush to and fro from home to the train station, and vice versa, the wildness of nature, the green-goodness, the magic of this place, even a dryad or two, it’s spiritual presence and giftedness-from-the-Source-of-All may be revealed to those who takes time, are aware, and pay their respects.
‘The groves were God’s first temples.’ William Cullen Bryant
If ever you have the opportunity to move through Parson’s Green, or indeed in some other urban area where nature reminds us of it’s presence, then temporarily forget about the busyness of the day and allow yourself to be transported into the realm of sacred space, sacred time, where the imaginal re-imposes itself and where Green-Spirit can embrace you in that ‘thin place’.
Something to do? If you’re in a built-up area, seek out a green space, find a tall tree, be aware, take time, be still, pause, and enjoy the view, the tree’s presence, and the One-Behind-It-All.
‘Only in the pauses between things, in the brief contemplative spaces of just being, can we catch a glimpse of love itself.’ Gerald G. May