3/16/16 10:30 pm - magnolia blossoms
it's curious how there always seem to be more fictional moments, more impossible days and weeks and months.
you forget, you get lost in the routine of it, forget how miraculous that routine actually is, but then every now and then you wake up, look around and realise how strange it is that all this is real, that this is where you are.
that happened today, I was walking to the shops after work and it struck me. oxford said yes, my college said yes, I came here and it was easier than I'd dared to hope. my flatmates are sweet and so are my coursemates, I've been a fool in some classes and less so in others, but overall, this system suits me better than any previous one ever did, the tiny seminars, one-on-one discussions with tutors, everyone getting all excited over their topics. and social things, too, sweet people who will rant and take long walks with you and exchange book recs and moan over swiftly approaching deadlines over coffee.
and there are the ridiculous, impossible, utterly fictional oxford things that I thought couldn't exist: the long dinners, candlelit chapels and rooms, water in silver cups, ancient bible fragments, priceless reliefs from three thousand years ago, port and snuff, someone telling a fun story about the time the queen came for dinner, secret doors that look like bookcases (!), cloisters in the sunlight, terribly sweet porters, chats with classics professors and neuroscience students and coffee by a 15th century fireplace.
and there's the strange impossible ease of it -- the term ended last week, I got my (probably poor...) essay in with the aid of a friend and gave someone a couple of folders and saved their day. and my college gave me a grant to go to japan in april for my dissertation, and my adviser offhandedly offered me a job for the break. and my flatmate caught me in the hallway and asked if I'd like to go to rome and venice with her, and--well, why not? what could be more cliché than that?
what lovely fiction.
and so today I was walking to the city centre after having spent most of the day in the college library where I moved piles and piles of 19th century journals and listened to three librarians and two archivists try to figure out a gift for another librarian who's leaving, someone mentioning a sword they'd been given and another person suggesting they could have him draw it out of a stone. (in the end they settled for a beautiful facsimile of some anglo-saxon manuscripts and a book on our ancient papyri (which may be the oldest codex fragments in existence)) at some point they mentioned someone called v at which point the older archivist -- who was sitting on the floor because there weren't enough chairs and he decided the carpet was comfortable -- turned to me and in his perfectly posh accent said, "that's his girlfriend. her name is veronica but everyone calls her v." which really sounded like a narrator's clarification in a film, more than anything.
and as we were shelving the books, the dean of divinity came by because he was worried he might get to the end of next term without having been to the library, and one of the workmen who are still finishing up the main section of the library came by to ask how old the books were with this utterly astounded expression.
and so, yes, today I walked through the city centre and thought how strange it is, how this was supposed to be hard and painful, how this was supposed to be a struggle, and-- no. it's lovely, is what it is. my limbs ache from all those books I've carried and it's a good ache, the feeling of having done something real. tomorrow I'll go back for an hour since that's all my contract allows. then I'll head to another library, read for my next essay and hope I find the fire I know is there. in a few weeks, I'll be in italy, and in a few more, in osaka.
and then I'll return to this impossible place.
oh, one more thing.
I stopped to take a picture of the magnolia blooming by radcliffe camera. a woman came up to me but I couldn't hear what she said through my headphones. I took them off and she asked what the tree was called. I told her. she said they have magnolias in spain, too, but with much bigger flowers, some as big as her head, she gestured. she said she'd had her picture taken like that, with a flower as big as her head. I said that was amazing, said something about the climate maybe having something to do with the size. she quickly said these were pretty, too. I agreed. then she abruptly apologised. I wish I could've responded better, all I said was there was no need to be sorry at all, wished her a lovely day. what I wanted to say was that it was the sweetest thing, such beautiful fiction. a spanish tourist coming up to you to tell that there was a picture of her with a magnolia flower the size of her head.
how wonderful is that?