Wednesday, July 15, 2009

a claire day

my dad introduced me to a comic about my life. meet claire: she's a young student working in a library and trying her hand at gardening while her boyfriend is studying in England. kinda creepy, huh?

in other news, i have no exciting pictures of castles or men in kilts. but i got basil! and beans! don't forget the beans!

i have to protect them from my mom's goliath of a garden. those pumpkin vines are pretty vicious. my little guys look pretty small.

and...these are some other pictures that i took lately.

my good friend from high school got married. she looks pretty happy.

it rained right after her pictures. i was pretty happy. ashlee wasn't.

my mom grows pretty roses.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Voyage of the HMS Fedora

I have determined that any vainglorious attempt to be poetic will only result in the postponement of much need blog updatery. I will therefore dispense with all affectations dramatique in favor of a strictly pictorial presentation. I hope you enjoy.

As a person, I am distinctly aware of the importance of beginnings, and it has therefore become my custom to pay particularly close attention whenever I feel that something new is in the air. Rebecca can testify that I remember the date of our first date (Feb. 2nd), and that I can still recall the subject of our first conversation together (moving houses). It should not be surprising, therefore, that I wanted to preserve my thoughts when setting out. Concerning the quality and events of my flight, you have already heard more than enough. Let me tell you now of Ireland.

As the plane descended through the clouds I was pleased that the sky was bright enough to permit a clear view from the air. I have often found it fascinating that a place can look so different from above, even after one has spent a considerable amount of time there. When places are observed from the heights, they take on a character that is altogether more memorable, and, in a way, more complete. It's as though the myriad of lives that are contained therein suddenly coalesce into a unified and meaningful whole. Everything, as it were, suddenly makes sense. Ireland did not disappoint. Strangely, the first thing that struck me was not how green the county was, but rather how rural it was; but I suppose that this is a fine distinction (the kind that we academics so love), since all thoughts of 'rurality' were quickly followed by ones of verdance. Ireland's green is not the green of Utah, Hawai'i, or Maine. It is the manicured green of the English garden. At first, the country seems virgin and untouched, but as the plane descends, you notice that the landscape's hue is in patches. Lower still, and you can see that these patches are, in reality, pastures - packed together as tightly as territorial neighbors will allow, and each neatly surrounded by a hedgerow. The scene is beautiful, and it speaks of centuries of tradition and camaraderie. (Is this how communities are formed? Proximity, time, and the harmony of a common purpose?) I remember thinking how distinctly 'un-American' the scheme was (why not buy out your neighbors, tear down the hedgerow, and triple your profits?) and rejoicing in it. (zoom in on the picture - taken from the plane window - and you'll see what I mean) As the plane came in to land I caught a glimpse of a crumbling rock wall, stoically standing guard over the fen.

Alright, that whole section was rather dense, but from here on out it's mostly pictures, I promise.

Welcome to Dublin!:
Dublin is a beautiful city, as one would expect from a place with so much history behind it. (I know, I know - there are about 627 ways that the above statement is false; but it's my story, so kindly ignore them). The city center itself is old. Really old. There's reason to think that the original settlement began sometime around the 1st century B.C. - but the city as we know it was founded in AD 841 by the Vikings. The Vikings were scary guys (as was most everybody back then - at least hygienically), so after the Irish kicked them back to Norway in the 12th century they built this intimidating fort thingie to keep them there:

Not to be outdone, the English built this even more intimidating castle thingie in the 14th century:
(I know what you're thinking. "That's a castle. And those are cars. Those things don't go together." I had the same thought)

Ireland is, of course, Catholic (d'uh); and it is therefore replete with churches. Regretfully, I wasn't able to get down to St. Patrick's cathedral, but I did spend the afternoon around Christ Church Cathedral. Christ Church is actually connected to the Church of Ireland (meaning the Church of England, but England is a dirty word here), so it's not Catholic; but for those of you who know anything about the Anglican church, you know that there's practically no difference between them. One of Christ Church's biggest claims to fame is it's choir. Founded in 1038, the Cathedral quickly became renowned for the quality of it's music, so much so that in 1742 it was the location for the first performance of Handel's Messiah. The choir still performs, and Tim (my traveling companion) and I were able to attend Evensong (similar to Mass, but with more singing and without the Eucharist). It was beyond spectacular. Polyphonism rules. Here are some pictures (sorry there are none of the inside of the Cathedral. That's forbidden.):

(The picture on the right is probably the most characteristically 'Irish' photograph that I took. Yes, that is a man sunbathing on the lawn of a thousand year old church. Go figure.)

(This last one is a picture of the bridge which connects the Cathedral proper with the rectory on the other side of the street. I include it because of it's splendidness.)

And of course, after church we all went out to the pub. Pubs here are an essential part of life. You don't have to drink to enjoy 'Session,' (well, really you do; but saying you don't makes me feel better), but you do have to appreciate food, good company, and music. Most especially music. Firstly, let me just say: Irish music rocks. It's catchy, it's cultural, and you had better believe it makes your toes tap. Tim and I listened to a lot of snappy tunes before I thought to catch them on film, but here's a small sample of our melodic adventures:

Sadly, all days come to an end, and as evening approached Tim and I had to catch the ferry to Liverpool. Now, boatrides are, in their own right, wicked fun; this was a BIG boat though, the kind that they haul trucks and cargo containers in, so we could hardly tell we were on a boat at all. Thankfully, the sea was still there, and I got a few pictures:

(Can you tell I was tired? This picture was taken
after 32 hours of continuous travel. Blech.)

(Tim & I: bffs 4vr)

That night, we slept on benches.

Liverpool is city I wish I could tell you more about. Rich in lore (particularly for those of us whose ancestors began the trip to America there), it almost begs to be explored. Sadly, I had to catch a train. There was time for the essentials though:

(For those of you who don't know, 'The Cavern' was the venue in Liverpool where the Beatles first started playing. For Beatles fans, it's a crucial place in history.)

From Liverpool, Tim & I hopped a train to Cambridge. No muss, no fuss. But more on that next time. Here's a preview:
(King's College - AKA the place I'm at. That's right, let the hoity-toityness commence.)
(P.S. - Don't walk on the grass)

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Ecstasy of St. Joseph

The attention of the traveler is fickle. In a world filled with beauty and wonder the mind can’t help but to latch onto a few disparate things and place inordinate importance in them. Thus is born the Aesthetic.

I write to you from the hallowed halls of King’s College, Cambridge; one of the oldest, and most prestigious Universities in all the world. This is a fact I was proud of before embarking on my trip, but it is also one that I have had firmly reinforced in my week-long stay here. Nancy, you can laugh at my pretentiousness if you want to, but if you were here you would understand. There is a lot I can and will say about King’s later, but for now let’s back-up to the beginning.

The trip to Cambridge began with a plane-ride, and that plane-ride began and ended with Joseph. Like most four year olds, time and space were no obstacle to the boy. In blatant disregard for all the laws of physics, Joseph repeatedly proved that he could be in all places at once. I first encountered the lad while he was running up and down the aisles in a sincere attempt to introduce himself to the entirety of the plane's passengers. Graciously, he made sure to hold out his hands so that he could salute every seat he passed. I remember being impressed with the boys courtesy when, upon missing one seat, he dutifully returned to the front of the plane in order to begin again. Sadly, his mother did not find these salutations half so necessary as he. Five minutes later, Joseph’s political imprisonment was over, and his rule in exile had begun. Banishment to one’s seat is perhaps the cruelest punishment that can be laid upon a child, and Joseph was determined to resist this matriarchal tyranny at all costs. As the Captain chimed in over the intercom, his little face brightened and his bulbous, bald head swung to catch every word. All seemed to be going well, until the Captain reached the end of his speech and began again, in Gallic. “WHAT?!” Joseph clamored in utter confusion. Throwing himself across the aisle, he grabbed his father’s arm and pointed vigorously at the loudspeaker. “WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?” Not to be escaped so easily, Joseph’s mother grabbed him by his furiously kicking ankles and dragged him back into the abyss of his economy-class seat. All was darkness.

I must confess to a modicum of human weakness. By this time I had been flying for nearly two days and my mind refused to put off sleep any longer. Reclining my seat a comfortable three inches, I dropped my hat over my eyes and stumbled off into a dreamy reverie. I have never been gifted to remember my dreams, but I suppose I thought of clouds. Majestic, white mountainscapes flitted through my mind as I trailed off into oblivion; drifting effortlessly over vast heights, I soared above the transcendent Aelfheimm, drinking in its canyons and peaks. Gusts of brisk, dusk air caressed my face; rivers of pure aether filled my nose and lungs; I basked in oceans of tranquility. Suddenly, a crash of thunder! Down I fall! Down, down, down. Down, through the bones of that celestial realm and into the heights of another. The sea, in all its fury rushes up to embrace me, and then…wetness. I awake with a start and look down to find a water glass toppled over in my lap, its contents drenching my shirt and trousers. Across the aisle, Joseph laughs uproariously, his arm poised in the air like a newly fired catapult. His mother blushes furiously.

4am approaches, and Joseph determines that silence has plagued our voyage long enough. He sings:

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Oh what fun it is to ride,
In a one-horse open sleigh,

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Oh what fun it is to ride,
In a one-horse open sleigh,

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Oh what fun it is to ride,
In a one-horse open sleigh,

Twenty minutes later, Joseph’s mother awakes from her slumber and stamps out Joseph’s artistic expression. I don’t know why, but the quaint little ditty stuck with me, and even now resounds in my memory; I cannot help but wonder what grand cadences I might have encountered if only the child had been permitted to continue a little longer. Perhaps it is only my imagination, but I sensed that the lad was on the verge of true greatness.

As the jet crawled into its destination, I sensed a distinct pang of regret amongst my fellow passengers. Though we had entered the machine as utter strangers, this boy had united us in thought and mind. Would it be too grand to say that he gave us a soul? Surely, we felt an energy that had not been there at the time our departure, and I dare say that Joseph felt it too. Perhaps it was this recognition that spurred him to bid his farewells. They were many, each tailored to suit its audience, and each leaving an indelible impression upon its recipient. I wish I could say that I remembered the lads parting words to me, but I cannot. You see, my own feelings were swallowed up in a succeeding moment of pure poetry. I recall it, even now. The gentleman seated in front of me, noble in his bearing, refined in his decorum, turned to receive the child’s parting words. Patiently he waited, staring into the eyes of this pure vessel of wisdom. Joseph’s mouth opened. He spoke. “What are you? A Pig?!” Grasping his hand, Joseph’s mother led him from the plane. The man and I sat there in silence, watching them walk away.

Joseph did not look back.

Friday, July 3, 2009

brought to you today by the color yellow

jeff called me from cambridge the other day. he's doing well and loving everything--the courtyard, the portcullis, his suite with its stonewalls, the gothic architecture, the classes and people--everything is peachy. he has some pictures, but he's pretty busy and hasn't had time to post them. in fact, he's headed to scotland for the weekend, lucky duck.
things back on the home front are pretty quiet in comparison. my most exciting news is that my beans sprouted the other day and my basil is doing well. mostly i go to work and keep company reading don quixote while watching my mom's garden become monstrous. nathan and steph's garden is doing really well too. their peas are over three feet tall!
i'm listening to fireworks from outside and "don't wait too long" by madeleine peyroux. it's my song of the day.