David Russell Mosley
6 July 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
Several times a year I find myself longing to be back in England. It was easier last year because I knew I was going back for my
Viva. Now, however, I have no idea when I’ll make my way back to the island of my ancestors. Different things trigger this longing. Sometimes it will be seeing pictures from our time there on my Facebook feed. Other times it will be when I reflect on the rather abysmal state of places to get a good pint of beer within walking distance. Or really just anything being within walking distance. And sidewalks, just, you know, existing. I miss taking tea with friends at 10:30 and 3:00 or just at any time, day or night. I miss my local pub and its wonderful outdoor area where colleagues and I would drink, smoke pipes, and read papers to one another.
I miss sitting in my garden and writing or reading while I watched my vegetables grow. I just miss it. But here’s the thing, I can never go back.
I don’t mean I can never go back to England. Money is really the only obstacle there. I mean I cannot back to how things were when we lived there. I was a PhD student; now I’m not. My children were not born yet; now they are. Life for me and for England have changed. I cannot go back to how things were. C. S. Lewis gets at this when he talks about his search for Joy in his autobiography. Chasing after my memory of England can only tarnish it, it cannot bring the joy it once did. Even trying to re-create that memory as it was then would not give the same Joy it once did. Chasing after the sources of Joy, even chasing after the experience of Joy itself is ultimately wrongLewis notes at the end of Surprised by Joy that he no longer experiences Joy as much as he used.
He doesn’t see this as a bad thing. Instead, it means that he is working his way toward the Patria. The Fatherland, that is, our true home with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You see, my longing for England isn’t really about England, not most of the time. England was a lovely place to live and I’d happily live there again, but it is far from perfect. My longing is ultimately about what England reminds me of. It is because I had visions of what Lewis might call, the real England, the one in Aslan’s country, that I loved the shadow-England. It is because what I really long for is to be home and I won’t be home until Christ returns to make all things new.