The Road Goes Ever On-Tolkien and the Berkeley Hills Trails


The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.”

~ J. R. R. Tolkien

When hiking in the Berkeley Hills, I often think of this poem from The Lord of the Rings. In some places, I half expect to see a Hobbit or Ranger trampling along the trail. (Click images for larger version.)

The Road Goes Ever On

In other dark places, I wonder if a Ring Wraith might not be lurking behind some tree or rock.

Ring Wraith Moon

And in some, I can almost feel the presence of the Elves, the beauty of the trees, light, and sky is so breath-taking.

Elven Skies

It was my happy privilege to read The Lord of the Rings while stationed in the Army in Augsburg, Germany. The trilogy was transformative for me, because somehow, reading it gave me back the “magic” of nature, the wonder of it. I’d somehow lost this feeling over the years through a combination of materialistic reductionism and a starkly dualistic religion that made this world at best a counterfeit of some abstract glorious realm that transcended material life.

As the wonders of the Tolkien’s story-telling unfolded, I felt my heart open up again to the beauty of nature all around me. In the incredible beauty of Black Forest trails, I was in Middle-Earth!

Bavarian Road

The charm of Bavaria, the rustic houses and even the dress of the people you’d meet on the trails, all lent themselves to the feel you’d stepped into a fairy tale. I can only image that the Cotswolds of England could more feel like Middle-Earth in the look and atmosphere.

I often marveled at this transformation of my heart. Yes, the story was beautiful, and wondrous, but why did it change my perception of nature so much?

Then, sometime later, I read Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” and everything made sense.

What happened to me was what happened to Tolkien himself, though the “magic” of words: “It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of the words, and the wonder of things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.”

It was the wonder of the “mundane”—of stone, wood, tree, and grass, and the simple pleasures of food and true companions—that Tolkien’s story gave back to me, and it has never left. Genuine presence, being here and now, is “fairy,” is “magic.” It does transform everything into “Middle-Earth”—or the Pure Lands of Buddhism or the kingdom of heaven of Christianity and Islam.

As Tolkien says so beautifully:

“Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faerie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”

jan@messersmith.nameMadang Sunrise – Jan Messersmith♥♥♥


4 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Beauty of the Berkeley Hills-Part 1 « Berkeley, Naturally!

  2. Pingback: They are the Lady(bugs) of the Canyon « Berkeley, Naturally!

  3. Delightful!

    You have your layout working for you. I like the images down the left with the text on the right. Now I’m jealous. My space is too narrow for that.

    Not really (jealous). But, sometimes I see things on other blogs and I wish that I could do them. It really shows how important it is to get the right theme in the beginning. By the time you have a few hundred posts, it’s impossible to change themes without a lot of fussy detail work.

    Question: what browser are you using? I note the the sunset image spills out of the column with Firefox. I note that it does the same thing in IE. Is resizing the thumbnail the answer?

    You might want to consider a caching plugin. It will make your site load a lot faster.

    Your’e on a roll, man. Keep on bloggin’.

    • Thanks, Jan! Coming from a pro like you, that means a lot!

      I have to confess beginner’s luck on a lot of this. The theme I got for the Berkeley blog, called Vigilance, I chose initially because it showed up your wonderful images so well as a header! I just liked the spaciousness of it. It’s just fortuitous that it’s working out well down the line. (I did try some other themes before Vigilance, which had a smaller text area, and now, I’m sure glad I didn’t choose them.)

      As for the images down the left, I confess that I did that by accident this time, and am not quite sure how I did it! Seriously! (What a rookie!) I think it was by selecting the options to have the images align left– I think that forced the text right, but I won’t know for sure until the next time.

      Having tried changing the layouts of the blogs to different themes a few times, I have a glimpse of what you mean by how much “fussy detail work” would be involved if you have hundreds of posts. That is one nice thing about the “dot com” version of WordPress….you may not have a zillion choices but changing themes is a mouse-click away, and you can actually preview your site with each one before you activate, which is cool.

      Yeah, your gorgeous image spills out on my browsers too….the problem is, with the options I have, you either have a dinky place-holder image, which doesn’t lead to a climatic final inline image, or else you get something that spills over. I went back and forth between the two options, and I decided to go with the larger one, even with the slight spillover, because to me it just looks better. Maybe I could get into the HTML and dink around a bit and see if I could shrink the placeholder image settings. But, I really didn’t like the small image at the end. For some reason, it came out smaller than all the place-holder images before it. Your image is too magnificent, and I didn’t want it to be smaller than all other inline images.

      I don’t know that there is a caching plug-in for the dot com version. In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t but I’ll look into it. You have great caching on your site, because your honkin’ big images load really quickly on my machine.

      Thanks again for your encouragement. Your site was the one that opened my eyes up to the possibilities, and your support has been wonderful.

      Thanks, mate!

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