12. Inner Landscape

by Romola Parish

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Commentary by the artist

Romola Parish writes:

There is a moment every Christian has experienced, which is when God touches them personally. It might be a soft, gentle, warm, comforting sense of knowing His presence, or blinding, overwhelming moment of His power or love. However it comes, it is unmistakable, profound and life-changing. 

The image here is of a rocky island or fortress in a rough sea. The top of the mountain has blown apart, as if a great earthquake has torn the rocks apart and the spring back, turned inside out, almost like wings. Inside, revealed by the splitting of the rocky crust is an abundant, fragrant garden and a dove. 

One interpretation is that the rocky seas represent the challenged the world presents to us; the rocky hill or fortress represents the protective barrier we erect to keep ourselves safe – the things we rely on, the defences we use to protect ourselves, and even the sin and resistance to God hardened into a carapace. The blowing apart of the rock is like the ‘Bright Field’ of R. S. Thomas’ poem, that instant when God touches you and suddenly all the things of the world cease to matter, you are above the raging sea of this world, all those protections, doubts, sin and resistance is blown away. Instead, God reveals to each one of us our beauty in His eyes, the image of Himself He has created in us, and at the heart of it, His enabling Spirit of love and peace.

An alternative interpretation might be that the rocky walls are the fortress, the strong tower of the Psalmist, within which the Christian is held safe from the storms of the world. We still experience the storm, but safe in His tower, we need not fear it. It is a place of green pastures and clear waters. He holds us safe in the eye of the storm, under the shadow of His wings. We need not fear the dangers of the world. 

In the first interpretation, the image depicts a moment; in the second, it depicts a continual state of being to which we aspire. It only takes a moment of God’s presence to change a life forever.

Vicar’s reflections

Andrew Bunch writes:

The embroidery “Inner Landscape” by Romola Parish indicates what the result can be as we become more aware of God’s presence with us. It is a disturbing experience. The solid structure of our life and the routine that we have built up over the years can start to seem rather precarious and fragile. We may be invited to shed some of our preconceptions and established routines which can be a very dis-orienting experience. The way we have lived our life is being called into question and we do not know and cannot predict how things are going to settle. So, our inner landscape is becoming more fragmented and thus more capable of change.

(John 4:8-30)