October 30th, 2012America the Beautifulby Joseph Pearce
In the light or darkness of the presidential election campaign, I have found much solace in the beauty of the American landscape. My travels over the past few weeks have taken me to Utah, where I had the opportunity to hike off-trail in the Rockies overlooking Ogden Canyon, and now to New Hampshire, where, in spite of the weather, I have been hiking round lakes and through autumnal woodland. In between, I climbed to Rainbow Falls in South Carolina, with my good friend, Father Dwight Longenecker, and cycled alongside the Reedy River from Greenville to Furman University, with my irrepressible four-year-old daughter babbling on excitedly from the saddle behind me. Life does not get much better than this!
Comparing the pristine joys of friendship and parenthood with the polluted politics of the election campaign, I am comforted by the knowledge that the joy will outlive the politics. It is deeper and it is ultimately more real. Similarly the permanence, beauty and majesty of the American landscape will outlive the jaded and destructive ideologies that have laid a curse on the political life of the country. This was the ultimate reality to which Samuel Taylor Coleridge paid homage in his "Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni". It was also the ultimate reality to which I paid homage, in much more modest fashion, in a poem called "Sunset", in which I compared the beauty and splendour of the English landscape to the transience of British politics:
When Britain had an Empire
The sun would never set,
But the sun set over England
And Englishmen forget
That greater than the Empire
Are the rolling Yorkshire Moors
And more glorious the Dales
Than all the Empire's wars.