whim: an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

goals and failures and choosing a favorite color

well, i hate to start out by saying that i've mostly failed in my goals the last couple of weeks, but alas, it is true. i guess it depends on your definition of failure, though––after all, i am blogging, and i have written a few things (not every day, unfortunately), but i've just not been as consistent as i want to be. and i continue to waver in the attention i pay to spirituality. but, i realize that failure is sometimes the first step in success, as they say, so i'm hoping that this coming week will be better in a few different ways.

the past couple of weeks have been heinous. i've had some sort of cloud hanging over my head, and in spite of the fact that i'm working hard i feel like i'm getting nothing done. i was rejected for an internship i was hoping to get, spent an entire saturday up to my neck in literary theory, and overall i feel like i'm barely treading water. i've been informed that the first semester of the second year of grad school is particularly stressful, so i'm hoping and praying that i'll live through the semester, with some energy to reach my goals.

there is one thing i am grateful for, however: good people. i am blessed with a circle of good people around me––good friends––who continue to be supportive and encouraging. friends and family have been the one to keep be on board these last couple of weeks. i send my love to them!

there is one other thing that i'm grateful for: today. i've always been selfish with my sundays, mostly refusing to do schoolwork or anything unpleasant because i need at least one day to be free of what i deal with the other six days. (this makes it sound like i dread the things i do during the week, which isn't true. i do let the stress get to me, though, and it becomes harder to be motivated about what i do. i guess that's why i need sundays: to keep me going throughout the rest of the week.) after church today, my friend paige and i went to utah lake to sit in the warm weather (unusually warm for mid-october, which is also a blessing), and it was so relaxing that i felt at least partially renewed. the sun was bright, and the sunshine made the ducks' feathers glow unpredictably bright, and the mountains were so colorful from the fall colors. it was delightful. i love the colors of fall. even though fall signals the impending cold, i still love it because everything is so bright before getting bleak during the winter. i have some lovely pictures, and i'll post them next time.

thinking of color made me think of a small dilemma i've been having the last several years. it's nothing too traumatic, but it still makes me feel a little uneasy. the dilemma is this: i don't know what my favorite color is. i have pet colors, and i love colors in general, but it seems like the answer to the question what is your favorite color? is part of a person's identity, and not knowing what color is my favorite is like missing a piece of myself. a little overdramatic? maybe. probably. but i'm still thinking about it.

for a long time, red was my favorite color. i don't know why, but red was it. did it have something to do with ruby red slippers? maybe. did it have something to do with strawberries and raspberries, which are two of my favorite fruits? maybe. i really don't know, and i have to wonder if red was just the first color that popped into my mind when someone asked me what my favorite color was. does that mean it was really my favorite color? not necessarily. it probably just meant that i had seen a red car that i really liked earlier that day, or that or that i saw a picture of a celebrity with bright red lipstick i admired, or something like that. whatever the reason, it stuck for a while. i owned a red laptop until it bit the dust; i painted a red accent wall in my room; i gravitated towards red clothing; i loved red flowers. eventually, though, i grew out of red. i realized that i was telling people that my favorite color was red just because it was what i had told people for years.

and then i had an color identity crisis. a lot of people really identify with a certain color more than any other color, and all of the sudden i didn't know my color. did that mean i didn't really know myself? i have always loved colors, but all of the sudden, to choose one color out of the whole spectrum that was my favorite gave me mild mental anxiety.

i tried on blue for a while. when i was a missionary, i had a companion who loved blue––i mean really loved blue. 90% of her clothing was blue, down to bright blue ballet flats that she reserved for important meetings. i realized then that i also had a lot of blue clothing. did that mean that blue was it? i do love the nuances of blue––the color of the horizon at twilight, the color of the clear ocean, the color of sapphires, the color of a turquoise stone. blue is soothing and calming where red was bold and powerful. but something about blue just didn't sit quite right with me. i mean, there's nothing wrong with blue––i just couldn't ever say it was my favorite.

i also tried yellow out. cheery yellow, uplifting yellow. not too bright of a yellow, though––more like milky yellow than sun-at-high-noon yellow. yellow is a good color. i love yellow.

but it's not my favorite.

lately, i have gravitated towards green. i now have a green laptop case and keyboard cover. i love the color of grass in the summer and the color of granny smith apples. i love the color of avocado (the inside, not the outside), and i love the color of the english countryside and scottish highlands. green is earthy, goes well with brown (which i also enjoy) and, when paired with red, is the color of christmas (which is my favorite holiday––no indecision there). but is green really my favorite? it's the color of the year, but i don't know how long my infatuation will last.

after thinking about it, i am inclined to believe that loving color in general rather than one specific color might be a good thing, and might indicate a willingness to be adaptable and try new things. then again, one can still have a favorite color whilst loving color in general. there's probably not a solution to this dilemma, but i have to explore it anyway.

what is your favorite color? has it always been your favorite?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

music and goals

this was one of those weeks. you know, what of those weeks––so much to do, too little sleep, too little motivation. sometimes i have superweeks when i get everything done with room for sherlock and cupcakes, but this past week, i tried to fit everything in and it just didn't work. sleep is always the first to go, even though i know that when i get enough sleep i have more motivation AND energy. when will i learn? 

i have decided a few things lately, though. made a few goals. and here they are:

1. blog. if you'll take a look at the dates of my blog posts, you'll notice the huge gap between posts, especially when i started school. this may just seem like something else to put on my to-do list, but i really do enjoy blogging. it gives me an outlet, so instead of wasting time on facebook, i'm actually writing things. and that goes along with my next goal:

2. write things every day. "things" is intentionally vague, but i've realized lately that if i'm at all serious about this writing thing, it's got to be consistant. if there's anything i've learned in my grad program so far, it's that writing is hard, and if i'm going to ever be successful, i'll have to work my tail off. lately i've  loved listening to and reading writer interviews, because i like to hear what other writers have done to be successful. one of the common threads, of course, is daily writing. it makes perfect sense, but it's one of those things that is difficult even though it's common sense. so i'm going to write at least something every day. 

3. sleep at night. i have to be specific with this one, because i tend to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and plan on taking a nap the next day to make up for lost sleep. i always end up feeling discombobulated, even though i like taking naps. i need to sleep at night, and work during the day. this isn't a novel idea, so i ask myself once again, why is it so darn hard? 

4. don't forget my spiritual self. i'm always frustrated at how quickly scripture study and prayer and temple attendance slips when i'm in school. scripture study becomes scripture skimming, prayer becomes a list instead of a conversation, and the temple becomes a distant friend. but recognition is the first step in improvement! 

there are, of course, many more goals i could set, like exercise and healthy eating, but i'm going to try on focus on a few at a time. and i hope that because i'm recording these goals i'll be more likely to keep them. that's how goals work, right? in theory, i suppose. 

meanwhile, i wanted to share a few songs that i've been a little obsessed with lately. on the soundtrack to my life, these have been on repeat:

her morning elegance, by oren lavie (this is such a fantastic music video, too)

bang bang (my baby shot me down), nancy sinatra (in this clip, it accompanies a dance that is equally fantastic)

splendor in the grass, pink martini

Thursday, July 12, 2012

speaking to the dead

I had a nice conversation with Charles Lamb yesterday. Well, to be honest, it was with his gravestone, but his remains were there, so it might as well have been true.

Let's see. Allow me to back up for a mo ("mo" being "moment," a Britishism that I fully intend to incorporate into my daily vocabulary. Moving on). For those of you who don't know, I'm in England this summer, not to be an annoying tourist, but to be an annoying student researcher. I'm reading my way through the canonical writers of my genre––the personal essay. I've covered quite a bit of ground so far, but all the way back in May I started with Charles Lamb, who is considered by many to be the father of the English personal essay (with Michel de Montaigne as the father of the essay in general. But he was French, so of course we needed an English forefather as well). Anyway, because of his reputation, I started off my British adventure by reading a couple of his essay collections, Essays of Elia and The Last Essays of Elia (Elia being his pseudonym), and although I've moved through nearly a dozen essayists this summer since Lamb, I keep coming back to him.

Quite literally, in fact. Last week I visited one of Lamb's former homes in London, which happily still stands today. Steeling my courage and suppressing my shy nature, I knocked on the door to see if I could persuade the current resident to show me around. Luckily, a nice woman named Julia opened the door and happily obliged. The house was tall and narrow with fantastically creaky staircases, and the view from the very top floor, as Julia informed me, still looked similar to what Lamb would have seen as he and his spinster sister Mary looked out the window, because the architecture at the street level had changed more than the top levels of the homes on the street. Yesterday I traveled to Edmonton Green, which is in North London, and is also where Lamb lived until he died. Lamb's Cottage, which also still stands, had a lovely exterior, but unfortunately the locked front iron gates stopped me from accosting the current residents. Oh, bother. So I moved on to St. Anne's church, just right up the street, where Lamb and his sister Mary were buried.

It took me awhile to find the gravestone, as it was a pretty well-occupied churchyard cemetery and many of the gravestones were worn enough to make the text indistinguishable. After a few goings-over, I found it, and sat down to have a small chat. At first I felt odd talking to a gravestone, but after eating a granola bar and chatting for a minute, we were old friends. You see, his writing is so endearing––not that he was singularly good natured, because he definitely had a crotchety streak (although not as much as his pal Hazlitt), but because his essays portray both the amiable and crotchety sides of his character so well that the reader (at least this reader) instantly feels like a friend and confidant. His faults, those that he frankly exposed to the reader, make him infinitely more real and interesting. Because we humans aren't really attracted to people who are perfect––we want to be friends with those people who are as messy and moody as we are.

Anyway, we had a good talk. I even picked a few flowers around the churchyard to set on his grave (I'm not sure if it's unlucky to pick flowers off another man's grave, but for crying out loud, one guy had an entire lilac bush growing around his tomb. I just took one).

I think that the best literature, whether it be nonfiction, fiction, poetry, drama, whatever, is the kind of literature that makes us want to know the writer (even if it's just because he/she is so wildly crazy that you can't help but imagine what a riot he/she would be in person). I don't know if anyone has thought, after reading a really lame, trashy book, "I really want to meet [insert name of trashy romance novelist]." When I read something truly fascinating or strange or witty, I really just want to sit down with the writers and ask them what in the world was going through their brains when they wrote said story/essay/poem. So the reason why I wanted to sit down and have a chat with Charles Lamb is that I was wishing I really could sit down with him and see if he was as great as I think he is, and see what kind of a brain produced writing that people still love.

And that's my two cents for the day.

Pictures to follow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

in defense of pigeons

Ahem. It has come to my attention that I am part of a small minority when I say I like pigeons; and, in fact, many people hate the creatures, to the extent that committing crimes against them has become acceptable. I myself have laughed at how easily the nervous creatures panic and take flight, and how a small stamp of the foot sends them into a frenzy, but for one to kick them as a cur would kick a dog, or rejoice to see a dead pigeon––my conscience compels me to intervene on behalf of these birds. I must say, it seems rather unfair to me the merciless vendetta that some people have against this poor species. That one should take pleasure in giving them pain is horrifying indeed. What have they done to merit such loathing? And why, in this blessed world so full of wickedness and crime, would one waste hatred on so unassuming a species? 

Pigeons are actually smart little birds––and, you know, there may be a thing or two one could learn from these good fowls. For one, I was interested to learn that pigeons, those feral creatures scattered about London and other cities, actually mate for life. There is always something tender I feel whenever I hear of another species in the animal kingdom that mates for life. Emperor penguins, for example: while the husbands sit freezing in the arctic winds, warming the egg containing penguin junior, they wait faithfully for mum to return home from the great hunt. Such loyal creatures! Pigeon fathers also share the nesting duties, taking turns warming and protecting the nest from harm, so maybe shared fatherly duties comes hand-in-hand with mating-for-life-ness. Mating for life is a characteristic that seems to have fallen out of fashion with humanity. As people go through spouses like milk (keep it till it sours, then throw it out!), we really should turn to the birds and learn from their faithfulness. I can't imagine a pair of pigeons filing for divorce; they don't seem to suffer from humanity's current marital disease: irreconcilable differences. No leaving Jennifer Anniston when Angelina Jolie is hotter––pigeons have infinitely better sense than Brad Pitt. They are clever, really, and resourceful, I might add. City pigeons know exactly where to swarm to––the heavily trafficked touristy spots where a person is likely to leave a crumb or two of crumpets and cake for the birds to snatch up. They gladly accept what humanity discards.

Now many distrust city pigeons because they are mistaken for disease-carrying pests. In all actuality, pigeons have very good immune systems and aren't liable to transmit bird flu or other such diseases because they themselves don't carry the diseases. There are one or two diseases that one may contract from handling pigeons, but mostly from their dropppings (which, let's face it, we don't exactly scrape off the pavement and use as ice-cream toppers). As far as disease-carrying goes, you're one hundred times MORE likely to contract a disease from human contact than you are from pigeon contact. Think about the thousands of diseases which we pass around in our shaking hands and hugging and kissing––we thoughtlessly and shamelessly spread our germs, while shrieking at the sight of a pigeon, who is in reality a safer companion than another human. You might as well walk around with a surgical mask and gloves, for all you're concerned, and that would be no way to live.

But if you persist in arguing against the birds, yes, I do concede that there are pigeon populations in some big cities, leading to property damage and pollution from their droppings. But you can hardly blame them for that––they're only in cities in such great numbers because of us! Yes, the truth of the matter is that city pigeons are just descendants from domesticated pigeons gone feral. If we hadn't domesticated pigeons, the little problems they cause would never have existed. But doesn't a decent population of cooing, twittering pigeons just make a city? Think of a large city––London, or New York––and imagine it without pigeons. Wouldn't the streets be too solemn, too dull without our feathered friends?

But back to what we can learn from pigeons. Pigeons have an undeniably incredible sense of direction. Pigeons could fly thousands of miles and always be able to fly home. Drop a pigeon in the middle of the pacific blindfolded and it would know exactly where to go to get back home. We can't explain it, but we accept it and certainly trust it, which is why pigeons we have used them throughout time as carriers. Our militaries have trusted pigeons with vital information across enemy lines, and they have consistently fulfilled their duties and saved human lives with their faithfulness. G.I. Joe, for example, was a carrier pigeon who saved thousands of soldiers during WWII. In October 1943, the British were making advances on Colvi Veccia, a German-held Italian town. The Brits ordered an aerial attack of the town but were soon afterwards able to break through German lines and take up positions in the city. With a half-hour until the aerial attack, the soldiers in the city hurriedly tied a message to G.I. Joe's leg, telling headquarters to call off the attack to prevent thousands of British troops in the city from being killed by their own bombers. G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and they were able to cancel the attack just as the bombers were taxiing up the runways.  Cher Ami was another heroic pigeon, during WWI, and delivered another life-saving mission despite being shot out of the sky by German troops. The bird arrived having been shot through the breast, blinded, and with a leg hanging by a tendon, but he delivered his message.

So for their loyalty and faithfulness, I appeal to your humanity and ask you to reconsider your opinion of these our feathered friends, and next time you go to kick a pigeon, remember how many lives its ancestor saved, and spare the poor bird a bit of pain. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

tea and cake london

I saw this book at Waterstone's a couple of weeks ago and decided I HAD TO HAVE IT. It has a long list of tearooms, cafes, bakeries, and patisseries where one can enjoy the sweet of London. I was positively drooling over it in the bookstore, and the moment I brought it home Ari and I decided to have tea and cake Fridays here in London and go to as many of these little places as possible. So I'll share with you a few of our finds!

I have to preface this by saying that I'm obviously not a food photographer, so you'll just have to assume that the food looks about ten times as good as it does in the picture. Okay, this first photo is a slice of lemon loaf and a walnut brownie from the Hummingbird Bakery. The brownie was marvelously chocolatey, rich, and speckled with walnuts––that was my first pick, of course. The lemon loaf, though, was surprisingly delicious. I'm not usually one to go straight for lemon-flavored sweets (sometimes they can just be too sweet), but this lemon bread was delightful. They also had some beautifully-decorated cupcakes that looked fantastic. I'll have to remember that if there's a round two.

This slice of heaven was from Peggy Porschen. This is the Glorious Victoria layer cake, which is vanilla bean cake with a layer of vanilla bean buttercream and a layer of raspberry jam. It was really, really good, and wasn't too sweet, despite what it might sound like. This is a trend I've been noticing––so far, the desserts here in London have been less sweet than desserts in the States. I really like it. I think Americans get a little crazy with the sugar, but Brits seem to show a little more restraint in that regard. Oh, and Ari got the hot chocolate, which was exceptionally frothy. 

This past week we went to Lanka and got hot chocolate, a flapjack, and a white chocolate raspberry mousse cake. I'll load the pictures later, but let me just say that the hot chocolate was SUPERB. So far, the best hot chocolate I've had here has been from Lanka and Caffe Nero. The flapjack was a sort of glorified granola bar, and it was okay, but not my favorite. The whitechocolateraspberrymoussecake was absolutely to die for. Seriously, it was amazing.

I'm going to have to get creative on my food adjectives here, as you can tell.

That's all for now!

about the queen and other things

 Question: Who in the world would stand outside in the drizzling rain and freezing cold for hours on end to see the Queen of England float by on a big boat? First of all, me, that's who, along with thousands and THOUSANDS of British people braving the weather to celebrate their Queen. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee was quite the affair, so naturally a 1,000-boat flotilla was necessary. My friends and I arrived hours early, and still were barely able to see for the crowds of delighted drunk people waving the Union Jack as they awaited Her Majesty. Smiles and drinks were passed around freely as the crowd cheered, and momentarily everyone forgot how cold and rainy it was when the royal family passed by (emphasis on momentarily, though).

This is one of the only clear shots I got during the flotilla. I had to elbow a few nice old ladies out of the way and step on some toes, but all in the name of a good photo, right? (I think I must have gotten a drop of water or something on my camera lens, as you can tell from the dot in the middle of the picture. Or maybe it was just an overenthusiastic grey cloud.) Anyway, I have to say that I'm glad I went to the flotilla because I can check that off my list of "things to do once and never again." It was neat to see all the boats and neat to see how much the British really love Queen Elizabeth.

 This was the grand boat of the royal family, and if you squint really hard you can see the Queen (she's the cream-colored dot on top). (Oh, and don't mind the grey-haired ponytail man. He's in several of my pictures.) At this point in the flotilla, I had been standing for several hours in the cold, and I thought, "this is really what I came here to see? A cream-colored dot on top a red boat?" It was a bit of a disillusioning moment, but I'm sure it was due to the weather more than it was to the view.

But on to my favorite part of the Diamond Jubilee celebration: a tea party hosted by my ward's Relief Society. We drank cinnamon apple tea and ate delicious treats like scones, tarts, little cakes and sandwiches. We sang all five verses of God Save the Queen (I didn't know there were five. It's a long one!) The British sisters sang the national anthem, and two older ladies who remembered the coronation told us about the grand event. Actually, one old lady stood up and recited the history of the kings and queens of England (an abridged version––took about 15 minutes), ending with the coronation of Elizabeth II, where she went into great detail about the ceremony. It was quite impressive (her memory, that is).

To top it all off, we took a quiz about Her Royal Majesty, which I promptly failed. But I wrote down the answers, so for your pleasure, here's a list of facts you will never need to know about Queen Elizabeth:

  1. She acceded to the throne in February of 1952
  2. She was in Kenya when she heard about her father's death (the King)
  3. She was thirteen when she first met the Duke of Edinburgh (Phillip), who was later to be her husband
  4. She and Phillip have been married 64 years
  5. His nickname for her is "cabbage"
  6. The Queen's official birthday is in June, but her real birthday is in April
  7. Her first corgi's name was Susan
  8. Willow, Holly, and Monty are the names of the Queen's current corgis
  9. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister when she was coronated
  10. She wore Victoria's diamond necklace for her coronation
  11. She has nine thrones
  12. She's the fortieth monarch since William the Conquerer
  13. She wears black while visiting the Vatican
  14. She wears the Diamond Diadem to and from the State Opening of Parliament
  15. She has her ears pierced
  16. She wears blue more than any other color
  17. She has eight grandchildren
  18. She's 5'4"
  19. She has never worn jeans (crazy, right??)
  20. She doesn't carry any form of personal identification

Sunday, May 20, 2012

goal: best reading spots in london

When I read for long periods of time, I tend to get tired of reading in the same spot, so I bounce around every hour or so (or if I'm really fidgety, every 30 minutes or so) and find new spots to settle down in. Now when I'm in Provo, this usually means I go from the couch to the floor to my bed and maybe to campus (where I'll go from the carrels to right outside the carrels to the JFSB etc etc). In London, I've decided to create a master list of the best places to read, so I can bounce around the city and see all there is to see with a book in my hand.

With the blustery, cold, rainy, and altogether uncooperative weather in London thus far, I've had to find indoor locations and save the parks and gardens for later on in the summer (when it will hopefully warm up a bit). [aside: the side of me that loves sunshine and weather above 90 degrees is wilting away.] Anyway, here's a start to my list:

1. Notes Music Coffee is a small coffee shop just off Trafalgar Square. I'd read online that it was a good spot to go, and because of the cold weather I'm determined to find the best cup of hot chocolate in London. So coffee shops it is. Notes Music Coffee makes a mean cup of hot chocolate: it's frothy, not too sweet, and comes out with a lovely design drizzled into the foam. I don't know how they do it; all I know is that it looked as good as it tasted. They also have a fantastic fruit scone. But the food, though important, was not the primary reason I was there. I was there for about 45 minutes, leisurely sipping hot chocolate eating my fruit scone with blueberry jam, and reading Charles Lamb. NMC isn't the quietest place to read, but sometimes I like to read in a semi-noisy place to read because it forces me to concentrate on what I'm reading. There were a couple of people who were, like me, reading, but many of the people there were chatting with friends. They were playing Ella Fitzgerald in the background, and had a fantastic light fixture hanging above the long wooden slab tables. I can only handle reading in a noisy crowd for so long, so I skipped off to find another spot.

Assessment: great place to read if you don't mind the crowd. I was there during lunch hour, though, so I might try again at a not-so-busy time of day. Good hot chocolate, good scones, good music.

2. I didn't have to go very far to find a quiet spot. St Martin's in the Fields church is almost next door to Notes Music Coffee, and as I passed by, I realized that a church would probably be a perfect place to settle down for a bit. I was right. Architecturally speaking, St Martin's is an impressive structure, especially from the outside. The inside is more understated, though, and except for the carved, vaulted ceilings, it's quite simple and plain. Also, the windows are very interesting: there's no stained glass, only paneled glass. The east window, behind the altar, is the same simple paneled glass, but it's designed to look like the image of a cross reflected on the water, so the steel framework is warped and bent around in the shape of a cross, but more of an understated cross. It's very unusual, and I really loved it. I didn't want to be disrespectfully snapping pictures, but you should look it up online.

That's all aside from the point. I was there to read, so I sat down and pulled out my book. There was a string quartet in the church rehearsing for an upcoming Vivaldi concert (it was actually that evening), so I read whilst basking in the glorious silence of the crowd and the glorious music of the instruments. It was perfect, and I took a moment to thank heaven for beautiful music, beautiful churches, and beautiful reverence. I read there for almost two hours, and when I left I was reluctant to get up.

So far, those have been my two favorite spots. Maybe another day I'll tell you about my worst spot. But today, only the best.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

odd occurrence on the london underground

I have to say, the public transportation system is one of my favorite things about London. Is that strange? I love that each tube stop is different, from the colorful mosaic tiles in the Tottenham Court Road station to the thousands of tiny Sherlocks in the Baker Street station to the sleek grey simplicity of the Westminster station. I love that you can find the stylish business types sitting next to the goths, or the hipsters, or the ever-present tourists. I don't always love them individually, but collectively they really are fascinating; they remind me that no matter who you are–rich, poor, whatever–you still need to get around somehow. And the overwhelming number of people who choose the tube to get from point A to point B makes the ride interesting.

Of course, when you have that many people coming together, there are bound to be tiffs. Take today, for example, when Ari and I were coming home from Southampton, and at the very last leg of our hourandahalf journey back to London, a disturbance threw a wrench in the typically eventless tube ride. We were technically in the London overground, not the underground, but it's pretty much the same thing.  Anyway, allow me to relate the experience:

Our train was at a routine stop, and a large crowd was still trying to get in when the doors started closing. Enter The Jerk. The Jerk was a tall man in a business suit, with a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. He was probably around 6'3", with pale skin, almost-black hair, high cheekbones, and a sardonic smile. He entered the train, narrowly missing the closing doors, and yelled at the Tired Train Operator to not close the doors so quickly, as there was still a number of people coming on board. Tired Train Operator was a black man, medium build, probably 5'10", his hair braided into cornrows. He looked worn out. After The Jerk yelled at him, the two men had some sort of heated verbal exchange that I only heard bits of. It ended with The Jerk accusing TTO of abusive behavior and TTO demanding that TJ leave the train so they could sort the problem out so the train could proceed on its journey. They were at a standstill: TJ refusing to get off the train, and TTO refusing to start the train until he did. Enter Level-Headed Man. I didn't get a good look at LHM, but I remember that he was also in a business suit and had a neatly-trimmed beard. He started talking to TJ, calmly saying that everyone was tired and anxious after a long day's work, and that everyone should let the matter drop so the train could move on its way. The standstill continued for a while, as TJ continued to argue with TTO, and TTO stubbornly but calmly waiting for the man to get off the train. LHM finally got out of the train and spoke to TTO, and I heard nothing of their exchange. By this time, the other passengers onboard started to murmur and a few called out to TJ to get off the train already. Enter Autistic Child, who was in the train and starting to get angry with his mother, nervously and anxiously proclaiming that they should NOT have taken the tube. AC's mother called out to the men, saying that she had an autistic child who didn't handle waiting very well. He was getting really upset, and everyone around TJ started to urge him off the train, and he finally stepped off, spoke with TTO for a brief moment, got back on the train, and in less than a minute, the doors closed and the train squealed as it picked up speed, and we moved away from the platform. No one in our car said a word, and silence hung awkwardly, heavily, and oppressively in the air, until the next stop, when Ari and I exited the train, wide-eyed and relieved.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

lovely day in brighton

"Well, mamma," said she, when they were all returned to the breakfast-room, "and what do you think of my husband? Is he not a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands."

"I thank you for my share of the favour," said Elizabeth; "but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands."
 (Pride and Prejudice)

I don't particularly like Lydia's way of getting husbands either, but I DID want to go to Brighton. So when Kirsteen and Lars offered to drive Ari and I to Brighton on Sunday afternoon, we eagerly accepted. Brighton is a short drive from Haywards Heath, so we piled into their car and headed off. 

There is at least one thing I must say about the beach: it tends to bring out the child in all of us. At least this was the case for Ari and I {even for Lars and Kirsteen, if you ask me}. Let me 'splain. The moment we landed on the beach, Ari was off like a rocket, heading straight to the waves to play in the frigid water.  Ari had warned us that the beach turned her into a little girl, and I saw this to be true. (Keep reading if you want to learn about my own childhood flashback.) She laughed merrily as she played in the waves, simultaneously laughing and gasping at the cold water. 

At this point, you should know that the beach at Brighton is not a sandy beach, but a pebble beach, which makes it more-than-slightly uncomfortable to skip around on the beach without shoes on. Burying your feet in pebbles is just not the same as burying your feet in the sand. We, however, still took off our shoes and played in the water as best we could. I lasted about one minute in the water before I froze (it was, thankfully, a sunny day, but still chilly and windy); I didn't have the same fortitude as Ari in confronting the cold water. After walking around on the Brighton Pier, the four of us settled onto the beach. This is where I turned into a little child myself. You see, I've been a rock and seashell collector all of my life. At certain points in my life, I have to pare down on my rock collection, as it is impossibly hard to sustain while moving around as much as I do. I have early childhood memories of rifling through rocks to find my favorite one; seashells are the same. I don't live anywhere near a beach, so when I can get my hands on a seashell, I'm a happy girl. So the moment I sat down, I began scouring the immediate vicinity for shells and cool rocks. Kirsteen and Lars soon picked up on my search, and began handing me shells they picked up. I tried to only take my favorites, but as you'll see from my picture below, I didn't succeed at narrowing my favorites down very well. As we were sitting, Lars began piling rocks on Kirsteen's outstretched legs, saying something about his having children while still being a child himself. We decided that when being a parent, one really must be a child at heart. (I'm not a parent, but Lars and Kirsteen will soon be!) 

When I think of being young at heart, I think of never being too old to take joy in running along the beach, or examining rocks and seashells closely enough to see the grooves and shades and pockmarks, or generally being able to look for the sublime in a small moment, or a small object, or a small thought. I see some people who never grow out of that, even through jobs and parenting and all the other "grown up" things we do, and I want to be one of those people always. Just a thought.

Here are some photos from our Brighton excursion. There are also a few from the drive home (South Downs, Jack and Jill windmills). 


I told Ari she looked like a movie star in this picture, and I don't know if she believed me. Don't you agree? 

Ari and I on Brighton's pebble beach

Ari and I with Lars and Kirsteen. I love these people!

Lars and Kirsteen

Brighton from the Pier

It's my collection! (look at this stuff, isn't it neat?)

Trying not to freeze atop South Downs hill 

Not a great picture, but the road reminded me of walking through a Middle Earthean forest 

Jack (or Jill) windmill

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a few photos from the sort-of-sunny UK

I say "sort of sunny" because we've had a couple of rainy days and a couple of sunshiny days. All beautiful. 

I'm going to blog frequently while I'm in the UK, but I'll probably post photos about once a week. So here they are, with my (at times lengthy) descriptions:

 When we got to the UK (and when I say "we," I mean my little UK group, including Ari, Kayla, Ben, and our facilitator Averyl. Right now I'm living with Ari, so mostly "we" will be applied to us two), I thought we'd all be staying in London, which was I think the plan; however, finding housing for us was turning out to be difficult, so Ari and I ended up going to live with a couple (Kirsteen and Laars) in Haywards Heath until our London housing could be sorted out. It's about a 45 minute train ride from London, and I admit I was a little frustrated because it's pricey to travel between London and Haywards Heath. My frustration quickly evaporated when I met Kirsteen and Laars, who are quite possibly the loveliest people ever in the world. Staying with them has made this first week the best first week I could imagine. I find more and more that it's possible to love people immediately, a claim that is supported by my meeting Kirsteen and Laars. Pictured above is the apartment complex, and our flat is on the first floor to the left (see bottom left window). 

These are the trees outside my window. See the snaky but leafless vines crawling up and down the trees? I love them. I'm a little obsessed, and I tried drawing them in my notebook but I'm such a terrible artist. So I took a picture and try to look at them as much as possible.

Ari and I went around exploring Hayward's Heath, and we happened upon this small, beautiful patch of land. I forgot how green everything is here! It's amazing how many shades of green can be found in one place–green is a very pleasant color, and I doubt I'll ever get sick of it.

The spring flowers are, of course, thriving, thanks to bucket-loads of rain. These flower are in Beech Hurst Gardens.

Ari and I

I made this picture extra large so you could adequately see the gorgeousness. Laars and Kirsteen drove us to South Downs, home to some large hills that you can climb (or drive) and be rewarded with this view. If you turn south, you can see Brighton and the coastline in the distance. We didn't stay for too long, as it was pretty cold, but I was amazed at how beautiful it was. The drive was very interesting: let me just say that British roads are indeed narrow (no tall tales there), and yes, there are roads so small that there's only room for one car at a time, and the road hopefully has small outlets to pull over so you can allow other drivers to pass. Phew! I'm glad I don't have to drive here. 

Of course, Ari and I wanted to be touristy for a bit and go to some markets. This is the Portobello crowd, and this is me with my ridiculous sunglasses.

Portobello Market was all well and good, but BOROUGH MARKET is where the food's at; so naturally, it's where we spent the most time. This is ciabatta bread from one stand and spinach hummus from another–I also bought stuffed grape leaves from the same stand as the hummus. Try to imagine the best hummus you've tasted and multiply that by four, and you'd just about have it.

Does a brownie need much of an introduction? 

I now understand why Edmund betrayed his family for turkish delight. This is pistachio, creamy rose, and milk coconut turkish delight. UHmazing.  We also had goat's milk ice cream, which was also the best thing ever in the world. As we were eating the ice cream, we passed a stand that sold homemade (of course) muesli and granola, and the lady gave us a bit to sprinkle over our ice cream. Heaven.


This is the Natural History Museum. We got there about 10 minutes before close, so we didn't see much, but isn't it an astoundingly majestic building?

There are a few highlights from my first week here in the UK. We're actually going to Brighton this afternoon with Kirsteen and Laars, so next week I might post some pictures by the sea! Hallelujah!

Friday, May 11, 2012

transitions and whims

I have pondered the difference between blogging and journal writing as of late, especially because I all but quit writing in my journal a few years ago, but I've had a regular blog since 2006. I imagine it'd be easy to keep a blog running forever, because unlike a journal, you will never run out of pages or room to write. However, after having the same blog for six years, I've been meaning to start a new blog. There's no practical reason to start a new blog, like running out of pages in a journal, but I do feel a sort of finished feeling, like my life has been in some sort of transition lately, and the transitionary period calls for a new blog.

I never expected the transition between undergrad and grad student to be a big transition, but my first year of grad school taught me otherwise. I don't know that I can really explain it. In my first year of grad school, I studied more and was more invested than I ever was as an undergraduate, and it was really really hard, and at the same time it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do, something that I loved to do, which made all of the late nights (early mornings) and writing and grading and falling asleep on the couch worth it. And I feel somehow different after the first year, mostly because I've realized how vital this transition is to my future. Not to be overdramatic, but I think it's changed my life in ways I might not completely understand just yet.

And for now, it has led me back to England for the summer. It seems like many of my big decisions in life have happened because of England. I decided to apply for my master's program when I was in England two years ago, and during my first  year of grad school I decided I'd go back. Both decisions seemed to have been made on a whim (especially this time), even to the point where I've gone to the very last minute without thinking about all the "important" details (like money, for example) because all I knew was that I was going to England, and hoped everything would work from there. So maybe that's why I titled my blog "on a whim and a fancy": because sometimes I feel like some of the best, most fulfilling and exciting experiences in my life have been made and done on a whim and a fancy. Which is probably not wise, as the very small practical part of my brain says.

But I'm very skilled at suppressing practicality. So here I am, in England once again, which is the perfect place to finally start a new blog.

So, welcome! Come again soon.