Distance lends enchantment

Green up close, bluer far away: distance changes how things look.  The Blue Ridge Mountains, western Virginia, July 2005

Green up close, blue far away: distance changes how things look.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, western Virginia, July 2005

‘Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
And robes the mountain in its azure hue.
Thomas Campbell

Time and memory don’t always improve the way things seem to us, but often they do.  As with the old saying about the weather, if you are unhappy today, wait a while. Although it may be hard to imagine, there will almost certainly come a time, probably fairly soon, when things appear at least a little bit better than they do right now.  And it’s even more likely that someday you will look back on these years of your life and feel better about them — either happy they are in the past, or happy for the good times they held, which you can see with more clarity from a distance.

One year ago today

Observing the effects


  1. True. I was thinking of those who take their own lives unable to stand trauma of a difficult moment. The situations would improve/change if they have the strength to wait for some more time. But we can’t predict how we may react during certain crises in our life.
    And the picture goes well with the point you have presented.

    • Thanks, Bindu! I think most people who take their own lives are experiencing a form of temporary insanity, where they are literally incapable of imagining the pain will ever stop. That’s why prevention is so important. We need to prepare ourselves for bad times before they hit us, by training ourselves to focus on what is possible. I think most any of us could be brought to that suicidal point under dire circumstances, so I am a great believer in cultivating the ability to talk back to negative thoughts and destructive moods. As you say, we can’t predict how we will react to any given crisis. So we need to stay strong. That includes staying healthy too – eat, sleep, exercise in ways that benefit body AND soul.

  2. Jack

    Not some but all of my great lessons in life have been born of pain. If that’s true, I suppose I should stop fearing the pain so much, for it “has been the admission price into a new life”. God forbid I must lose a loved one to see how deeply I loved, or to a lesser degree, a job to see the insignificance of the status attached to it. But both have happened to me and of course countless millions of others. Will I become embittered or grateful, humbled by the teaching and the Teacher?

    • Jack, that’s really the big question for all of us, isn’t it? Nobody gets out of this world without facing pain, and for most of us, the pain teaches us things we might not have wanted to learn. Yet very few people I know who have endured any sort of trauma, would choose to be the people they were before they had their eyes opened. If we are lucky, the lessons carry over to other situations so that we don’t have to keep enduring the same losses again and again before we start to “get it” about life. I have heard a quote attributed to Mother Teresa that goes something like this: “I know God will not send me anything I cannot handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” 🙂 But of course, her life tells us that she really didn’t wish that.

  3. Michael

    Comment on Upper Room site about Good Samaritans in Atlanta putting out a list of homes on internet that would take in stranded motorists. Southern hospitality in action. As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us all.”

    • My friend Ellis turned her lovely historic home into a rescue house during Katrina. People literally rode up to her porch in boats. She was on the highest ground in her little Mississippi town, so she at least had some rooms that weren’t impossible to live in. Come to think of it, she’s southern too. 🙂 YES we need to pray for everyone who is hit with these types of crises.

      • what a beautiful story! what town in mississippi? (i grew up in the delta but lived in natchez in the 1990’s…

        i loved the image of the blue ridge mtns.. when i was young, i attended a girl’s camp in those mtns.. tallulah falls/ga…


        • Z, Ellis (also an artist!) lives in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. She wrote an award-winning book about her experiences, and I’ve quoted from it on this blog. I grew up in Atlanta, so I heard a lot about Tallulah Falls, but I am not sure I ever went there. My brother lives about 60 miles west of there. North GA is beautiful, as is that entire range.

          • oh yes,she would definitely be an angel to hurricane refugees.. i had a b and b in ntz, and wmany hurricane people dashed to natchez to sit out the storms..

            camp chattooga.. i traveled there by train and it was the first time in my young life that sticker shock appalled me at the cost of food on the train!!!

            • I think a train ride would be a real adventure for a young person. I didn’t ride a train until after our children were born. I too got “sticker shock” about the food! However, when we got a family car (which included dining car meals) the food was delicious!

              Wow, owning a B & B in Natchez sounds like a dream. I have never been there, but I hope Jeff and I can someday drive the Natchez Trace (which begins not far from the little Tennessee town where Jeff was born) all the way down to Natchez. I just love driving on that parkway. It’s beautiful and so relaxing!

  4. LB

    As soon as I saw your photo, I knew that it was my own lovely Blue Ridge Mountains. Well, they’re not mine, but you know what I mean 🙂
    And you are so right … time and distance do change the memory or the story.

    • That’s the beautiful thing about these places; they do belong to us, and to all, but some of us hold them in our hearts in a special way if they are “home” to us. I think it’s so pretty the way you can see layers of color when you look out from the Parkway. I wonder how many miles the view extends? I’ve never been a biker, but I can see why that would be a fabulous place to ride!

  5. We first drove the blue ridge after we dropped Aaron off for school this year. I knew immediately why it was named The Blue Ridge. Distance gives those hills a blue cast. Coming from CO with Pikes Peak in the back ground I couldn’t think why people said they were blue until I went there. I hope you are right and that we can look back and be glad some things are over and done. I know I have plenty of days to look back on and be thankful I was able to live that. It was lovely to have some time with you last night. Thank you for coming. I love you.

    • Amy, I had such a great time last night and I hope Stephen’s ears weren’t sore when I left. I have to find that Dennis the Menace cartoon somewhere and frame it for you. I just love talking about books with you two, you have read circles around me, and I love the way you read the same book as each other so you can talk about it. Thanks for being there for us, in more ways than I can count. I love you too!

  6. Sheila

    Good Friday morning, Julia. We’re waking up in Bristol, Tn. this morning. Your photo depicts much of the gorgeous scenery that we enjoyed on our drive yesterday. I have shared that we visit Bill’s dad here, This is a very different visit. Bill’s brother called with the news that we needed to come, as Hospice had advised. Although, a gesture acknowledged he knew when we were by his side, we sensed a peace of body, mind and spirit. It really is a perfect merging into eternity, following a life well lived. We don’t know God’s plan, but we can trust it will be perfect. We’re so thankful to be here. Love,Sheila

    • Sheila, it is uncanny how our lives seem to have so many parallels. I am trying to come to terms with my parents’ declining health (especially Daddy’s) and I keep wishing I could be with them more often. I wake up thinking of them each morning and wondering how they previous night went for them. I will cling to your words “We don’t know God’s plan, but we can trust it will be perfect.” When I was home visiting Daddy and Mama last weekend, I kept telling Daddy “you can’t die, nobody but you will take care of Mama.” He took it in good humor but added, seriously, “My prayer every night is “Lord, I am ready for whatever you have in mind for me.” I told him anyone who can say that at his age is a true success. His words remind me of yours today. I will be thinking of you and Bill, his dad, and the rest of the family. Keep us posted. Thanks for walking this road with us.

  7. Perfect post as always Julia…I heartily agree. xo

    • Thank you! I know you can identify with what I’m saying here. I appreciate you being with us.

  8. I love how you’ve elaborated on this quote Julia. In context, I wouldn’t have thought about it that way, but how delightful that you have.
    I think I’ve told you before, I do take things rather to extremes. I’m pretty sure I get it from Dad’s DNA 😀 I do try to remember that things hardly ever are, as bad as they seem. In retrospect, it always turns out that way. The smallest things can make me REALLY happy and the flip side, the smallest things could make me REALLY sad. I’ll get wildly excited about seeing a squirrel run across the path and rush to watch him run up the tree and shriek with joy as he chirps at us from way up high. Goes like this: “Did you see him hon? There he is, see him?” as Jim catches up, HA. Flip side, I’ll get really sad about seeing a injured bird or just thinking about something important I’ve lost and can’t find and NEVER see again (only to turn up a day later). My feelings get hurt easily and I’ve been told I read too much into things, so I’m always trying to balance that.
    It’s can be tricky living life on your sleeve, Jim’s used to it but I’m certain I’ve caused a few raised eyebrows in public, LOL

    • I so identify with what you’ve written here. I’m very much the same way. It’s a wonderful but also difficult way to be. All those years I was heartbroken every time I saw a stray animal needing a home, I could scarcely have guessed how painful it would one day be to watch a beloved son struggle on a daily basis with disabilities and the resulting loneliness and isolation. However, on the flip side, what a joy he is! What joys so many other things are! In college my roommate Kathy and I were often laughed at for “getting so excited over nothing.” Yet we had lives that were arguably more exciting than most, owing mostly to our having free airline travel, and I always thought maybe that was somehow a result of our enjoying everything so much that it just kept coming, if that makes sense? Sort of a sowing and reaping effect, I guess. But I think we were ridiculed because some people find the joy of others to be a threatening thing, provoking jealousy and suspicion from people who don’t understand where all that elation comes from. I’m reminded of Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” which has some lines you may have heard before:
      “…She had/A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,/Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er/She looked on, and her looks went everywhere…” 🙂 Browning’s ominous explanation of the poem, and the narrator’s ultimate way of controlling the Duchess, make it a bit creepy, but I still love the way the Duchess is described. It might be an up-and-down way to live, but I don’t think I’d want to be colder or more insensitive. As I see it, there are way too many people who have hearts “not soon enough made glad.” That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

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