Days 50 – 53

Day 50: Shiver

When I discover “Evensong” is on the itinerary for tonight, I let go a heavy sigh I hadn’t realized was building up in my lungs.

***

The Perky Peacock is a tiny coffee shop built into an old lookout tower by the river. They’ve run out of ice. No iced coffees for the rest of the afternoon.

I try to journal and find my thoughts are too scattered to compose any sort of orderly paragraph. I let them fly, writing down these disjointed fragments as they come and not getting too worked up that they refuse to be cohesive.

“I think it’s because I’m supposed to be thriving that I feel so deeply ashamed when I am not.”

Mary completes her annotated bibliography.

***

Evensong is at York Minster, and as Megan and I enter through the west entrance, the soaring notes of the choir swell to reach the domed ceiling. My heart feels still.

We wait in a line for a while before being ushered into the quire. It’s a strange mix of people, as there has been at every cathedral service we’ve attended thus far: tourists with cameras, the elderly with their beloved Books of Common Prayer, us young people in our teens and early twenties who may look troublesome but are just as in need of the Lord as the next person.

The service gives us the chance to be still, to listen. It doesn’t require much from us other than to receive the Word, to pray, to recite liturgies that have begun to make their home in my heart despite my having grown up in contemporary church traditions.

I have chills the entire hour, and they’re not the kind of chills one gets from the cold.

God is here.

My friends feel the same presence. It’s reassuring. It makes our smiles softer.


Day 51: Return

From the journal—

“The tour guide tells us Charlotte Bronte was depressed, and suddenly a lot of things make sense. I’m not really sure what it is, but something clicks inside this artist’s mind.

“The moors are a lot rockier than I’d imagined. They’re different from the South Downs and not in a bad way. Just different, sadder. Perhaps they feel more alone, more rugged and wild.

“I don’t know what day of the week it is.

“Whenever I’m on a hill like this I find myself feeling forlorn about the past and doubtful/hopeful about the future. I keep forcing myself not to imagine the future in case it doesn’t turn out the way I’m hoping it will.

“I’ve given up trying to write nicely when the wind insists on spraying the ink from my pen every which way.

“I wish it didn’t matter to me so much what other people think of me. I wish I didn’t think I needed their approval to be worthy.”

***

I’m not the only one struggling with old memories being trudged up on the moors, and we’re not the first. Every poem about the moors, every book, contains shadowy figures coming to the moors cloaked in sadness. They cry here. They die here.

It’s something in the wind. It’s sad and it’s not afraid to say so in the howling desolation of this crooked landscape.


Day 52: Original

We arrive at our new hostel in Ambleside, struggling to get all our cohort’s stuff into the storage room before we’re able to check in. True to the name of the place, we amble out to the lake, and it isn’t long before most of us have kicked off our shoes, rolled up our jeans far more than they’re usually cuffed, and are skipping rocks across the shallower parts of the water.

It’s serenity in a nutshell. Shrieks of laughter, casual banter, dropping huge rocks into the water next to friends. The mountains surround us, tall and strategic to hold us in an embrace we didn’t know we needed.

There’s no room for burdens here. Right now, in this moment, we’re just kids.

***

After hours of research and trying to write, I shut my laptop with a huff and storm outside, armed with my music, journal, and pen.

I’m surrounded by mountains brushed golden by the sunset but I can’t push my two papers, due in a two short days, out of my mind. The reflection on the water is otherworldly, but there are rowdy men drinking and smoking and eyeing all the women. My music is blasting through my earphones but I can feel their defiling stares, their bawdy laughter.

I adopt a glaring demeanor and sit down on a bench, jaw clenched, determined to defy them.

Realizing this is making me feel worse rather than better, that this is not the solitude I was looking for, I bundle my stuff together and flee to my hostel room. But not before using the words “entitled bastards” in my journal to describe the audacity of the chaos around me to ruin what should have been an ethereal glimpse into God’s beauty.


Day 53: Childhood

Dove Cottage is under construction so we aren’t able to see it. But we receive an odd little lecture from some of the Wordsworth experts at the center and see some old “films” with photos of the cottage’s interior.

***

For lunch, we meander down into the quaint town of Grasmere. Our first stop is the famous gingerbread shop, begun in 1854 and producing a secret recipe of gingerbread ever since.

“Oh wow, it actually smells nice,” every visitor says as they step through the door.

“It smells like Christmas,” David says at least five times.

“What does it smell like, David?”

***

We’re not willing to spend ten pounds on a sandwich, but when we stumble upon Sam Read Bookseller? By golly, we’re going to spend ten pounds on Ocean Vuong’s “Night Sky with Exit Wounds.”

It’s an extra seven pounds for a baked potato sprinkled with bacon and a small salad. The water cups are like shot glasses and we keep having to go back inside to refill them. We’re definitely still dehydrated, but we just laugh and talk about poetry and professors and Cormac McCarthy.

Maddie, Mary, Megan, and Izzy had the better idea. They’d gone to the co-op to get fruit for lunch and I instantly regret every decision I’d made in the past thirty minutes. I go to the same co-op and get two boxes of fruit for far cheaper than a baked potato just to make myself feel better, but it’s still extra money. Clearly, I know how to budget and will make a great adult someday when I grow up.

***

If I’m being honest, Rydal Mount is underwhelming (sorry, Wordsworth).

M asks me to protect her from the foxglove and to brush ants off her shoes. It’s strange how many of our own fears we’re willing to put aside when a child is in danger (or thinks they are, and you know just to listen).

While we’re waiting for the bus, Maddie and Jared perform “The Garbage Truck” song with M, complete with full choreography that changes halfway through the performance. We also play a rousing game of “Duck, Duck, Goose!” with the little ones, and I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

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