So The Adventures Continue

Logistically, my day was pretty average. Well, the average that has come to be average. I saw two remarkable shows, remarkably different shows, yet remarkable nonetheless. They were: Love Birds and RENT. The first, a children’s show by Robbie Sherman, son of Robert Sherman: one half of the musical genius behind Disney’s Mary Poppins. The latter, an intense rock opera by Jonathan Larson. Both were fabulous. Both evoked more emotion than any other play I saw on this trip. I felt love, pain, joy and even some magic. I could not ask for a better way to end my theater trip.

Mentally, my day was weird. Up until now, I was quite happy to be in Edinburgh but quite happy at the thought of going home. This is still true, but it’s weighing a little heavier on my heart now. Today was my favorite day in Edinburgh, despite it being my last and only rainy day. Why is that? Well, I did everything my heart desired. I saw shows I really wanted to see and was not disappointed. I wandered the streets with one of my best friends, having deep conversations and laughing at our own stupidity. I did some shopping. I drank some coffee. I soaked in the magnificent sunset Edinburgh graced us with on our last day. I decided against hitting the pub one last time in favor of just sitting in my kitchen with my roommates to drink tea and talk about nothing. And tomorrow that will all change. Tomorrow I leave Europe. Back to the US. Back to reality.

For the past two weeks I have been living an amazing adventure. Leaving London was difficult, but the pain was lessened by the knowledge that the next day I would be waking up to another adventure. When I wake up on Sunday, I will be home. But then I start to think about what made all of those adventures so fantastic. It had absolutely nothing to do with my geographic location whatsoever. When I go home, I am going home to an adoring family who will want to relive those memories with me. So the adventures continue. When I get back I will return to college, to those same roommates I drank tea with, to those same friends I laughed with. So the adventures continue. When I return to reality I will have life to face and problems to conquer. So the adventures continue.

Travel and theatre go hand in hand. Like the two shows I saw today, both make me feel. Feeling isn’t always a joy ride. Feeling is hard, feeling is scary. But feeling is always, always worth it. This trip, and nudges from the Spirit, have taught me that over and over again. So now I sit here, typing this out, listening to the booming fireworks from the tattoo across town, trying to feel it all one last time. So the adventures continue.

No day but today.

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Writer’s Block to the Highest Degree

Ever wish you had more to say? In this city of sounds and sights and senses galore, I’m finding it difficult to capture any of it. And that makes me angry. “What sort of a writer are you if you can’t even jot SOMETHING down?” my cruel mind asks me. But then I ease up on myself and answer: “Well, every sort, actually. Thanks for asking. Now bugger off.”

Last night I went to the theatre by myself again, this time to see Down and Out in Paris and London. This play followed the story of George Orwell on his journey of writing his first book in Paris, France. It was paralleled by a modern-day journalist working undercover as a lower-class citizen of London. Both told the sad tales of writers suffering, whose minds whirled yet their pen stayed stationary. I sat in that stuffy, smoky, over-packed theater almost smirking with understanding. Of course, I hardly understood at all. These characters were living the life of the poor: with only 6 pounds a day to live, beds with bedbugs (“It’s a bed! Where else would they be?!”), and constant obstacles on their path to work. This show didn’t glorify money, but it certainly made the audience appreciate it. It made me appreciate writing and my ability to do so freely, even though words don’t always make appearances.

Tonight was something entirely different from Down and Out. Tonight I saw School of Night, a Shakespeare improv show. Yes, you read that right. The two men would do monologues and scenes from audience suggestions based in the styles of famous writers like Shakespeare and Chaucer and Poe and Pinter. It was truly fascinating and felt more like an educational lesson than a life one. These two shows were extremely different yet both pertained to the writer more than anyone else. This I can really appreciate. This trip has certainly not skimped on the notion that the writer is important. This I can appreciate even more.

After the show I separated from the group to collect my thoughts and put together my class presentation for tomorrow. I found myself in a coffee shop as I so often do. I sat there with the desire to write something brilliant. Didn’t happen. Why has it become so hard? Then all of a sudden, I had the deepest urge to go to my uncle’s house. More specifically the river behind his house. Last year he swept me away from college for a weekend at a home. A time to play with the family’s new puppy, eat a real meal and have some quiet. That morning we woke up early and took the kayaks out for a spin. Balancing coffee between my knees, I took in everything around me. The trees donning their most colorful apparel, the rustling of the reeds in the water, the sweet, crisp breeze that glided past me, and the stillness. The stillness above all. I think, when I really get honest, that’s what I crave and miss the most: stillness.

These two weeks have been beautiful and wonderful and inspiring. But they have been so busy. They have been loud and rushed and busy. Even with the time I was given to sit in a coffee shop for hours and do nothing, there was still life abounding. I’m ready for still. I’m ready to be still. I’m ready to see nothing but the blue sky and bluer water. To be able to hear my own breathing. To feel nothing but the Spirit around me.

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

Today a childhood fantasy came true: I was able to sit in the cafe, maybe even the same chair, that J.K. Rowling started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (well, Philosopher’s Stone, as it’s known here). The cafe is The Elephant House, right here in Edinburgh, only a ten minute walk from my flat. Who knew? But this is where it all began. This is where they boy who lived came alive.

There’s a weight to that for me. It’s become cliche to say that Harry Potter changed a person’s life, so I’ll say that it certainly shaped mine. I grew up with the Golden Trio. I learned valuable lessons from Hogwarts’ professors. I fell in love with writing while reading those seven, wonderful books. As I sat there, surrounded by countless people and even more elephants, I couldn’t help but think of J.K. A single mom struggling to get by, scribbling story ideas on a crinkled napkin. She couldn’t have any idea what that napkin was going to turn into. And then I thought of my own mum, sitting on my bed reading the entire series (sans 7) aloud to me, voices included. An entire world that has inspired and continues to inspire millions of people, all started in a coffee shop. This coffee shop. It makes me feel less small.

I was far from being alone in that place, but the number of people fluctuated. There was a pretty consistent dull roar that my mind substituted for silence. I could almost make out the soft indie music trying to break through the noise. I wonder how much has changed since Ms. Rowling sat there.

It was odd, though, I was there for the atmosphere-to simply be there-but no one else seemed to be. I was trying to pick out each and every elephant decoration while the men across the room didn’t even look up from their papers when their food arrived. Like so many times before on this trip, I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate. About every five minutes the sun would peek through the persistent clouds and light up each corner of the room. Each person hiding behind their latte’s, each dust particle was illuminated. It just forces your head to lift. My sun-streaked view was of Edinburgh Castle, standing firm on a green carpeted throne.

It’s hard to not find it all rather magical. Staring (more like drooling) at the castle, I almost expected to see broomsticks racing around the turrets. Or to spot Neville hanging by his robes from somewhere inconvenient. I was the kid with the wild imagination who wanted nothing more than to receive her Hogwarts letter, but got to live in that world through words. As a great wizard once said: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” To have written in the space that inspired those words is nothing short of magical.

Mischief managed.

Even From the Bottom

Scotland’s weather is like that of a teenager’s emotions. But unlike most, I find it endearing since I am just barely escaping my teenage years. Very much like home, they say here that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and maybe you’ll like it better. We woke up to a glorious morning with puffy, white clouds and the sun shining through. But we also got caught in the rain, had to bundle, ended up shedding those layers, re-bundle and roll up our sleeves. All in the same day. I guess it’s fitting: we all feel a lot like teenagers on this trip. Despite being in a different continent from our parents and having to care for ourselves, we do the same stupid things we did when we were kids. We laugh at dumb jokes and have no idea what we’re doing when trying alcohol. We cannot navigate smoothly to save ourselves, so we wander down random avenues and gardens and hope for the best. It’s all worked out so far.

We’re pretty lucky. We have each other. We have our faith. We have growth in our faith through each other. Today we saw a show that had none of those things. I can’t help thinking the whole play would have been different if that were not the case. The play we saw at Pleasance was called A+E. It was based on a true story, which is terrifying, about a girl who had an accident in London and her drunk, high, emotionally unstable friends were the only witnesses. Their friendships were horrible. They were technically there for each other, but on what ground? On the grounds that Georgie had the coke? That Robyn was really fun when drunk? It made me sad for them. But it made me so thankful for my dorky, silly, loud, grounded friends.

After the depressing, yet thought-provoking show, the dorks and I went to Edinburgh castle for some food and exploration. Did you know that there are a lot of stairs to get to the BOTTOM of Edinburgh castle? Yeah, me either. But man, what a view when we got there. Even at the bottom. There’s gotta be a lesson in there somewhere.

It was a fantastic castle. It was massive and solid and just something out of a fairytale. But we were hardly paying attention to architecture. Although we were the ultimate tourists and took a thousand pictures and bought little Scottie dog key chains in the Portcullis Gift Shop, we just talked. We tiptoed through cobblestone hills and too many people distractedly because we were laughing at stories from years ago. I’m sure we didn’t spend our time as wisely as we should have, but I also don’t think any of us will regret it.

These first couple of days in Edinburgh have been anything but ordinary. They have not been seamless or simple. But I have done more thinking and thanking than I’ve ever done before. We have several days left and I am almost nervous to see what will come of me in them. I’ve already changed, hopefully for the better. Even from the bottom of my tiredness and my impatience and my distrust, I am confident that there is beauty and will be beauty. Two weeks ago I would have insisted that this phenomenon would come from the gorgeous scenery and the magnificent architecture and the intriguing accents, but this is not so. The beauty that seeps through is very simply from the beautiful people who I am blessed enough to call my friends.

Scenes from a Coffee Shop

The man sitting next to me smells like a bookshop. The old kind. The kind where you find hidden treasures tucked away in dusty corners. He doesn’t seem quite that complex, but he’s got a thick brogue and a cheery disposition. He is very much unlike the guy diagonally across from me (“What did he say, dear?” “Diagonally.” “Yes, I thought he did.”). This guy looks deeply troubled, like he’s trying to find answers in his frayed book. He keeps looking up at the world around him as I do and our eyes occasionally meet. This seems to confuse him more. My slight smirk probably isn’t helping. Bless him.

I think I’m getting used to it here, mostly thanks to the locals and the magnificent views. In the States, people go out of their way to not talk to one another, whereas here it’s perfectly normal to just strike up a conversation with the person sitting much too close to you. And all of the locals are just so kind and welcoming. The other Fringe go-ers seem less so, but that’s okay. It’s not their city.

I am quite taken with the rhythm of life. It’s so laid back and easy and fun. So different from London. And home. Life is slower. Except for class, there are no requirements. Everything is done at my leisure. Oh, you want to go grab lunch? Okay. Explore the castle? Sure thing. Want to take a load off at a cafe for a while? Sweet.

It’s all really quite lovely.

To Capture That Feeling

Despite my hesitations about this city, I am definitely having experiences that I love. I love happening upon a pie shop for lunch and lazily window-shopping. I love taking on unknown paths with my two roommates to get to a show and wandering by Edinburgh Castle like that’s an every day phenomenon. I love having dinner with them at a pub called Shakespeares and sharing a cider and a cheesecake and a million laughs.

I also love the conversations that we have had so far. My roommates are my best friends and we occasionally have meaningful conversations in between the ridiculous. But the play that we saw last night got us all talking and more importantly, thinking. Last night our entire class queued early and saw the popular Fringe play, The Christians. This play revolved around the inner workings of the church. At first I was worried, and pretty certain, that they would mock Christianity and show only its faults. I was wrong. The play showed the aftermath of a decision of one pastor who decided to radically change his beliefs, therefore affecting his entire congregation and the audience. What if there is no Hell? What if being good is good enough? This play was incredibly interesting in that the staging made it seem like we were actually at church. There was a full choir on stage and two microphones. When the pastor walked up and asked his congregation to bow their heads, I almost did. And I found that the conversations and debates between the characters paralleled the conflict in my heart. In the end we were left to decide for ourselves. My friends and I had different ideas and different convictions, but that’s what friendship and life is all about. Because at the end of the day, we still love the same God and each other.

Back at the flat, we talked everything out and eventually got the giggles. We went from talking about the majesty and law of God to making middle-school-esque innuendos. I’m not even sure how it happened, but I am sure that we got out of hand because our very sweet flatmate told us to shut up.

These not-so-quite moments are the one’s I wish I could bottle up. I am blessed that they happen so often, but I know it won’t last forever. In these moments I took a break from the uncontrollable laughter to look around the room at the dimly lit faces of my favorite people. I’d desperately wish I could freeze time, to capture that feeling: the one that fills me to the brim, that makes me feel like I can conquer the world, the one that just makes life fun.

A City Love Affair

I once heard a writer talk about travel as a sort of love affair. I did not understand it until just today.

Love is tricky. Love is fickle and powerful and crushing and baffling. Or maybe that’s just us. Maybe love is perfectly simple and we are the troublemakers. I have yet to distinguish the difference for sure, but I’m getting closer. Traveling has made me see love a little more clearly. I fell for London. And it seemed like it fell for me, too. But then I left it. No warning, no goodbye: just gone. And off to a new, drastically different city I went. And while I’m starting to love Edinburgh, a part of my heart still grieves the love I lost. It wonders if I did the right thing. It wonders if London thinks of me or could ever take me back.

I wander Edinburgh desperately wanting to love it. And I do, to an extent, but it’s not the same. I am the star of every classic love story. And I’m the one you can’t stand. The one you want to go for the nice guy, the one that will protect and care for her, but always runs back to her first love.

Now, I am perfectly content to eat cornish pasty’s and mocha’s for the rest of my life as I did today. And walk around the cobblestoned streets and happen upon shows that I want to see, dodging the ever changing weather and intoxicated citizens. But I want to feel that feeling again.

I have hope for me, yet. Falling in and out of love is never easy, but it’s a necessity. I think of it in the same way that I think travel is a necessity. We grow from these experiences, particularly the painful sort. The fact of the matter is that I am not going to want to commit to each city I love, nor am I going to for each person I love. Love forces us to weed through the parts of ourselves we’d rather not address. Travel does, too. Each city makes us feel differently. Isn’t that why we travel, really? To feel? Isn’t that why solider through falling in and out of love? To feel?

And now for something completely different.

“Are we in Scotland yet?”

“I don’t know. Cows. Sheep. People playing golf.”

“Yep. We’re in Scotland.”

And what a country to be in. I hated leaving London, a city I have claimed as my own. But my sadness quickly faded as I caught glimpses of the Scottish countryside. If only my words could paint that beauty. The beauty comes from the natural, untouched quality of those rolling hills.

The sky was no longer a battleship grey, London feeling, but instead a clear blue, puffy cloud, happy Scottish wonder. These images whipped past us on the train. It was hard to take it all in. My eyes became heavy and burdensome. I think all of the stress and uncertainty of the past week hit me, the adrenaline finally wearing off. We took that train to simply be. To laugh, to be childish, to snack, to write, to nap, to do whatever our hearts desired. It was perfectly lovely.

I think I will be able to process more tomorrow, after a hilarious comedy show tonight at the Fringe and a hard night sleep. Wonderful to meet you, Edinburgh. See you in the morning.

Scenes from the Garden

It’s funny. All I wanted to do on this trip was to find a lovely little park to write in. Well here I am. In the Victoria Embankment Garden with hours to kill and I can’t come up with a thing. All of my interesting vocabulary is apparently on vacation with my cleverness and wit tucked away in its suitcase.

I just can’t concentrate. Every time my pen hits the page, a strange noise or occurrence jerks me away. These characters are just too fascinating to ignore. Like any good actor they all demand attention. Particularly the adorable little toddler with the blue eyes and white dress, just figuring out how to use her legs. Or Philip and Emily, busy trying out their new paper airplane that whizzes around and back again. Or even the charming young man sipping his chardonnay, who seems ever-so-slightly familiar.

It’s a remarkable place to forget about yourself.

Goodbye for now, dear friend.

Last breakfast at Villandry’s. How in the world did that happen? My roommate and I are now considered regulars and are put at the best table. Hilarious.

My mind is still abuzz from seeing Earnest. Like with Shakespeare, that language is saturating. Its richness fills me up. Yet leaves my mind and heart aching for more. It feels almost brutish to talk so loquaciously in our sloppy American accents. If only Will and Oscar were here…

Off to class one more time. Today for a backstage tour of the National. Too cool-there’s really no other way to put it. We got to watch the crew switch the Olivier back to Everyman’s set and go to the dressing rooms and tiptoe past the diligent prop makers. The theatre majors in the group could hardly contain themselves, while I simply watched. I observed each and every one of them. Each classmate, each cast member, every nook and every hidden gem.

We then tried to go to the Natural History Museum. Well, actually, we succeeded. But it was mad. Apparently everyone on earth decided today was the day to visit the museum. The Tube was filled to capacity, the tunnels hot and stuffy, and the museum itself overwhelmed. We stood in line to get in everywhere. So, we saw a dinosaur and a whale and left. None of us were upset.

We all headed back to the theatre, eyes glazed over and sweat coating our faces. Shuffling into EAT, we mumbled an order and collapsed into a booth. We sucked down some smoothies and parted ways. My roommate and I escaped to Victoria Embankment Garden and spend the rest of the evening in the grass.

Our last London show was The Red Lion at the Dorfman Theater. It was hard to emotionally connect to a play about sports, but it was extremely well done. The three characters were beautifully acted. And my girlfriends and I were particularly impressed with the young lead…In fact, it was a bit difficult to pay attention to much else. Oops. We were blown away by the technical aspects, but just didn’t love it. Can’t win them all, I suppose.

We begrudgingly cleaned up the flat before leaving tomorrow. One last London sleep. As sad as we all are, I am quite confident that this will not be my last visit to this spectacular city. Not all of my map is worn, not all of my heart is satisfied.