Language

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Consonatic cairns

reverbrate under

lilting green growing.

 

Their vowels soar

through sky,

rest still as a loch,

crackle with the peat.

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Doing You Justice

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Mercy, that I think I understand.

It’s a mercy that these forests get replanted,

that most of the land belongs to sheep,

that the McDonald’s don’t live beneath Golden Arches.

It’s a mercy that the lochs are still lochs.

 

It’s like. I mean, like when I saw that mountain

I was like. You know?

 

Ben Nebhais towers, with a naked cold shoulder to the world.

The landscape is like a venomous snake that no one wants to get too near.

But it’s not a snake. It’s like walking through a  mist into a fantasy novel.

 

Actually, it’s more like a land of liquid sunshine, where the sun keeps long summer hours,

but the mists work around the clock. When I think about what I like about this world,

I thought of an old, old mountain, covered in green with a narrow trail of white

running down the side. The trail was like the vein of the earth, pumping lifeblood.

 

Doing you justice would be removing all the likes. All that would be left would be silence.

Pigeon Lady, feeding the birds costs more than tuppence

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Tuppence, worth less than a thought these days.

No one offers pennies for the musings of your brain

when all anyone wants is to text, because that conversation

demands the least attention paid to the other speaker.

 

You sit at your park, asking for tuppence, but everybody’s walking

faster, driving, biking, ipods on, cell phones out. God bless you,

with your dog at your side. No one gives tuppence for the birds

but you might get a pound for the beautiful dog.

 

Pigeon lady, with your monastic ritual of feeding the birds,

Do you wake up every couple hours to feed the birds?

Do you scrub the sidewalk, or does that walkway belong to

a sphere beneath your concern?

 

It was a beautiful story I made for you,

until I saw you touch the birds

and then all I could do was worry for your health.

Fountains Abbey

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Camera to the eye, projecting majesty onto a small rectangle

to be shared. Grandmas and aunts, in the midst of wedding plans enjoy

Fountains Abbey, where nature crept into man’s work.

 

Funny how the ravages of time here don’t depress you

as you climb crumbling walls, poke your head through

doorless holes and find a room with a few faded tiles.

 

Stained grass knees from sitting

in the sunshine of a pane-less window.

 

Wandering away from Fountains Abbey

to sit by the nearby brook. I take my glasses off

and imagine the sparkling light flitting across

the rippling water is an eddy of fairies, come to play

amongst the flowers and faded stone.

Castle Howard

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Life at Castle Howard, with its expansive stone rooms, profusion of stair cases, and acres of land, is fit for the life of an Austen character. The 9th earl got to live a dream life-he was free to explore art without worrying about money. Unfortunately for him, his society measured artistic talent by paintings sold. The earl, in this beautiful castle and grounds, got to live within his dream.

Roy Wood, the forest that is also a garden behind Castle Howard, reminded me of childhood. When I was younger, I was obsessed with finding secret places, places that adults ignored. I loved the tiny copse of trees by a nearby park because there was a place for groups to gather. I loved my friend’s unfinished basements. I had a hidey-hole in my closet that I would curl up for hours with a good book, I stored most of my secret treasures up there. The one thing in my amassing of secret places that was missing was wide open spaces in which to roam. My dad grew up in a small town; hearing about his boyhood haunts made me long for untamed spaces. Walking through Roy Wood, I could imagine all sorts of games that kids could play in woods. Those are the spaces where you can imagine fairies and other worlds in.

The moors around Haworth also evoked a feeling of wondering exploration from my childhood. As I thought about the worlds the Bronte sisters created, I realized that the imaginary worlds of children depend largely on environment. Our imaginary worlds were houses, circuses, and zoos. Having the moors to run through gives children a space within their environment. Contained within a house, it’s easy for kids to remain unaware of expansive possibilities. Free to roam places like the moors, kids get a feel for how large the world is, at the same time they get a feel for how to operate in such a large space. I took my mystery places where I could find them, but I imagine for people growing up in Haworth and Castle Howard over the past century had mystery places vying for the attention of children.

Haworth/York-Dog Country

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One of my favorite discoveries in Haworth was the dog pond on the moors. Walking 2.5 miles to Bronte Falls was a lot of fun. It gave me a sense of what the Bronte sisters life was like, more than exhibits or simply seeing can. This gets back to this passive/active thing I’ve been noticing on this trip. Seeing and listening is all well and good, I’ve picked up on some valuable information, but out on the moors I was able to pretend I was a Bronte, or in transit to Wuthering Heights more realistically. The area wasn’t wild, there were sheep pastures along much of the walk. The point was the only way to get there was to walk–there were no other options. This lack of choice in choosing to go to the falls was what connected me to a different era. Getting tired out from the walk gave me some respect for the time where technology hadn’t created the ease of living that we have today.

Seeing the dog pond, and hearing that that area of the moors was left alone precisely because of dogs and their companions left me excited. A park didn’t get erected in the middle of a populated area as an artificial recreation of walking space. No, the beautiful countryside simply got left alone so that people could CONTINUE to enjoy it. There was no break with the past then an attempt to go back, to return, to re-create.

Of course, like in the South, the North still has that urge to re-create the past, with its museums and historic sites. However, the difference in space between London and Haworth means that London has parks, while Haworth has untouched moors.

Two Weeks of Jetting Around London

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After 2 weeks of jetting around the city, it’s clear that walking is the best way to get around.

The first few days it felt great to already know the tube route. I felt ready to take on the more complicated bus system. Something I’d been too intimidated to tackle in the short time I was here in March. However after riding the bus a couple times in that first weekend I realized there was nothing to it.

Provided of course, that you knew where you were going. And the best way to know where you’re going is to actively get there, even if that means getting lost a couple times on the way. Sure, you decide which tube or bus to take, but that doesn’t orient you like a stroll down the streets. Walking allows you to better note the landscape. Underground, there’s nothing to note, and on a bus you can look out the window, but it’s not as free an examination as from the sidewalk. For one thing, you’re surrounded by traffic. For another, you’ve gotta keep your eye on which stop is coming up, so you don’t miss the one you need.

Lucky for me, practically every activity was within walking distance. And when I say walking distance I mean within 45 minutes of the flats. That’s right, I walked that far instead of hopping on public transit. My goal this time around was to completely orient myself. That meant not plotting out a street by street path, but getting the names of a couple of the main roads and the right direction and striking out. It was thoroughly satisfying. For the last group dinner I set out with no preparation. I even forgot the map Mary gave us to get to the restaurant (It was one I’d eaten at during spring break). I didn’t need that map. My understanding of the area between the flat and Euston Square got me to where my memory of the walk to the restaurant from the tube station took over.

Apparently Londoners carry around a detailed, easy to use book of the city streets. I don’t have that book, and will probably never have the opportunity to need it, but I felt quite cosmopolitan, heading to and from the flats on my own two feet.

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