After the weekend in London, I took the familiar bus to visit Zach in Oxford. Nothing is as perfect as a visit to Oxford. Zach always feels that he should find some outing to entertain me, and I always turn it down, explaining that I love nothing more than just wandering the perfect city of dreaming spires. I like to punctuate walks around the winding streets with Ben’s cookies, and I recently discovered a new favorite Oxford location in the form of the Dutch Still Lives room in the Ashmolean Museum. I enjoyed cooking with Zach and his friends and eating dinner with the Wadham professors as Zach is a sub dean this year (when you have a great brother, you have to brag a little). Intellectual pressure is so great in Oxford that I found myself having no problem formulating a very academic sounding Plan For My Life to offer to anyone who asked. While surrounded by castle like colleges and bustling students it is impossible to imagine a fulfilling future that doesn’t involve late nights in the library and crisp graduation robes. I also spent several hours wandering Blackwells, inevitably buying a book because I can’t seem to visit Oxford without doing so. The magic of bookstores mimics the magic of Oxford. In bookstores you forget the constraints of time, imagining that you can read everything your fingers touch, stepping beyond your world to the world of Hardy, Hemmingway, Dickens, and Camus. I want them all, even the ones I know I will never get to reading, because their mere existence is hope, promise, and escape all in one.
Last time I visited Zach we had planned on eating at The Trout but weather and time prohibited us, so this visit we were determined to go. The Trout is a riverside pub reached by crossing Port Meadow, a free-range meadow given to the people of Oxford for their service in fighting the Vikings long ago. My friend Jenny was in Oxford on business, so we snagged her from an afternoon of work and headed out across the meadow. It was a big sky day, a puffy cloud day, my favorite kind of day. My family frequently spends our vacations in Colorado, and we love the moment when you become aware of the huge western sky, which seems an endless blue dome under which you are safely and pleasantly insignificant. Yesterday was one of these big blue sky sort of days. I know that the fields of Oxford are nothing compared to the prairies of the American West, but after months in a city, I had forgotten the thrill of wandering amongst wildflowers beneath a wide sapphire sky.