4/03/2012

A massive amount of chirping


A pigeon calls out as numerous small birds chatter and fly around as the innkeeper stands in the gravel drive speaking with someone. Just behind I can see out to the road, cars and trucks whizzing past at speeds that seem too swift. On the other side of the road, a green hill banks up steep. On the other side is one of the Tring reservoirs.

It had been my hope that I could have run along the Grand Union Canal today, but my shoes are not here. They are in my luggage, which did not arrive at the same time as me. I went for a walk instead, maybe a three mile loop. It wasn't as much fun as running would have been.

I've not run since Saturday and my body is crying out for the exercise. I spent the last two days traveling and settling in to my trip here. I've left my credit card home, so I'm trying to avoid the stress that could cause if I chose to allow it to do so. I am drawing upon all of the relaxation and breathing techniques I have learned in the last few years.

I've been over here so many times that if I chose to, I could just let it all wash over me. But, I feel there are important differences that need to be pointed out. A trip to a foreign country is a gift, a chance to remind yourself of what you like best about home. I like Charlottesville in part because it reminds me a lot of being here, even though the built environment here is completely different from how it is back in Virginia.

Last night I sat at a different pub for two hours, chatting with the other innkeeper, as well as a 21-year-old kid who is an organic farmer. The local food movement is alive and well here as well. My dream job would be to spend some time writing about England, writing about what makes it special, both to myself and to the world. So much of who I am can be explained with the differences here and the similarities that lie underneath should you probe a little bit.

Some generalities. Houses are generally closer together. There are many more terracotta chimneys, many more antennas on roof tops. Things are a lot more orderly and neat, except when they're not. The water from where I'm staying flows from deep aquifers lined with limestone so everyone has to take steps to de-lime their showers or they'll be coated in a white scale. Hedgerows line country roads, which themselves are much narrower than anything that would be permitted by VDOT. Cars are much smaller, more colorful, and are generally all manual transmissions. Power sockets are much larger. There are certainly many more sheds.

Last night, Henry and I briefly watched a news program for kids that explained the conflict in Northern Ireland, a conflict that I believe is more or less over. The program outlined what the issues were, and did not shy away from mentioning that British soldiers fired on unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday. Meanwhile I read today that one of our city councilors has received hate calls from people for having the courage to discuss removing the Confederate general statues from Charlottesville's parks. I want my children to grow up questioning and respecting history, both their family history and that of whatever society they end up growing up in.

It is  looking doubtful that I'll be able to run today. The rain comes in tomorrow, which is a good thing because southern England is in the middle of a drought. Henry and I will stay in and explore, playing games and bonding and generally being family members. I regret that I can't be here all the time, but that's not the way it turned out. I remember my breathing techniques and remember that this moment is all we have, that the present is a vital force, and that it's okay if things don't happen the way I wanted them. All of us have the power to write our lives, to sing our songs, and to walk strong.

And with that, I get up to get the rucksack that contains Henry and his sister Laura's books, and I begin the long walk into town to pick Henry up from cricket camp.

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