The road ahead – 4 January 2021
As the viewer you stand at the top of a hill, looking down on a road that winds its way into the distance, disappearing in the flat lands ahead. The road is steep, the bends severe. On either side of road there is dense woodland or ploughed fields. The land is ready and prepared for something new, but the time is not yet. The countryside becomes more indistinct the further into the distance, the road cannot be seen and no possible destination is clear. On the far horizon on the right there is a church, sitting like a ship in the wolds. This could be simply a visual landmark, an irrelevance of the past, or it could turn out to be something more.
Here is a picture for the beginning of an uncertain year, where our road and destination are unclear. The bright, vibrant colours suggest possibilities, but nothing is certain. The descent from the hill will be swift and a little scary, it will be some time before reaching the more peaceful land in the distance.
The picture is Garrowby Hill (1998), by David Hockney (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA). Hockney painted this picture from memory after a visit to his mother, and to see a terminally ill friend. This is one of a series of paintings of East Yorkshire. The large church in the distance is Beverley Minster.
I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on unfamiliar paths. I will turn darkness into light before them and rough places into level ground. These things I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.
This world is not conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond,
Invisible, as music,
But positive, as sound.
It beckons and it baffles;
Philosophies don’t know
And though a riddle, at the last,
Sagacity must go.
To guess it puzzles scholars;
To gain it, men have shown
Contempt of generations,
And crucifixion known.
Emily Dickinson, LXXXIII
O God, by whose command
the order of time runs its course:
forgive our impatience, perfect our faith
and, while we wait for the fulfilment of your promises,
grant us to have a good hope because of your word;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Common Worship, Collect of New Year