Holy Land


I was only just thinking that the world needs a few more like John Muir, Edward Abbey, Dian Fossey and Ansell Adams right now when I saw a quote from John Muir, talking about the word ‘saunter’. He said, in part, ‘away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers.’

Every word has travelled its own journey through history and some echo deep in our ancestral memory. I’d always loved the story behind the word, long before I knew it was called etymology. A word like ‘Holy’ probably goes way back before written history because it begins with one of the fundamental sounds we create; let out a breath, tap the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and you’ve made it.

I’ve known a few holy moments this year and they always seem to be in the swirling water at lands edge, in the rapidly changing light of dawn or dusk. It feels to me that we are all multiple personalities in this world as life tends to splinter us; but the power of nature, just resting your eyes on a landscape, to make us whole again, never seems to fail. ‘Holy land’ indeed.

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