Friends. I made it! Papers submitted, exams survived, my Oxford undergrad (I can’t believe I’m saying this) just about finished.
My goodness. For about a month there I think I just about ate, slept, breathed, and dreamed theology. Trinitarian intricacies, atonement models, high christologies, the meanings of ‘power’ in Romans, the significance of ‘signs’ in John. At the end of it, I donned my ‘subfusc’ (the academic dress required for exams), pinned in my carnation (white for the first exam, pink for middles, red for final), and tromped down with all the other windblown undergrads for three hour examinations in grand old exam rooms on Oxford’s High Street. It’s the kind of thing you can barely imagine before you do it; three hours to write three full essays from memory when you’re not even sure what the questions will be? But then adrenaline kicks in, and you do it. The triumph when you emerge into the sunlight sounds like trumpets and the swish of white-winged wild birds. You stumble out of the exam schools and feel you might as well just march down to the registrar and sign up for a Ph.D. (Hah!). After my last exam, I rode this high for about three days.
Then I crashed. But it was just in time for a bit of adventuring. Some open road for the renewal of soul and mind. Guess where I’ve been a-wandering? St. Andrews first of all, for some rollicking fun with my darling sister (yes, we did need both the french fries and the onion rings – it was an evening farm market and we were famished):
Look at the mellow, sea-tinted glory of this place. I walked and walked, trod those old stones and got a bit of their peace in the soles of my feet.
Then to London, with my girls, to see Joy’s first official play premiered at the London Encounter. It was a fascinating 20-minute monologue centred on the character of police inspector Javert, from Les Miserables, exploring his grapple with both law and grace. Let me just say, I have a radiantly creative and dramatically astute sister. (Pretty proud over here.)
Then, to Devon with my beloved. And oh friends, the dappled, green-hilled beauty, the narrow roads, the high hedges, the changing sky. The light, like diamonds and water and laughter coming through ancient trees growing out of even older stone walls, trees you feel will turn around and talk if you stay an extra moment.
And flowers. Fields and gardens and hedges resplendent with their glory.
And oh friends, fresh eggs and roses from the farm where we stayed. I think my English hostess was probably a little overwhelmed by my repeated gratitude. But those roses. I’ve never smelled any as sweet. And the cottage. I sat in that long, mellow-lighted old kitchen with the rain light stirring through the ivied windows and just watched. My eyes craved stillness after months of intensity. My soul craved gentle, crafted words. My hands craved my pen, and the slow, explorative space of my journal.
And now, I am back in Oxford. And I’m writing afresh, but not an academic essay this time. Friends, I’ve plunged into the journey of my next book, of this new world of words that will be my tribute to the books, the words, the stories that formed me. A book that will, I hope, be a gift to those who read it, an invitation into the splendors of the reading life in all its comfort, its wonder, its hope. I’ll be writing more here again and my heart swells with the joy of free, creative time and the freedom to write afresh in this dear old space. A new season pounds on the heels of the old…let the next adventure begin.
If you’ve stuck around this long, bless you. I’ll write again soon.