Day 30: Flowers in your hair
Today is about capturing the little moments happening on this big, big span of cliffs. Of individuals losing themselves in the grandeur of the sky, the sea, the space. Of getting lost and somehow still stumbling out of the forest and onto the main road (if it can even be called a main road) that leads back into town. Of lingering over thoughts of yesterday and beaming every time someone asks me to tell them the story. Of having so many dandelions and daisies in my hair that my allergies spring to life and I have to drop them along the path as I go.
We arrive in Bath and it’s bigger than I expected it to be.
Day 31: Take it easy
The Roman Baths are a little underwhelming at first. Dirty water, lots of tourists, audio guides, and–
Downstairs there are metal bridges leading through the ruins. My breath catches in my throat in the most cliche way necessary for a moment like this. Outside you can tread the same stones the Romans tread a little less than two thousand years ago. You can run your fingers over walls that still contain whispers of family feuds and girlish gossip.
Golden hour is longer here. The sun sets, oblivious to time, nuanced in all the ways it brushes our fingertips, the heads of grass, the invisible ticks that stay far away from our holy bodies. I drink it in with friends who are just as ready to channel angst into creative expression, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Day 32: Hush
Dr. Kriner reads bits of “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” to her son, lying in the grass beneath the old and crumbling archways that used to hold heavy wooden doors and stained glass windows.
The little ones play a rousing game of tag, dodging daisies and tourists and camera lenses.
The cows are called in from the pasture.
M and her mother clamber over the stone walls together and I’m blessed enough to witness those tender moments. I snap a few candid photographs for them to remember it by when teenage angst takes over M’s life and she forgets what it was like to run free as a child, to hold her mother’s hand and feel safe there.
In the center, a woman from the nearby town teaches a traditional Celtic line dance. I’m not sure if it detracts or adds to the holiness of the place. I like to think it adds: it adds joy, laughter, all those things that make God smile.
Day 33: Depressed again
Maybe that’s not the right way to say that. Depression doesn’t just go away. It’s always around, but sometimes it’s significantly lighter than other times. Last week in the countryside was the most alive I’ve felt in a long time. Now I’m stuck in the darkness again and it’s frustrating.
I don’t want to take anymore photographs. I don’t want to write.
I don’t want to be here but I don’t want to be anywhere else.
Day 34: First day of classes
Dr. Weber is talking and I’m not paying attention until he starts reading a psalm, and my ears tune back in when he says “how long, O Lord, how long?” He reminds us that God is with us in the darkness and despair. As the words leave his heart my entire body feels like it’s been turned to stone, and I begin to cry.
For the next two weeks we’ll be spending most of our time in class, reading (or pretending to), doing research, writing papers, and all-in-all just feeling like these are the last two weeks of the school year but in the middle of Oxford in the summertime.
Day 35: Tired
The security guard lets my friends into Blenheim Palace. I’m about to follow them after showing him my ticket, but he stops me by grabbing my shoulder and shoving me backwards. He politely addresses the visitors behind me, informing them that they should move their backpacks around to the front of their body. He comes back to me and shoos me on, quipping, “No bags on the back.”
I tremble my way through the door and rant my rage to my friends even as I feel that familiar panicked feeling rising in my throat.
And people still ask why.
We visit C.S. Lewis’ grave in the afternoon and I’m not ready for how hard it hits me. I stand at the head of the grave marker and tremble to consider that this was the body of a man who did such amazing and faithful things for the Lord. This was the human vessel God used to serve and reach so many people, and his soul is no longer there. God no longer occupies that memory of Lewis; He doesn’t have to.
I walk around the rest of the cemetery before returning to Lewis’ grave. Suddenly inexplicably and inconsolably sad, I cry with grief and mourn his death.
“I’ve never heard you laugh the same way twice,” David says.
Day 36: More or less
“I like how you’re reading T.S. Eliot and listening to Jon Bellion’s ‘Stupid Deep,’” Kailin says.
“I mean… it’s appropriate,” I say.