Seeing in 4-D


Recently I have been researching my family tree. Well, ‘researching’ isn’t quite the right word. I have been going from website to website, copying what other people have found out and then trying to verify that as best I can by looking at public records on the internet. Not once did I leave my computer chair so maybe ‘research’ is too grand a term.

Anyway, after so much ‘research’ I went for a long walk in the country. Although I was taking in the scenery in an absent-minded kind of way, part of my mind was still on all the Annies and the Constances, the Reginalds and the Claudes that I had been reading about for the past few hours. I found myself imagining the lives of poor Victorian families in Islington and Kent, where the two sides of my family come from, and their joy or exasperation at having yet another child. One of the Islington lot, a third great-grandfather who had recently arrived from Ireland, probably during the potato famine of 1845 – 1852, had 12 children! I imagined the little children with dirty, snotty faces, and years later the girls going to school in their petticoats. Then around age 21 they get married to a boy from the same village or the same part of town. A year later they have their first of several children. With these thoughts intermittently breaking into the scenery I continued my walk.

Soon I reached the natural park (top picture) that I always make for with its deer and reservoir and ancient rocks that stick through the grassy hillsides. Then it started to rain. There was hardly anyone else around, just me, the old rocks, the reservoir and the windswept hillsides.

And for no reason at all I felt very good. I don’t know whether it was because I had been thinking so much about the past, but the dimension of time seemed to be included in what I was seeing. Rather than it being the usual flat cardboard cut-out world that my mind usually reduces my environment to, I was seeing in 4-D!

The wind was blowing the grass and roughing up the surface of the water and with the rain falling on the undulating hills, there was a sense of depth in the landscape. I felt more in the scenery than on it, as I usually do.

But the sense of time was also strong. I knew the rocks were millions of years old and that the lake had been there for a long time. Even most of the trees are from Medieval times. I also knew that this place had once been a volcano and it still, very occasionally, gives off tiny rumblings.

I walked through the park and imagined the worms moving beneath the sodden grass. Birds were flying in what I imagined to be the direction of home (who doesn’t head for home when it’s raining?) and I was aware, not of a static landscape, which is how I usually see things, but of everything being in flux, of things being in perpetual motion.

It’s hard to describe the feeling but it was like everything had suddenly acquired a bit more meaning, as though a piece of a puzzle had clicked into place. I felt strangely at home and in no hurry to be anywhere other than where I was, despite the rain.

And now, in thinking about it, the overriding sense was one of drama. Something in the conditions and my own mood came together to create a few dramatic minutes in my head.

Of course, it didn’t last long and I don’t want to exaggerate the feeling. It was no revelation, no mystical experience. It was simply that my perception of the world was just a little ‘fuller’ than it usually is. Whether I could reproduce this feeling at will in some other setting I very much doubt. It certainly hasn’t occurred again since that day.


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