Maggi’s description of the fens, and the skies above them, reminded me of my first visit to Norfolk. Amazed by the flatness of it all, I exclaimed “look! you can see as far as you can see!” (and have been much-mocked for it ever since). It was the wideness of the horizons that most struck me.
I’m not sure that sort of flat landscape is quite what Isaiah means when he talks about valleys being exalted and hills laid low. But the wide open skies which draw the attention upwards can perhaps tell us something about what he’s getting at. Just as the exceptionally flat landscape draws out attention up to the wide sky, so Isaiah’s imagery draws our attention up and away from the stuff of everyday life, to the things of God’s kingdom.
Another parallel is in the wideness and openness of a flat landscape. God’s kingdom too, as described by Isaiah, is wide and open, ready to include everyone. And in this passage (Isaiah 40.1-5,9-11) we see the widest possible portrait of God’s character: ruler and shepherd, righteous judge and loving carer. We may feel more drawn to one aspect or other of that description, but we need to know that full breadth of God’s character, to make sense of the breadth of our own experience of God and of life.