My sister reminded me this week of some of the places we have travelled together over the years. So in thinking about where I’d love to be spending time this Monday, I decided to reflect on a place we visited together ten years ago. Salisbury in the UK is well known for two of its stone structures: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. It is also home to the site of Old Sarum, a settlement dating back some 5,000 years. We were particularly excited to stumble upon this site, as we both read the book Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd while in high school after it was recommended by our beloved Pa. It remains on my list of favourite reads. With the areas around Salisbury as its setting, the novel tells the history of those who lived there from ancient to modern times, bringing this place to life.
What did I love about Salisbury?
I love the lush green beauty of the English countryside, even on a grey day!
The river with its swans was particularly picturesque.
I loved seeing the remains of the ancient site (Sarum) …
… as well as its view towards the more ‘modern’ (but still quaint) town (Salisbury).
What did I learn from Salisbury?
Salisbury is full of beautiful spaces. But it also makes me think about the difference between space and place. Space, to my mind, is the more abstract concept of physical location generally. Place, a subset of space, is that which has been named and given significance and meaning. Place matters because of what has happened in that particular space. And so while I loved the beautiful spaces around Salisbury, it is the significance of its places that has me remembering and pondering it today.
Stonehenge is a place, one that obviously had meaning and significance to those who established it, even though we still can’t seem to figure out exactly what!
Sarum is a place, one that has significance because of how early and how long it has been settled.
Salisbury Cathedral is a place, one that has a 750 year history of worship and reverence for the people of God.
And Salisbury, for me, is a place, because of the time I shared there with my sister. We laughed together over our visit to Woodhenge, a place far less popular with tourists than its rock-hewn cousin. (Note to ancient monument builders, if you to be well-remembered, try to build with materials that last!)
And we cried together in Salisbury Cathedral, as we prayed for some of the difficult situations in life we were experiencing at the time.
And its that experience that perhaps even makes Salisbury a sacred place for me – a place where my sister and I met together in the presence of our God and knew His mercy and love upon us. I believe that can happen anywhere, and everywhere. But I also know that sometimes it is important to mark out that kind of place, to place a physical or metaphorical stone of remembrance there (a common practice throughout the Old Testament), so that we don’t forget. And I think that is really why I’m remembering Salisbury today.