Dartmoor National Park is Hound of the Baskerville territory.
Case in point.
The trip was incredibly exhausting (we were hiking up and down actual hills for miles), but also incredibly rewarding. We hiked through quintessential England--like, what you think of when you think of England: rolling green hills, a brilliant British sky, and farmhouses dotting the fields.
[The hills are alive, baby.]
[Love this woman.]
[Also, there were ponies. PONIES!]
[Did I mention that we had lunch on a bench in an idyllic English churchyard?]
We stayed the night at a English farmhouse (in Dartmoor) in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. It was the dead. middle. of. nowhere. Which meant that we lived for the wood-burning stove. And our dreams were filled with visions of full English breakfasts dancing through our heads. It also meant that I ended up curled up in my bed in a fetal position since I was so cold.
[The English farm house. Perfection.]
[Yeah. Yeah, that is what I look like after miles of hiking and then coming home to a cold bed. "Can we be life-flighted out of here?"]
[Now this is a breakfast.]
Briana and I also had a chance to walk through moonlit fields on our way to find dinner at a cosy pub. Words don't do justice to how beautifully eerie and hauntingly sublime that walk was, as an orange moon rose about the hilly moors of Dartmoor, illuminating the path in front of us. It was just--wow. It was beautiful. It reminded me of something out of a mystery novel. As Briana said, "I am living every book about England I have ever read."
We found the pub, where we met a friend. There was a cat sleeping on the seat next to us. The bartender said her name was Mittens, but we knew better. Her name is really Lady Henrietta of the Moors. She pretends to be a dog and is all friendly, but in reality, all she wants is the cream from your ice cream.
[Briana and Lady Henrietta.]
[Lady Henrietta is not amused.]
[Staring down that cream.]
All in all, amazing trip. One that I am really glad that I went on (so thanks for inviting me, Miss Briana).
And, like all good trips, it reminded me of literature. Not only Sherlock Holmes, but of a favorite poem of mine by T.S. Eliot called "Little Gidding," particularly the first part:
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?
If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city--
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.
Honestly, I haven't been able to find another poem yet to match how I feel about midwinter spring in England. And for the trip to Dartmoor? This poem describes the feelings of that trip perfectly.
. . . this is the spring time, but not in time's covenant . . .
. . . and what you thought you came for is only a shell, a husk of meaning from which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled if at all . . .
. . . You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid . . .
. . . there are other places which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws, or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city--but this is the nearest, in place and time, now and in England . . . here the intersection of the timeless moment is England and nowhere. Never and always.