A thousand tongues

From the tower, Radcliffe Camera and the “dreaming spires” of Oxford, June 2017

“There is an air about it, resonant of joy and hope: it speaks with a thousand tongues to the heart: it waves its mighty shadow over the imagination…and points with prophetic fingers to the sky.”Β — William Hazlitt, describing Oxford

This was my third visit to Oxford, but the first time I stayed more than three days. The weather was as close to perfect as I could have wished, and I walked to my heart’s content and more, averaging 8 miles a day. Much of that walking was part of class sessions or group activities, but a fair amount of it was my own exploration. There were some great class outings, and none more memorable than climbing the narrow spiral staircase in the 13th century tower of the University Church.

The tower was so cramped that a few visitors who were there that day felt, on seeing inside it, too claustrophobic to even try to climb it. Those of us who did had no regrets; the view from the top was breathtaking, and extended almost 360Β° to give an unparalleled view of the city. Reading Hazlitt’s description of Oxford, I immediately thought of that panorama.

I can’t think of any thriving city of such relatively small size where so many of the buildings have been in use for so long. Yet there is nothing that feels antiquated about Oxford, at least not to me. Perhaps the presence of so many colleges with their youthful population explains part of the animated atmosphere, but I think that is only a part of the appeal.

As is my travel habit, I spent much time exploring the residential areas just outside the city center, riding the buses with the locals and roaming around the grocery stores hunting for snacks and teas I can’t get at home. Like the city center, these places were modern, yet set in charming historic neighborhoods where I was tempted to stop and take photos so often that always ran out of time before I saw as much as I wanted to see.

I’m a great believer, though, that we don’t need to go someplace far-off and exotic to find fascinating things. Most places will speak to us with a thousand tongues, if we stop to listen. Here’s wishing us all a week of tuning in to the resonance of joy and hope wherever we find ourselves.

27 Comments

  1. raynard

    Julia as I was reading this at work, I was ” stuck with a moment of Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1 and The Opera song in Shawshank Redemption” Marriage of Figaro”. Yes, it was raining all day here, why do you ask? I digress. I miss traveling overseas and one day ” going back to Hawaii doesn’t count. But that is where my middle daughter was born and I think she wants to go back to visit. I have so many cakes to bake so, I feel like a combination of” the Swedish Chef meets Julia Child with a dash of ” Justin Wilson I garentee”.. Lol. Yesterday I tried something new. Chocolate Fudge with a coffee glaze and chocolate buttercream on top… Yes, There is a picture in your email… TTYL.

    • Raynard, believe it or not I haven’t gotten to my email, but a piece of virtual cake is just what need now, so I’ll go check it out after I finish these comments. That flavor sounds like a perfect “chocolate therapy” moment. I think I told you once that “Shawshank Redemption” is one of my favorite movies. I have the ending quote from Andy Dufrane (the one about hope being a good thing) written in front of my journal-turned-reading-log where I wrote it many many years ago.

      • Rene

        Julia & Raynard, there is a shop in Idyllwild called “El Buen Cacao” and it’s sign promises “chocolate nirvana.” Twice this summer I have had a treat there called a “sipagado:” vanilla ice cream with Mexican sipping chocolate poured over it. It truly tasted like chocolate nirvana; that cake sounds as if it is as well. One day maybe we can compare!

        • Oh Rene, that sounds WONDERFUL!! πŸ™‚ Just reading about it makes me smile.

  2. Wonderful post, Julia. So descriptive. Fell like I was there. Thanks for bringing me along. What a terrific memorable experience. It is true, though; we don’t need to venture to far to experience the wonders of God’s creation that He places just before us. Thousands of tongues for sure.
    -Alan

    • Thank you, Alan. I am enjoying the cooling temperatures. I imagine it’s already getting cooler up in “the quiet corner” too. Last autumn was lost to me in hospitals, death and grief, but maybe I will be able to enjoy some aspects of the autumn. Hope you are having a good week.

      • I am Julia, enjoying the week. The summer comes so slowly, yet exits so quickly. Yes the “Quiet Corner” will be getting cooler too. I hope you will get to enjoy this autumn with lesser of a cross to bear.
        -Alan

        • Alan, so true about summer exiting quickly. That was one of the first things that hit Jeff and me when we moved to Virginia after living in very warm places without well-defined seasons. We kept expecting fall to arrive in late October or early November, and every year the cool weather coming in late August would be a pleasant surprise, yet it left us wondering what had become of the summer. My sister’s school district is already back to school next week, but here in Virginia they don’t start back until Labor Day. That gives the kids a chance to enjoy some play time outdoors in this gorgeous weather. Another cool, sunny day today. I too am hoping for an Autumn less burdened with sorrow, but in the meantime, I am savoring whatever gifts it has to offer.

          • So happy to hear your upbeat outlook. As a retired teacher when the summer reaches its end, I can look forward to the autumn transition without the burden of the start of a new school year. I loved being a teacher. And in that past tense statement is my joy of my present status.
            -Alan

            • Alan, that’s a lovely observation. My sister is planning to be retired by this time next year, and I know she will be so happy when that first post-retirement autumn rolls around and she doesn’t have to be busy getting ready for a new school year. To be able to look back with satisfaction and fond memories of a long and happy career is a rare blessing indeed. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting even more rare, as so many companies show no real loyalty to their employees (as in job security), and the employees thus have no reason to reciprocate with loyalty toward their employers. I think our generation was more fortunate, in some ways, than those who came after.

  3. Harry Sims

    My My My!

    Let me add my tongue of gratitude to the mix for you my dear Julia in being back with you.
    When you stopped posting with any regularity (and I can understand why) several weeks ago I stopped visiting this wonderful website and then perhaps by accident but most likely by Providence, I revisited – perhaps because I continue to be excited by Grace.

    Grateful Harry

    • Hi Harry, welcome back! I’m glad you found us again. I finally realized that I would never get back to the blog if I waited until I thought I had enough time, so here I am. I do find that it’s good for me to keep it going. I really missed everyone while I was away, though I did need the time off. I’m happy you enjoy being here!

  4. Good morning, Julia! Although the day seems dreary in your photo I can feel the emanating energy described by William Hazlitt. In fact, had the day been sunny, the stunning view and visual shadows would have detracted from the “shadows” cast by the brilliance of that unseen “joy and hope.”
    It’s breath-taking and inspiring. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Susan, you’re welcome. Much of the time we were there, it was cloudy and sometimes rained very lightly. But that was OK because it made it much easier to walk long distances than it was when it was bright and sunny, which was surprisingly often given that the weather report had originally said it would rain all week. This photo will give you an idea of just how extensive the view is. You can see, to the left of Radcliffe Camera, the church tower from which I took that photo.

      • Wow! Color! πŸ™‚

        • Yes, the gorgeous flowers I saw everywhere are easily lost in the impressive architecture, but I hope to be posting some of those soon.

  5. Jack

    As I approach 60, I have redoubled my efforts to stay physically active. I’m pretty convinced that walking has been my salvation in more ways than one. My wife thinks I’m obsessive about it, but I remind of her of what things were like when my habits were less healthy…no one ever went to jail for walking too much! I could write an ode to the joys and benefits of walking, the time alone, the time together when my wife regularly walks (part of) my usually much longer jaunt, the kinship with Bo the German Shorthair who still at 8 completely freaks out when I put on my ASICS! Bo won’t tolerate some 4 mile distraction, but that’s another post.

    I suspect writing is equally therapeutic for you. When I got sober some 12 years ago, for quite a number of years I clutched to my keyboard, pouring out my heart. Nothing was out of bounds. I raged. I prayed. I complained, thanked, talked of my deepest shame. So afraid was I that someone might actually find and read this tripe that finally, in a moment of clarity, I deleted more than 1000 pages of fact, fiction, nonsense and muchsense. I see more clearly now, but still through a veil, that life is about relationships, even joy in the burdens. Boy, I bet you already knew that! Be blessed Julia.

    • Jack, I totally agree with you about walking AND writing. I think we have a good bit of research to back up our impression that it’s good for our physical AND mental health. I have not been walking nearly as much since Jeff died, and I’m determined to get back to it. The days when I walk are always better. Same goes for writing. Thanks for being here and sharing your thoughts with us! We’ll look forward to hearing more about Bo sometime. πŸ™‚

    • Rene

      Trixie & Buster get pretty excited when they see my Brooks!

      • πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  6. Bobby Harris

    Thanks for the picture, nice to see a place that I am always reading about.

    • Thanks Bobby. That photo doesn’t begin to capture it, but the mood and atmosphere do come across somewhat. I think you and Randall would really love it there. Sometime maybe you guys can take a trip there just for fun. Be sure to have Randall wear his “Why yes, I AM a rocket scientist!” button. πŸ™‚

  7. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Julia, I’ve only been checking occasionally to see if you’re back to your blog, and today I was thrilled to see that you started again a couple of weeks ago. I caught up on those postings and, as always, was uplifted by them. I’ve missed you here. You see, sometimes I need those uplifting thoughts that you share with us. You have a gift for words that encourage others and give joy to the heart. How wonderful it is to have you back!

    • Awww, thank you Judy! I have missed you too. I’m so happy that you find the blog helpful. I really appreciate your encouragement. You have given my spirits a lift tonight. Thanks for being here.

  8. Julia, one of the pleasures of traveling alone, I think, is the time to meander through neighborhoods and shops and to drink in all the details you might otherwise miss. I love traveling with family and friends, but I’ve spent many years traveling along too, and really enjoyed it. I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience in Oxford and that you were able to spend more time on your recent journey.

    • Thanks Alys. The solitude available in traveling alone is great, but also I find that I interact more with others I meet along the way if I’m not already with someone else. I realize there’s an element of “stranger danger” but with appropriate caution, traveling alone is beneficial on so many levels. Depending on the moment, it can be conducive to a variety of experiences: imagination, community, contemplation, deliberation, or just the bliss of not having to discuss every decision. As you say, it’s great to travel with others too. Best of all is doing a little bit of each.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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