The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
Cos’ I’m gonna make this place your home
“If you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn… the ‘moods’ and ‘spirits’ of nature point no morals. Overwhelming gaiety, insupportable grandeur, somber desolation are flung at you. Make what you can of them, if you must make at all. The only imperative that nature utters is, ‘Look. Listen. Attend.”
~The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis
Hundreds of years ago, soldiers patrolled these walls. Today, curious tourists and many-spotted ladybugs are the ones who creep along what remains of the city’s defenses.
Ladybugs were resting all along this particular stretch of railing – many-spotted and two-spotted; red, yellow and black. I wonder if they have been here all along, from the time of the Romans to the Vikings to the medieval kings to today. Perhaps they have been in hiding, and emerged only after the storms of history had passed.
King George VI said that the history of York is the history of England. It’s strange now, to stand on rebuilt fragments of this old fortification, watching insects sunbathe and leaves creep along the walls, and think of how far we are from the ages past.
It was cold in York. I wore a white cotton gloves and a jacket that made me round as a snowball. I stayed in a lovely hostel with my friends, who were so kind as to allow me to come along with them. In the morning we opened the window to red rooftops and the frosty air. In the day we explored little shop houses, grand churches and ancient relics. At night we made hot chocolate, and I huddled by the heater with a book, letting my mind wander while I remained in the comfort of my company.
I did a lot of eating on this trip. It was one of those weeks where my sweet cravings were at an all time high. I went there with a slight sore throat. I came back coughing so badly it made my head hurt.
I decided I should refrain from foods that would aggravate my throat for the next few days. But then, I went to the Japanese supermarket, and they have really nice spicy rice bowls there, so I had to get one for lunch. And with a good lunch one must always have something sweet for dessert. Just a little bit can’t hurt, right?
And today we went for a walk.
“Mummy I’m tired!”
Waiting underneath the “no dogs allowed in the playground” sign. Gave it a few comforting pats.
look where we came to!
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
~Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Today was a day with a lot of walking. Though I groan inwardly from the tedium sometimes, I do wonder if we’ve lost something – spiritually and physically, in all the zipping between places on buses and trains, and no longer connecting the dots on our own anymore.
After school I ended up at the park with a friend, and while she sat on a bench with her computer typing away I watched the bumblebees. There were a ton of bees, but only two of the bumbling sort. I oscillated between wonder and disgust, leaning over the bench into the bush and then flinching back again. I try hard to appreciate insects really, but maybe there’s still too much girl in me, and something about them – that alive yet machine-like quality, that evokes a particular queasiness in me.
But nevertheless I watched and watched. They hovered, and landed, and got busy with the flowers, and then lifted off again. We got some respite from the rain today. We shared some grapes and discussed the safety of eating fruit unwashed. The leaves of the oak trees hung silently in the setting sun, dogs and children romped, a little pink mitten was stuck on top of the iron gate, and the air was cool and still.
We’re bracing ourselves for colder days, but for now, in the last light of a fleeting summer, life goes on, at least on the bee’s scale.
(I’ll look out for them a bit more, and maybe someday I’ll touch one)
Last week on Monday, I went to the Natural History Museum and saw a lot of stuffed animals. So on Wednesday when I had some free time, I thought I should go see some live animals instead, and hence went on a solo excursion to Newham City Farm, where I spent my morning greeting all the lovely little animals.
Little chocolate sheep.
Most of my friends were dazzled by the thought of living in such a big city as London, but I came to London fairly undazzled, anticipating little. “A city is a city. I have come from a busy city. Now I will live in another just like it,” is what I thought to myself.
“Methinks I see these things with parted eye…”
But in a strange way, I have been dazzled.
It wasn’t the city lights, or the parties or the shopping that captured me.
It was finding, amidst the bustle of city streets, a place to sit down surrounded by trees, to lie down on a bed of grass with no company but a book, to see dogs run free and squirrels scramble up trees, and the sun periodically peek out from behind the clouds, bringing sudden life into everything around me.
The things climate and space constrictions in Singapore made impossible, this city has made possible to me.
“Curioser and curioser!”
Somehow I have discovered that kind of romantic solitude I thought to exist only in books – to be alone, yet never lonely. Over the past few weeks I have gone on some solo excursions – a long walk to a market, to a city farm, and to a quiet garden in a museum. Yet my most enjoyable episode was an afternoon in the park, reading Augustus and eating a sandwich lunch.
“Calm as to suit a calmer grief”
Yet at some points in my quiet moments, I became aware of a gentle pang in my heart, a little burden. Somehow part of my quiet was being able to look inside myself, and realising how deep that chasm I call my heart actually goes.
“All live are mysteries, I suppose, even my own”
But I remember those who have loved me, and I am not afraid to face whatever I will discover, in the world or inside myself. It is a confidence that comes only from knowing that I am unconditionally loved.
To be alone, yet never alone. To be afraid, yet never truly afraid. That is magic enough to dazzle any heart that has tasted this mystery.
A happy little friend I met yesterday
*Above quotes (in order of use as headings) are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, In Memorian by Lord Tennyson and last but not least, Augustus by John Williams
I’m not sure whether it’s delayed fatigue from a packed schedule, or just my introverted side showing more as a grow older, but I crave quietness a lot more now a days. Hastings was lovely. I wish I were a little braver and stronger, so that I could run away to places like these on my own sometime.
Let’s say, if right now,a meteorite came down
Even then, I probably wouldn’t be able to notice it
As I go up to heaven
Well, yeah, something like that.
~ Perfect Day, Supercell