A sense of place…
Like most words, the more you say or write the word “place” the odder it seems… apparently its roots are in Old French and Latin meaning “open space” or “broad way”. But place itself is so much more than a word – it is a powerful mixture of past and present, of memory and association, of experience and possibility.
Last weekend Andrew and I were invited to return to a place which has been part of my life for as long as I can remember (so that’s more than half a century). My sister and her husband organised a wonderful family get-together in the tiny hamlet of Arthog on the Mawddach Estuary – a long way from Glasgow, but well worth the journey. We travelled to the request stop railway station at Morfa Mawddach, enjoying the relaxation of a train journey, in part along the beautiful sunlit coastline of Wales.
Our stop was just before the train crossed the iconic railway bridge which links the rural tranquility of Arthog with the razzmatazz of Barmouth and which provides such a photogenic feature in the landscape.
Over the weekend we did a fair bit of walking, a great deal of eating, a considerable amount of talking (much of that around a fire-pit within yards of the ebbing and flowing tide in the evenings) but perhaps, most of all, we did a lot of remembering. The place is strongly associated with our parents – who first met 65 years ago at the Methodist Guild Holiday House “Mount Argus” in Barmouth – so there were many stories of their exploits in the area. On one occasion in the 1980s, Dad and I drove to a nearby shop for milk and bread – we were listening to the Test Match on the radio at the time and, so excited was he by the game that he managed to reverse into the only other car in the shop’s car park!
Sometimes words from the bible spring to life, and those few days in such a special place really did “restore my soul” as the psalmist describes an experience of place in Psalm 23:3. While I have been writing this, Catherine has sent me another photograph of the estuary in the beauty of Saturday’s dawn and I am hoping she won’t mind me sharing that too – and shedding some of the light of Arthog abroad.
It wasn’t easy to get back on that little train at the end of our time away, but there is something about a special place which always travels with you.
I wonder where your “Arthog” is? Jill