"Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be?"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Through Fire and Frost

So, here we are again, close to the end of another semester. It is 8th Week of Oxford’s Michaelmas term, and I have one more tutorial paper to write, one 4,000 word long essay due next week, and then I will be flying back to South Carolina and this term will be completed. Work has been difficult. There have been several tutorials from which I have emerged with a less than optimistic outlook on my writing abilities. Each week I feel like I have to walk through a tunnel of fire and gravity to come out the other side slightly refined-- shaped into something new. But overall, I would say tutorials have been a very enriching experience.
This past week, Oxford has been frosted and dipped in Christmas lights. There are trees wrapped in white on Broad Street and in the Bodleian Library square. Cornmarket Street is draped with Christmas lights and Blackwell’s book store has Christmas displays in the windows.
About two weeks ago, I visited Blenheim Palace with a few friends from my program. We walked around the sheep-filled fields and breathed in the sharp bite of winter air for one of the first times this year. The palace was absolutely beautiful, and its courtyard was filled with Christmas trees, lights, and a Christmas craft fair. K, C and I were the only ones of my group who went inside the palace. As you entered the courtyard, tents were set up with booths displaying many different kinds of local crafts such as scarfs, hats, jewelry, and art work. Inside the palace was also decorated. Fireplaces blazed with enormous light, and dining tables were swathed in crystal and holly. My favorite room was the library, which consisted of a long hall with ornate books which filled the walls from floor to ceiling. The long windows of the hall afforded glimpses of the intricate English gardens, complete with fountains and statuary. On the other end of the hall was a large organ being played by a staff member of the palace. The thick music filled the room like a strong wine and I felt like my lungs were being filled with water. I breathed slowly and wanted to lie down in front of the fireplace near the books and the organ, and fall asleep.
Walking outside the palace rooms shocked me back into consciousness. K, C and I explored the gardens and winding grounds of the palace. There was a rose garden which still sheltered a few white blooms. I could imagine how luscious it would be in the summer months. At the edge of the lake, there was a waterfall cascading over mossy boulders. The scene looked like it had been spoken into being from a fairy tale I read as a child and have forgotten.
Last Saturday we held a Thanksgiving dinner party at our program house. Almost everyone from our program, plus our directors, professors and their families came over for the turkey, cranberries, dressing, and long-sought-after pumpkin pie (because apparently pumpkin is not a big thing over here). We strung popcorn on strings, cut out snowflakes, played cards, and at the end of the evening, a few volunteers entertained the group with songs, jokes, and fiddle playing. Uproarious laughter filled the house, and for a while it felt like I was a part of a home-away-from-home. I will be glad to be going home soon, but for now I’m going to enjoy the time I have left in this magnificent city.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's go to Ireland

Friday, September 30, 2011
Currently, I am on the 11th bus of our journey-- backpacking through Ireland. Yes, it seems just as surreal to me. We started planning this trip about two or three weeks ago, when we found out we had a fall break from friday to tuesday. We knew such a long break deserved a far away destination-- there was no way I was going to spend this break lying around the house. So, I found a group of Vines people who all wanted to go to Ireland. Almost immediately, I hooked up with K, and we seemed to have almost the exact same ideas on where we wanted to stay and places we would like to see. No couch-surfing, or antique-Roman villages for us. We are all about cute Ireland B&Bs, and luxurious ferry rides to coastal island towns. 
But the planning always seemed so far off. We’d be going to Ireland eventually. Or we’ll worry about that next week. But it just hit me Wednesday night that we’d be leaving TOMORROW! Totally crazy. We’d all been so busy writing our case study papers for the British Landscapes course that the reality of vacation hadn’t set in. 
So, Thursday morning, we went on a school field trip to the Imperial War museum in London. It was a pretty impressive place with so many artifacts like uniforms and letters soldiers wore during the world wars. The holocaust exhibit was most memorable. They had so many graphic pictures of the atrocities committed against the Jews, and testimonial videos taken by holocaust survivors. I almost cried when one Jewish man spoke about how he had lost all faith in prayer because no matter how hard he prayed, none of his family or friends were saved. It was such an unexplainable tragedy. None of our hollow reasoning can make it any better.
After that exhibit, I was pretty drained, but I tried to absorb the museum and accept the message it wanted to give, and then move on.
Once we’d finished touring the museum, our director dropped us off at Victoria station so that we could head out more easily. (awesome!) and then we made our way to the Victoria coach station. We had some time before the coach left, so we walked/intenselypowerwalked down the Thames to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I was sacked out by the time we made it back to Victoria. 
We met back up with A, who had wandered off, back at Victoria coach station, and boarded the neverending train to our ferry. We left around 6 and got into P-Dock around 2, so I was wrestling around unsuccessfully trying to sleep on that coach for over 6 hours. Upon reaching the dock, I thankfully received a renewed burst of energy as we played cards and drank hot chocolate before boarding the ferry. And this ferry was no tug-boat, my dear, this was a legit cruise liner with seven decks full of amenities. We then proceeded to run all over the place-- exploring the game room, the movie room, and the upper deck which was perfect for viewing the twinkling harbor lights and the bright Welsh stars.
I was too over-tired to sleep after we finished exploring, so I took my laptop over to a quiet nearby deck with lots of tables, chairs, and outlets to read some of the Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories my tutor suggested I brush up on before our first tutorial next week. It was around 3:30 when my eyelids began to droop and I headed into the next room and sacked out on one of the coaches.
So that was the two-and-a-half hours I have slept in the past 30 hours because at 6 am, we got off the ferry and on a coach headed to Cork. C and I are coach buddies. Since I opted not to bring my ipod in lieu of saving space for my mac, she has been sharing one ear of her music with me. That’s one of the quickest ways to ensure my affection, let me tell you. After transferring at W-, we arrived in Cork and hopped on a bus to Blarney Castle (but not before promptly losing A again). That place was absolutely beautiful! A thick fog hung over the deep green marsh land surrounding the castle and gave the area an air of mystery-- of magic. We climbed the moss-covered spiral staircase up to the top where we bent over backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone, which supposedly gives you the gift of eloquence. An area I particularly liked about the castle and the surrounding grounds was an area called the Poison Garden. It was a beautiful little plot which grew only extremely deadly flowers and plants-- one was a common plant found around Ireland which caused many infant deaths, most being intentional because the plant was given from mothers to their children. Such a terrible, yet romantic garden. I don’t know why, but I was struck by the irresistible poetry of the poisonous beauties. The whole area seemed to radiate an aura of goblin faerie dust. The rain began to get heavier and heavier and I wondered if I might drown under my purple rain coat and lie for ever under the moss and the deep blue hydrangeas.
After finishing up at the castle, we headed back to Cork and (after finding A again) boarded a bus to Dingle (subsequently losing A again). And this bus connected at a little town of which I could never find the name. We wandered around aimlessly for a while, and I finally found a cash machine which would let me enter my pin number and take out some euros. And then, after much indecision, we decided to grab a quick bite at a local grocery store and head back to await our connecting bus to Dingle (where we found A again). I bought a loaf of bread, cheese, and digestives, and was delightfully satisfied with my dinner. I also felt strangely delighted with this backpacking across-the-country situation. Normally I would have expected myself to balk at the thought of such a venture. Carry all my stuff around with me everywhere? uh, no thanks.. But I’m actually really enjoying it. The whole experience is so.. liberating. I have all I need on my back, so if I feel like hopping on a bus to a new town, I just hop on the bus. Nothing holding me back-- tying me down. I feel so confident, like I could do anything or go anywhere now. so freeing

So after arriving in Dingle, K, C, H and I began to wander around looking for our B&B (Emlaugh Lodge). We got dreadfully turned around, so K called Maggie, the B&B owner, who was sweet enough to drive over and pick us up (or “collect us” as she called it. We haven’t been able to see much of Dingle, since night fell before we arrived. But the air of anticipation is almost as good as, and maybe better than, seeing the place that is supposedly the most beautiful place in the world. We’ll see in the morning.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In a Portsmouth Museum

written thursday, on the drive back from a field trip to Portsmouth, UK. feel free to comment if you want to discuss the poem with me.

In a Portsmouth Museum
Finish your lemon ices, and we’ll move
to the next room. There, behind
the glass, are genuine musket balls,
and canons are past the tea shop, along
the beige wall. Rosary beads on that
table were excavated just last summer.
Scuba divers carved them out
from bedrock-- covered in layers of silt. 
Delicate work,   wresting
them from all those bony fingers.
Over here are surgeon's tools.
A quick chap could
amputate your arm in
three minutes-- sawing your
bone in two with jagged
knives.    They couldn’t give
you brandy, or you’d
hemorrhage, and that’d be
the end of you,   unless someone
happens to paint your
portrait as you lay gasping
through your shattered lung, or
jots down a few romantic
lines about you, or digs 
up your skull 
a hundred years later for
a museum display.
If you’d kindly step inside
the doors, I’ll continue with the tour.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Everyone in the house tonight is locked in quiet, exhausted desperation, trying to finish their papers before the deadline tomorrow night. I'm already finished with my paper on Margery Kempe's madness, as well as I think I can be finished. I can't stop myself from re-reading it over and over again. Each time I seem to find a spelling error here, a comma error there. So, I can't seem to bring myself to submit the paper even though I know I won't make any more substantial changes to it tonight.

Between these intervals of proof-reading, I finished reading Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. I felt completely unprepared for Catherine's death. The shock of that sadness and poor Henry's devastation has left me feeling very down.. His stream of consciousness style and plain, matter-of-fact way of putting things was terribly beautiful.

"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." (ch. 34)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Initial Oxford Feelings

The past few days have been a flurry of activity. On Friday, I moved into the house I will be living in this semester at Oxford. The house is huge and in a beautiful woody location about thirty minutes outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Oxford’s center. There are about forty other students who I will be sharing the house with, and I have three other roommates, so there’s never a dull moment around here. 

This weekend has been full of get-to-know-you type conversations and orientation afternoon teas. Although all this activity has been tiring, I have willingly thrown myself into it. I’m almost scared to be left alone with myself because my homesickness starts to choke me and I can just barely hold back tears. Nighttime silence has become a time I long for yet dread. Visions of home and peace flood my mind more easily when I have nothing to distract my thoughts. 
We begin classes tomorrow, and our orientation to all things Oxford. The coming of schoolwork will certainly bring stress, but it will be a distraction from this loneliness, so I welcome the work.. at least right now. Right now the year seems to stretch out before me like an unending highway, but I’m well aware that it will fly by just like this past summer, like every school year before now. I want to call this city and these people my home, as I learned to call Gordon my home. And maybe I will.. in time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Holiday in London

Written August 29, 2011-- my last day touring London
I have spent the last week touring London, England with my mom, so let me offer my first impressions of the city. London is old, really old. You are reminded of that fact every time you turn the corner. Almost every stone building features ornate molding or corinthian columns, and every park contains a Roman-esque statue of a general or otherwise distinguished Brit. Age is what largely distinguishes this city from others in America, but it has other unique characteristics as well. The city is not as hectic as New York, and the subways are remarkably cleaner-- and let me say that London has just about every city I’ve ever visited beaten in the public transportation department (except maybe Washington DC). It took a little bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, London’s “tube” (subway) system is very clear and easy to use, much more so than NY, but maybe not as clear as Boston due to the fact that London is a larger city. The red buses are a little harder to navigate because we had a hard time figuring out where each bus made its stops, but once you know where you’re going and what signs to look for, riding the buses is a very pleasant mode of travel. London streets are even marked for tourists crossing the street; when you reach an intersection, the direction you should watch for cars is painted on the asphalt in big white letters. Thank you, Elizabeth. I also think you feel more safe walking around London at night than you would feel walking in NYC after dark. 
London is truly a tourist’s city. There are tourist attractions, ice cream vendors, t-shirt, novelty shops and restaurants everywhere. My mom remarked that she had never seen a city with so many restaurants, and that is definitely true. You are never at a loss for a little cafe in which to grab a sandwich and tea, even if it means those cafes are chains-- there was a Starbucks, Pret A Manger, and a Cafe Nero on just about every street. 
We met a couple from our home church who recently moved to Derby for tea at Kensington Palace one afternoon. They explained that it was exhausting to work here because of all the little things you have to do differently here that you would do without thinking about in America. For example, driving takes a lot more effort and concentration because you are driving on the opposite side of the road. (I think if I had to drive here I would have a crash within 5 minutes, what with the disorientation and all the buses barreling down on you.) The couple also said it took more concentration to read things because UK English is an “almost foreign language”. Ok, granted, they use some different phrases than we do in America, but on the whole I haven’t had a super difficult time understanding anyone (except our Polish concierge and the Chekoslavakian waitress), but maybe I’ll have more trouble in the future.
One of my favorite things we did here in London was our visit to Kensington. Unfortunately, since the olympics are going to be held here next summer, the city is in an uproar renovating everything, and Kensington was on the renovation list in a big way. This meant that all the furniture had been moved out of the palace, but the state rooms were still open for visitors because in place of the furnishings, they had created an exhibit called “The Enchanted Palace”. It was like stepping into Alice’s Wonderland. The point was that you were supposed to go around to each of the open state rooms and find clues to royal secrets and figure out which seven princesses had called Kensington their home. Modern art and weird galleries were displayed in the rooms, and you got to discover copies of old letters that the princesses had written way back when they lived there. Princess Victoria’s room was called “The Room of the Sleep-Walking Princess”, and inside the dark room was a bed with about seven mattresses on top, dolls and point shoes were strewn about the floor, and a wolf was displayed running across the ceiling. The point was that although Victoria’s childhood was unhappily very restricted, due to the Kensington system, in her dreams she wanted to run like a wild thing through the woods. All in all, we learned a lot about the Princesses who had lived in the Palace, and afterwards we walked a loooong way around the palace park grounds and then had tea in the Orangery, which was delicious!
Touring Buckingham Palace was my Mom’s favorite touristy thing we did here. We were lucky we got to tour it when we did because the palace is only open for tours during August and.. I think September. She liked it more than Windsor Castle because the palace was just as ornate and beautiful as Windsor, but the furnishings felt a little more modern, and the layout of the place is more open and airy than the castle. She said she could see herself living at Buckingham more than she could see herself at Windsor, and I agree but you can’t deny that there isn’t anything much more beautiful than that ancient castle with its lush gardens. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To Pass the Morning

I wrote this one a while ago and just stumbled on it. I made a few changes and voila. What do you think?

To Pass the Morning

Outside, the school’s brass bell chimes the hour,
commemorating a moment.
I count them, one by one,
to pass the morning
Meanwhile, all water in all streams flows
onward and evanescent clouds
float slowly through
our milky sky.
I like to nod at them as they pass
by and pretend we share
a connection—
that they exist,
and I exist,
which is another of those mysteries,
like whether a tree makes
a sound as it falls
alone in a
I think it does.
The falling sounds like a bell—
a brass bell—to mark its passing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Steel and Sawdust

This is a poem I wrote for the Idiom, Gordon's poetry and photography journal. The theme was: The City, so I just let my mind wander to when I recently walked the streets of New York. I'm not going to say any more about it although I've been told that the poem's meaning is rather confusing; but to me, it says exactly what it needs to say.

Steel and Sawdust

On our way to Central Park,
we passed a skyscraper
under construction,
steel beams poking
intothe atmosphere, like a
tower of Babel.
Buildings are your favorite subject.
You could talk on modern
engineering from 59th
to 95th and not grow weary
of describing angles, spires,
complex structures.
You told me they’re rebuilding
the World Trade Center—
creating a memorial.
New steel will rise from older ashes,
I thought of how my father’s father
made our house
from wood and blood  and nail.
How my mother carved
each year on bedroom doors.
The smell of sawdust still
reminding me of goat’s milk and
Father’s sturdy hands.
But you talked
too quickly
too volubly
like buzzing in a 9 to 5
bee hive— turning out a product.
I don’t really mind. The scent of
sawdust is meant
to be savored.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am in a state of transition—from college life to home life. It is less difficult this time than last, but my depression has sunk in none the less. During my last few days at school, I supressed my swelling urges to cry over the friends I won’t see for over a year, since I will be in Oxford junior year, and the friends I may never see again. It feels like I just packed my leopard print suitcase for my sophomore year, and it's surreal to think how unbelievably fast the year has flown by. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that regret appears at these crossroad moments. I wish I had spent more time with more people, wish I had traveled to more places, wish I had spent more time outside, et cetera, et cetera.  And now that I’m sitting back on the brown leather couch in my basement, the feeling presses all the more heavily on my chest. I don’t have much time for these thoughts though because I started my internship the very Monday I returned to New York.Summer breaks? What? People still have those?... So I’ll be waking up at 7 every morning to run off to a 9-5 day in heels and collared shirts. I’m psyching myself out already, thinking about how the monotony of the weeks will settle in over me like the grey clouds which refuse to vacate Schenectady skies.

Though I must say, I really am happy to be home around my family again. They are definitely my favorite people and home is wonderful, but something is still missing in me. I don’t know why I can’t just be happy in one place.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rain, Schubert, and Sandals

It was warm out today, but the sky was overcast and cloudy. You could almost smell the rain that hung over campus-- like freshly cut grass and damp earth. I wore a sweathshirt and sandals, which is a weird compbination but somehow felt perfect. The gray sky made me feel completely sluggish, so I didn't work out today. My apathy may also have ben caused by the movie we watched in Human Rights class: Death and the Maiden. I can appreciate that there is horror and depravity in the world, but I didn't feel like having it shoved in my face so graphically this morning. Plus the movie has completely ruined Schubert for me. So for the rest of the day, I moped around campus like a zombie until I needed to head back to my dorm from the library. It had started raining while I was in the writing center and it was still coming down pretty hard. I pulled my hood up and stepped out into the rain, but it wasn't as cold as I had thought. The clouds were puffy and steel colored yet still bright. I began to run down the quad, breathing hard while my sandaled feet sunk into the wet grass. When I reached Chase I panted for a second and smiled.

Friday, April 29, 2011


It was absolutely gorgeous today. The sun was shining over the bluest sky I’ve seen in weeks. Students have caught spring fever; they’re running around playing frisbee, eating outside on the quad, and lying out beneath the flowering pear blossom trees. The warmth made me feel incredibly lethargic, so I didn’t want to do anything, not even drive to the beach.
Instead I walked around the pond in the woods behind Gordon. As I ambled, I spotted a couple of daffodils growing alongside the path and couldn’t resist plucking a few to put in the green vase back in my room. I think daffodils are also called narcissus, named after the beautiful Greek who fell in love with his own watery reflection. I thought of the myth as I waded through Gull Pond and lay out on the rocks. The heavy sun drifting down like a blanket over my eyelids. What a dreamy way to die—
so calm, so languid.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I hate doing stupid things, especially in front of other people. But every time I get in my car to drive friends in my small group around, I always seem to embarrass myself. A few weeks ago I almost got into an accident when I was following my co-leader back from a restaurant. I didn’t see another car coming around a curve and we came a hair’s-breadth away from colliding. The girls in my car were visibly freaked out, and I too was alarmed. But I generally can keep a level head in these kinds of situations, and I pulled away without further incident. Then again last week, my small group went out for ice cream and I nearly had an even more serious accident in the parking lot.
I feel absolutely mortified that anyone would think I am incapable, or that people don’t feel safe with me, especially when I am in a position of leadership. I want to exemplify capable control, but I feel like I’m letting everyone down. These thoughts stick with me, and I can’t let them go.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breaking Point

Tonight has certainly been an intense low point in my life. I am completely drained physically and emotionally, but I don’t want to lie in the dark and be left alone with my thoughts. It is the week of the Dance Ministry showcase and we have been rehearsing like madwomen. Every night for the past week I’ve been up till one in the morning running through dances, which is extremely late for me, and then I still have to wake up early and get my homework finished. Assignments began to slip through the cracks, but I held it together. It’s what I do.
But this afternoon I received an email with… less than pleasant news. I won’t go into the details, but I blame myself for the situation. And yet, it still hurt to hear my friend say these things to me—hurt more than I can say. I went to the gym and ran, pounded out my anger into the track. Slap, slap, slap. I had to see her that night because of rehearsal, but I avoided looking at her. Anger still gripped my exhausted body as we walked in a group to an evening chapel service.
The worship music began to play, and I felt the drums beat into my chest. I studied the words on the screen, praises to our Lord. A God who loves like a hurricane, furious and complete. I began to cry scalding tears, that I wiped away quickly. I wanted this to be God moving in some amazing way to heal me, I wanted it badly. But I feared it was just an effect of the powerful music swaying my emotions. I didn’t want to be fooled. I clenched my jaw, and sat down again.
Once the music ended, an old friend of mine stood up to speak to us. She told her lifestory and said how, one after another, things and people in her life were taken away. She was angry, furious at a God who would let these things happen to her. As she continued the story, I knew what came next. Her sister was killed—her sister. Even her own flesh and blood was taken from her.( I couldn’t stop crying.) How could God not be cruel?
But she didn’t end the story there. I don’t know how, but in the midst of all this suffering, she was able to let go of her anger toward God. She accepted the tragedies in her life—realizing that every moment is a gift that can be taken away without warning. So we should love while we can, and love deeply.
My anger too began to melt away. How inconsequential are my petty sorrows in light of real suffering. And at the same time, my sorrow is understood by God—I believe He hears me. I’m not going to pretend like my pain is completely gone, but I am broken. I am humbled. And that is what’s important.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Hello reader, thanks for reading my first post. I started this blog to keep track of my thoughts and experiences as I study abroad in Oxford next year, but then I thought, Hey! I should have been doing this all along. What better way to explore and digest your experiences than by writing about them?

In case you didn't know, I am a sophomore at Gordon College, majoring in English with a creative writing concentration and hopefully minoring in Philosophy. My days currently include reading Charlotte Bronte, debating theories on the philosophy of religion, writing papers on the Trinity, and driving through heavy traffic to eat heavenly Chik-fil-A sandwiches.

The quote I wrote at the top of my blog page is a verse that I happened to open up to in my Bible today (2 Peter 3), and I thought it was pretty relevant for what I want to do in this blog. It reminded me that this life is so fleeting, and what really should matter is the kind of person that I am, or rather, that I should be— someone… who God would be proud of. Through writing, I hope that I will discover the person I really am, as well as the person I need to be.