History is something that is easy to appreciate through books and films. History is something you can feel and be a part of, but it really means nothing until you have actually watched through it. There is some history in Canada, but when you see it in the context of the world, Canada’s history is yesterday.
That much was clear as I gazed across the empty churchyard. A wet salty breeze blew in from the Bristol Channel whipping my coat into a frenzy. The church, St. Andrew’s, was over 500 years older than Canada. That was history and you could see it in each weathered brick, and in the gentle northward lean of the tower. Of course history was also written in the gravestones and markers scattered through the grounds.
Seeing something that old, something that has continued to stand the test of time, really helps put things into perspective.
I snapped a few quick photos, seeking the right angles and lighting to create just the right keepsake. The dull roar of traffic passing by on the other side of the stone wall was a strange incongruence compared to the tranquility that radiated from the building.
Standing where I was, I suddenly felt impossibly young and naive. Next to this historic edifice I had seen nothing and learned nothing. I was but a blink of an eye.
A rustle in the hedgerow caught my ear just then and I jumped, startled back into the present. There was something under there, probably a squirrel, or maybe a badger. It would be cool to see a badger.
I crouched down to peer under the low hanging cedar branches and noticed a hint of yellow. It was tainted, streaked in dirt and not at all like bright yellow sunshine, which was probably a fitting compliment to the dull grey weather of southwestern England.
The mound moved suddenly, a slow roll towards the yard and I jumped backwards as a haggard face revealed itself. A tangled matt of greasy hair framed a pair of sad eyes and the scruffy beard parted to reveal a mouth full of crooked, dirty teeth.
“Whadda ye want?” the man grumbled as he extended a filthy hand for leverage and started angling towards his feet. “Yer stompin’ ‘round has interrupted me slumber.”
My mouth flapped open and closed a few times but no words would come. Instead, I turned and ran.
It took me a few blocks to realize that I had reacted in a rather poor manner and I decided that like the church, that haggard man in the hedge had a history worth investigating as well. Resigned, I turned and set off back towards the church but when I arrived at the hedge, the man had vanished.
I hoped I would see him again one day. I hoped that I would be able to learn his story.