From the wide zone through dizzying circles hurled,
To that still centre where the spinning world
Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest.
Some friends and I spent the day in Oxford and I finally fulfilled my dream of touring the Bodlein Library. Maybe I’ll write more about my day sometime soon, but until then, enjoy this photo I took of the absolutely stunning Divinity School.
Over the past few months, I’ve been growing a great deal artistically. Being around creative people rubs off on you in amazing ways. I’ve loved having the freedom to explore new mediums in addition to the ones I tend to favor. I’ve spent time sketching, painting, and even singing. It’s brought me so much life!
When my friends and I went to the Lakes District last week, I decided to tackle a new medium: videography. Throughout the trip, I examined the world with an artistic eye and captured footage of things I found beautiful with my iPhone. On the six hour Megabus trip home, I put the skills I picked up in my Visual Journalism class to good use.
I recently took a trip to the Lakes District in Northern England with some friends. I’m hoping to write about our adventures soon, but in the meantime, here is a dramatic shot of me atop one of the mountains we climbed and a quote by T.S. Eliot, whom I have been reading lately.
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”J.R.R. Tolkien
Since arriving in England, not a day has passed that I haven’t examined my surroundings and asked: “Is this really my life?”The days here feel rich in a way I’ve never before experienced.It’s almost as if this place is saturated with the essence of what brings life meaning.
Living in a cross-cultural community certainly has its challenges.We don’t always understand each other–language doesn’t always translate.Personalities and lifestyle quirks sometimes come into conflict.Each day, I interact with people from all over the globe: Holland, Australia, Hungary, Brazil, South Africa, Belarus, the list goes on.Each night, though, I can’t help but give thanks for this colorful collection of people.Despite all our differences, we share one beautiful thing in common: we are all human.
Daily life here is beautiful. The majority of our hours are spent in one of two ways: work or study.
With work, there are all kinds of tasks.Some days, I chop vegetables in the kitchen to help with dinner.Others, I scrub toilets, pull weeds, or fold towels.The best days are when I’m assigned to the library–hours are filled entering books into a digital catalog.Most of the time, work doesn’t seem like work.The tasks may be menial at times, but they are never difficult.Plus, the company is always good.
During study time, we gather in the Bake House, curling up by the fire with our books. I just finished studying direction and calling and am turning my attention to gender studies and women in church. Mixed in is a healthy dose of Ann Lamott, Dorothy Sayers, Charlotte Bronte, and Shakespeare. Some days, I sit at one of the desks by the windows.I listen to recorded lectures, paint, and watch birds playing in the garden.
Life here is slow.We keep ourselves busy, but also stop and rest.During lunch, we ask questions and partake in intentional, meaningful conversation.On our free nights, we enjoy pint (or two) at the local pub.In the evenings, we often play games.Once a week, we watch a film and discuss its relevance.On Mondays, we meditate and pray during a silent lunch featuring beautiful classical music.Sunday nights are my favorites: we have High Tea, which involves a casual meal followed by reading a novel or play together.
Each day holds at least one precious moment.Most days have multiple: laughing as you make peanut butter balls in the kitchen, singing hymns together around a piano, soaking in the rare sunlight in the trees as you explore the countryside on one of the local footpaths , holding hands with one of the little girls who live here as you walk home from church.
When you slow down and allow yourself to actually process the beauty of daily life, the riches you discover are breathtaking.Being away from technology has its downs–I would love to better stay in touch with family and friends back home–but I also love it.In a way, life here feels like it’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel (which is helped by the fact that I currently live ten minutes from where she wrote and published most of her works).We delight in the beauty of everyday: going for walks, playing music, making art, reading books that make us think.Interactions are intentional and meaningful–estranged from technology and the fast-paced normal life, our conversations have more depth.
I wish life here could go on forever.I’m thankful that, in many ways, my stay is still just beginning: I’m here until the end of March.But there will come a time when I will have to return to normalcy.I will have to move away from home and actually get a job.My time here, though, is in many ways preparing me for then.Life at L’Abri is in no ways perfect, but it’s a wonderful place to learn how to live.
Thursdays are days off at L’Abri and we took advantage of our free time to explore the nearby town of Midhurst. We got there by bus, arriving around one o’clock and spending several hours wandering the picturesque area.
Our first stop was the ruins of Cowdray, which were absolutely stunning! We learned from the tourist website that, before being destroyed by fire, the site was host to illustrious figures like Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and Guy Fawkes. Although we couldn’t enter the ruins due to January being the off-season, we were able to satisfy our wonder and curiosity by exploring the perimeter of the property.
Next, we visited St. Ann’s Hill, which has played host to pagan rituals, an Iron Age fort, and a Norman castle. We caught glimpses of the surrounding countryside. The hill itself was capped with a ring of ancient trees and a network of stone ruins.
For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered around Midhurst itself. It’s a beautiful little town and we marveled at the varying architecture–a conglomeration of medieval, Georgian, Elizabethan, and Victorian. We wandered into the former school of H.G. Welles, found a small duck pond, and wasted time in a bookshop while waiting for our bus.
I’m not posting much these days, due to the fact that my internet access is limited to days off when I’m able to visit pubs and cafes. It’s definitely been a challenge being so removed form technology, but it’s also extremely refreshing. L’Abri is a wonderful place to explore ideas and reflect on life. In many ways, living here feels like living in another time. I’ve been having lots of adventures and have been continuing to write! I spent an evening earlier this week drafting potential blog posts.
Hopefully, more of my reflections and adventures will make it to this space soon.
Cowdray Ruins. January, 2016
My day-trip companions and fellow L’Abri students!
Blue Door. January, 2016
Although the Brits here claim it’s quite cold out, I find that hard to believe when flowers are blooming!