I’m at Oxford

Since starting this blog, I have generally tried to keep its contents different than what you might find in my journal. My journal mostly contains descriptions of what I do in a particular day in addition to anything that is particularly wearing on my mind. I try to only blog about something if I think that others will either find it interesting, helpful, or well-crafted. The more mundane things go on my Facebook.

But now I am studying in Oxford, with less access to Facebook and less desire to access Facebook. Instead, I will put up a new blog post now and then to keep those I promised I would keep informed informed.

After a looooooong summer of work I packed up everything in the flat I shared with two coworkers over the summer. Looking ahead, when I go back to Seattle in January I will not be living in the same place, so in addition to Oxford packing I had moving packing to do. I had to leave 6:30 am the next morning to catch my flight. As all of my possessions (including my burgeoning library) were being fit together into boxes like the dullest of all 3d block puzzles that someone inevitably gives you for Christmas, I began to lose it. Maddie and Meredith, two of my favorite ladies (and each wonderful poets), held me together until 1:00 am, when the packing was finished. We crammed my luggage into Maddie’s car and drove to Beth’s Diner for a late night breakfast.

Nothing revives like Beth’s.

I got three hours of sleep that night and one hour the next night on my flight to Heathrow from JFK (having flown there from Seattle). I landed in London at 7:30 am, cleared immigration, and hopped aboard an Oxford-bound bus with several other people I recognized from Facebook. I am here with Best Semester’s Scholars’ Semester in Oxford (SSO). I’m a scholar now, Ma.

Myself and two new friends checked in to Wycliffe Hall, our home for the next few months, before finding a pub to eat, drink, and be as merry as one may be after two and a half days with four hours of sleep. Over the past few days, other students and I have journeyed numerous times into the heart of Oxford for books, groceries, tours, and meals. Those trips occur when we weren’t in some sort of orientation for the programme.

We will soon be falling into a regular schedule of classes. Until the Oxford term starts in about five weeks, we will be taking a class called British Landscapes. It is basically an English history and culture class, from what I understand. It may be taken with specific focuses on various disciplines. We will also begin the Seminar class on a discipline of our choosing that. We will meet with a professor once a week as a group until Oxford term starts. After that, we will attend 16 lectures and write a research paper on a topic of our choosing within the selected discipline. For both the Seminar and British Landscape class I chose Art History. A better understanding of art will enrich my understanding of history and increase the areas I can write about. Plus, it gives me an excuse to go to all of the wonderful museums here.

When the Oxford Michelmas term starts, I will be diving into Shakespeare with my primary tutorial. It’s nice because I have one book for that class: William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ha. I won’t read all of it, but I’ll make a good dent. My secondary tutorial will be on Modern Literature. For the purpose of this class, ‘modern’ means 20th century. The authors I’ll read are Waugh, Woolf, Elliot, and Plath.

There it is, a basic summary of my time at Oxford so far. And now, off to bed.

ebb and flow

A year ago around this time I wrote a little summary of my life so far.  I posted it on my tumblr account, which I have since deleted.  I’d like to write about my previous year at Seattle Pacific and my hopes for next year.  This is a little exposition.

He woke up for the first time, covered in goop, and opened his eyes to bravely examine his surroundings.  “This will certainly do.”  He gave his thanks to the white-clad women and men surrounding him, took the hands of the people who brought him and walked out of the building with them to breath the cool air and climb into the yellow automobile awaiting the newcomer.

“It really is great of you to take me in like this,” he told the people in the front seat.  The woman looked back, gave the kind of smile where her eyes didn’t, and proclaimed, “He’s trying to talk!”

“Trying?” the little person hazarded his first question.  In response the woman just laughed and grabbed his left foot between her forefinger and thumb and shook it gently.  “Your sister will love you!” she said after a minute of this.

“This is going to be a long childhood,” the baby groaned inwardly.  He began to cry.

But it wasn’t a long childhood at all.  Before he could grasp the concept of a year, several had passed.  He could not only walk, but bounce and run and hop.  His parents, sister, and most other people could now understand his speech.  Music would float into his room on many days, and it was through music that he learned how to use his ears.  He listened, and — when ready — grabbed a few notes and tried them on.  They fit awkwardly, like the clothes his sister shoved him into sometimes and giggled so much at.

When he began to feel like he had a grasp on how to go about doing things, his world widened.  His parents, who he had trusted up to this point, brought him to an unfamiliar woman in an unfamiliar building and left him there.  He felt betrayed.

“This is going to be a terrible way to spend my time,” the toddler thought bitterly.  He began to cry.

But he realized this new place wasn’t as terrible as he thought it would be.  The others, for there were other small people who found themselves in the same place, they all seemed to be generally decent playmates.  He played and laughed with them for years, but also listened whenever the tall woman felt like saying something.  He counted, he read, he wrote.  But in the end he always went home to be with his parents and sister, who he discovered had already learned whatever he had.  Sometimes his sister poked fun at him, but she also helped him understand whatever happened.  He learned how to clumsily make music with an instrument instead of his voice.  His favorite thing was when his dad patiently played along.

When he began to feel at peace with these new rhythms, the song changed.  His house rejected his family, and he had to cut off the friendships he spent years building and prepare to find new ones.  His parents told him they were going on a grand adventure to a land surrounded by water, but he didn’t really care for this plan.  The choice wasn’t his.  So he packed everything up like the rest of them and got into the red van, which was awaiting the long voyage.

“Life is going to end,” the kid thought with the melodramatic certainty that can come easily to a small person facing a large change.  He began to cry, but felt stupid for it.

Of course, life continued after the three-day journey.  Their home had followed them in the move, even if it did take them some time to unpack it.  There was a new building here where he went to learn new things and build new friendships.  The music also followed them, so he used it to plug into new places.  He realized that his parents had known all along that he would like it there.  He shifted around and became comfortable and happy.

Time kindly slowed down so he could take his time living in it.  He matured a bit in this new home and began to grapple with faith.  He loved the church they attended and spent a good deal of time there.  It welcomed them as if they were family.

The years began to feel cyclical.   Music, laughter, family, church, sadness, love, school, all of them swirled him around in an intricate dance.   He learned from the rhythms of time and attempted to prepare himself for the next inevitable change.  He packed his bags calmly to let himself know that he could.  He said ‘goodbye’ to the big building and the teachers in it.  ‘Goodbye’ to his church.  ‘Goodbye’ to his friends.  ‘Goodbye’ to his home.

He woke up.  The day had come.  The only thing he was scared of was his own sense of readiness.  He hugged and thanked his parents, sent a kiss to his sister who had moved out before him, let a tear fall, and bravely boarded the grey plane that was awaiting him.

“This is going to be—“ the young man began.  But he thought better of it and decided to let time speak for itself.