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Myths and Mystery

So I was very interested to discover that a significant group of our Programmers attended the Italian's party last night. And had quite a bit of fun, as I could tell from the photos. There is something clearly very wrong with my European experience. My friends are going to dance to provocative techno music with Italians; I'm writing essays about a misunderstood nursery classic and living in the computer lab. ...There is something very, very wrong with this picture.

Apparently, in the midst of this partying, Nikki lost one of her dangling gold earrings. This is of little surprise, for no matter how much I love Nikki, she'd lose her head if it wasn't conveniently attached to her shoulders by way of her neck. Maira was fortunate enough to stumble across the earring. (Maira's mane of hair is in a braid today -- still no replacement hair-stick.)

The only excitement over breakfast was a box of Mr Juicy (the orange juice company) squirting out the straw as a perfect expression of surprise, and someone being attacked by an orange via squirting in the eye while peeling. Dangerous citrus, the orange. Nikki informed me that she named her breakfast orange after me. I told her that I was honoured.

Around meal-time, everyone seems to dread the thought of going home, for no one can seem to imagine the mere idea of preparing one's own meals again. What are we going to do without three lovely Polish girls to put food onto our plates?

I've taken to attaching my watch onto my key-lanyard, since I'm scared enough to keep my keys on my person at all times. It's just convenient to have a watch there as well. But the really cool thing about my watch is that it's a Sisyphus watch -- instead of a second hand, it shows Sisyphus, the sinner of Greek mythology, pushing his rock along the edge of the watch's face. All the teachers thought that it was really cool. Very symbolic -- the unending punishment of time and whatnot. Maira and I quoted some Ovid to show off.

Mrs. Wallace likened us students to Sisyphus, having been here a week now, forever toiling at our studies, pushing our rocks up our hills, just to have to repeat the process all over again to meet the next deadline. It was so odd, though, hearing Mrs. Wallace talk that way. Madeleine can vouch for me on this, for she experienced the exact same thing, but for some reason, for about a minute, the word "deadline" suddenly meant nothing to me. It was like I had never heard the word before in my life, and I couldn't make any sense of it or even guess as to what it meant. Oh, to have such ignorance! To not know what a deadline is -- I'd call that bliss.

After breakfast, we were ushered out to the bus with our little packed lunches in hand. Today was another excursion day. I had forgotten this momentarily, but I could tell the day of the week by the color of Henry Speck's shirt. Green. Saturday. Excursion day.

Daniel, the enigma of China, doesn't participate in the excursions. Or the lectures. Actually, I'm not sure he participates in anything except meals. Sometimes not even meals. I think that he writes essays and has tutorials, but who knows? We never see him, in any case.

Today's adventure was to Stonehenge, and then to Salisbury. Henry Speck told us all about it on the ride there, but all I could think of was how much fun Henry Higgins would have with Speck -- Texas and Oxford; how does that mix linguistically? If I didn't think of these things, I'd go out of my mind from taking the world too seriously.

Like Stonehenge. In all honesty, Stonehenge cannot be taken seriously. It is a photo-op for tourists and only little more, if anything at all. Though we did get some very good pictures. "Here we are, looking cute in England! Oh, and there are some really old stones behind us." Also, why is it always the "mist" of time? If the history was lost in the "mist" of time, I think someone would be able to find it. It needs to be, like, the hurricane of time. Then I'll accept it.

Programme Notebook Entry:

I was lucky enough to obtain a guided audio tour on our visit to the famed and ancient site, Stonehenge, but I can't say that the audio tour was particularly informative. While it gave some evidence found from carbon dating, the likely origin of the stones, and a few myths surrounding Stonehenge, there was not a lot of actual information given. (Albeit, the factoid that the arrangement of the stones can be used as a calendar was fascinating.) Mostly, the tour asked, usually in a very breathy and reverent voice, "Why?" Why were the stones brought here, what purpose did they serve, and why was it reconstructed so many times? Stonehenge has become a monument to the mysterious, though rather be a monument to the enigmatic, I feel the site should be a memorial to lost history, because that's what Stonehenge is. It's like the grave of the unfound soldier; its history is gone and not likely to be found again.

We sat on the edge of the grass path and ate our lunch. Conversation was mostly of the natural vein. The environment-conscious students are irritated with Brian, because all the trees are going to Brian's T.P. efforts; he is a T.P-er. He told us stories of his many exploits in this field. Apparently you can make it an art. I know that some people consider vandalism art... but seriously. Toilet Paper? Yeah right.

And, as always, the discussion went to fruit. Brian went around judging the quality of the apples in our bagged lunches, earning him the title of the Apple Whisperer. I busied myself with playing with Brian's fancy shoes, so I got the title of the Shoe Whisperer. They are some seriously fancy tennis shoes. There are straps on there whose purpose even escapes Brian.

Brian is also always posing, as if for a picture. It's fascinating. He must do some side-business in modelling, because he just sits, completely naturally, as if he expects someone to be taking pictures of him for a Calvin Klein ad. As if to serve his purpose in the universe, I was sure to take some pictures of him.

Risa was crazy with the fruit at lunch today. I think she had three all at once, at one point. Something about the Japanese and fruit. I don't know. But Risa is the oddball Japanese girl, and is very proud of it. There were Japanese tourists everywhere at Stonehenge. I know it's such a stereotype, the Japanese tourists, but it's so true! They're everywhere in England! All the girls giggle the same way and all having matching backpacks. Risa is disgusted by the giggle and does not laugh that way. Brian has determined that we are "not as cute as the matching Japanese tourists." One possible suggested remedy to this was for us all to get matching cardigans. I'm all for this plan.

Along with honeydew, Brian has added ham sandwich to his repertoire of Things to Make Hayley Choke On While Laughing. I felt just like that singer from the Mamas and the Papas, except I didn't die. But he's got two more weeks. He'll get me.

When I was done wandering through the photo-op mists of time, I walked back with Henry Speck to the "coach" (Americans read: bus) to make sure that I wasn't late. But I did try to enter the coach on the wrong side. "England, Hayley," Speck pointed out to me. Ha, ha.

On the bus ride, I complained to Maira that I had no idea what I was going to write in my Programme Notebook entry for that excursion. Mrs. Wallace jumped into the conversation, vehemently arguing against the stridency of the programme. I found myself somewhat taken aback. A teacher agreeing that perhaps this is too much work? No way. ...And this is Oxford... Aren't we supposed to be overwhelmed? The British will laugh at us if we can't handle it. We can't have the British laughing at us.

Maira's doing the children's crusades for her next tutorial. I am intimidated simply by how impressive that sounds. Alice's identity crises don't sound nearly as impressive.

It was a nice bus-ride, though. I like the country-side. I can't say it looks particularly "English" (not like the Pride and Prejudice mini-series, anyway); actually, it looks a bit like West Virginia, which I find comforting. Looks familiar -- like home. But I especially like the trees, when the road digs down into the ground, so that the trees grow at angles on either side and form an archway, a tunnel of green.

Next stop: Salisbury. We should have spent all day at Salisbury, it's just such a cool town. Not only does it have the magic hand-washing machine in its public bathrooms (dampens, soaps, rinses, and dries -- all in one hole-in-the-wall compartment!), but there is a fabulous open-air market that Maira, Janine, Madeline and I had a grand old time wandering through. From meat to produce to cheap novels and videos to toys to bargain clothes to fancy hats to jewellery and incense! I bought myself a cheap little jade Buddha to add to my little altar of spirituality in my room. I kept him in my pocket all day, rubbing his belly for good luck and good thoughts.

We thought we'd come back later to buy some cheap, knee-high Argyll socks, but we never got the chance, being that we had a whole cathedral to see. Beautiful cathedral. Saints staring down at you all around the outside, and inside -- such gorgeous windows. The one at the pulpit was positively breath-taking, all blues and splashes of red, like blood, and glowing yellow.

Programme Notebook Entry:

The visit to Salisbury Cathedral was one that made me very happy to own a camera. It is said that the palest ink is stronger than the most retentive memory, and while I'm referring to printing ink here, the sentiment is the same. I want to be able to remember what I saw there. There is so much beautiful art in that cathedral, from the choir to the windows to the structure of the cathedral itself, and I want to remember that beauty, and that feeling of being so humble in the presence of something greater. I am amazed and awestruck by the power of religion to inspire people to create such beautiful art. We have asked "What is art?" so many times in this programme, and I think it undeniable that there is feeling expressed in the art of Salisbury Cathedral.

Our tour guide was a charming old woman who showed us all the details of the windows and the effigies, as well as the clock of the cathedral, which is hailed as the oldest working clock in the world. Very cool. Such a sweet old lady, though. Brian gave her a hug after the tour. I think it freaked her out a little, but it was cute. Everyone agrees that she was "just so cute, y'just wanna put her in your pocket and take 'er home!" Not sure what I'd do with a sweet old lady at home, though.

I was particularly touched by the experience of going to the cathedral, though. Places like that, of such spiritual reverence and beauty -- it really is humbling. The priest said a moving prayer on reflection and keeping others in one's thoughts, during which I almost cried. I tried praying. I'm working at it.

It feels almost as if this experience is becoming something of a spiritual journey for me. I have no religion to speak of, but I have always had that feeling of yearning, of wanting to feel more, to feel whole and connected and loved and at peace. I've been trying to explore these feelings, and explore what they mean to me as a spiritual person. I know it might be viewed as blasphemy to some, but I lit a candle for the loved ones in my thoughts, and left a note in the Request for Prayers book.

I left the cathedral feeling lighter, feeling as if I was really breathing. There was a wedding about to take place at the cathedral, and I had a strong sensation of life beginning.

All the girls were so disappointed, not to be able to see the wedding. Obviously a military wedding -- all the men in uniform. One older man in a kilt. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bride in a car as we were walking back to our bus.

I'm sorry to say that Descartes completely ruined my lovely spiritual mood. I ranted about him at Maira, after which the following dialogue ensued:

Maira: Are you sure that his work really is crap, or could it be that you just don't understand it?

Hayley: ...

Okay, so maybe that was really a monologue, but my silence was profound. It scares me, to be questioned if I actually understand something. Especially by someone who I'm fairly certain is way more intelligent than me.

Upon returning to the college, I skipped dinner, holing up in my room to work on my next tutorial essay for Tuesday. You know how sometimes people seem to put up invisible signs that tell you it's just better to leave them alone? Well, I actually did put up a sign. I taped it to my door. "SOD OFF. I'm working. Love, Hayley."

I love my room. I don't mind holing up in my room. Henry Speck hates this building (the Maplethrope Building), but I like it (despite the horrible bathrooms -- that strobe warm-up of the light is really getting to me). I like the space. I like the geometric lines. I like all the windows everywhere, so you can see the green view outside, and so sunlight can stream in everywhere. I love my east-facing windows, and I love my curtains, pulling them closed at night and being able to pull them open in the morning and flood my room with sunlight.

I love the shelf at the head of my bed. I love being able to have my little altar there. I love being able to sit on my bed and meditate or pray or whatever it is -- to just be with myself and the quiet.

And I love how fully engrossing the darkness is when I turn off the light at night.


Aug. 15th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
Religion and Belonging
My Darling Hayley:
Don't be taken in by the "Opiate of the masses." While the stained glass windows ARE very pretty (as are those at the Nat'l Cathedral on Wisconsin Ave.), don't forget that there are people (read: your mother, stepfather and me) who relish the moments of candor when you choose to confide in us. Why on earth would you need to expound by way of prayer to an imaginary father-figure? Please keep me in the loop, because I truly DO love you and will always be here to listen and give encouragement. You are a fascinating, erudite creature worthy of a wider audience, but I will always enjoy my place at your side, as has been the case for your entire life.
All my love,


St. Hugh's Crest
Hayley Elizabeth Rushing

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