Inception-The Ghosts in Our Dreams

Hey everyone! It’s only been 16 days since my last post, but the world seems to have been upended on its axis. I’m on an extended spring break and online learning for the rest of the semester, but I plan to just keep watching movies and discussing them, like I always do. Since this month feels like a bad dream, I thought I’d tackle an intriguing dream-centered movie next…Inception.
A while back I wrote a review of The Great Gatsby (2013 dir. Baz Luhrmann) and used the subtitle “One Man’s Mirage”. It appears that Leonardo DiCaprio has a penchant for unstable characters, particularly highlighted in 2010’s Inception.
The movie is quite similar to a show called Stitchers, about extracting memories from the minds of the dead. The main difference is that in Inception, dreamers are still alive. The film follows Dominic Cobb (also called Caleb) as he attempts to plant a life-altering idea in the mind of a grieving son.
The best part about the movie is that one can never be sure if a scene is taking place in reality or in a dream. There are multiple scenes that appear to be real, but turn out to be entirely designed, catching viewers by surprise. The biggest use of this comes in the last frame of the film. All I will say about the controversy is this: I believe in the wobble, I believe in redemption, but I also understand the heartbreaking allure of delusion.
The problem with this movie is that Leo DiCaprio steals every scene. This is not a compliment. Even with such commendable actors as Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, Leo’s intense passion pulls focus and no one else can do anything until he is out of frame. I suppose part of this is due to my expectations of a Marvel-like ensemble film, rather than the backdrop of paper characters we see
The only exception to the above grievance is Marion Cotillard. Her intriguing performance as Caleb’s damaged wife is on par with DiCaprio’s and they have palpable tension. The nature of this tension is complex, and both actors understand this.
Although DiCaprio and Cotillard pull most of of the focus, Ellen Page does her best to add depth with her reactions. Her role as the  dream architect Ariadne (could they have made that metaphor any less subtle?) adds a voice of reason and caution to a reckless heist.
In terms of violence, this movie is on par with Marvel-plenty of “bad guys” get shot, but there’s very little blood or gore. There is one scene of a woman jumping off of a hotel balcony, but her body isn’t shown.

Overall I give this movie 9/10 for an intriguing concept, a stellar cast who does their best, and some stellar set design. One point lost because Leo hogged every scene.

Harriet-A Woman Touched by God

I recently saw the movie Harriet and was blown away by its brilliance and mastery. First, I would like to acknowledge my place on the sidelines of this conversation. I speak only as a student of history, grateful for new knowledge and empathy. I was also grateful for cultural and emotional context around a sensitive issue I knew (and still know) relatively little about.

First, the stunning acting prowess of Cynthia Erivo as the titular heroine. Erivo brings a quiet dignity and stunning nuance to an iconic figure. Throughout the film, her stirring speeches effect change and evoke empathy from those who haven’t shared her painful history. At one point, Harriet defends her choice to return to the south, saying “Don’t you tell me what I can’t do. I made it this far on my own. God was watching, but my feet was my own. Running, bleeding, climbing, nearly drowned, nothing to eat for days and days, but I made it! So don’t you tell me what I can’t do. You don’t know me.

Later in the film, Harriet addresses a room of abolitionists with this haunting charge: ”I ain’t giving up rescuing slaves because it’s far. Many of you don’t know slavery firsthand. You were born free. You’ve been free so long, you forget what it’s like. You’ve gotten comfortable and important. You got beautiful homes, beautiful wives. But I remember.”.

Born into slavery, Araminta Ross Tubman ran from the prospect of being sold further south. She chose Harriet as her freed name, then went back to the hell she escaped from. Initially just bringing family and friends to freedom, she ended up freeing over 700 slaves and acting as a spy for the Union army. She died in 1913 at “approximately 91 years old” The “approximately” is what gets me. The woman who freed hundreds of slaves led an armed regiment, and tirelessly fought for freedom–this one-in-a-million woman didn’t even know her own birthday.

Another terrific leader of this movie is Leslie Odom Jr. Best known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, he carries a strong role as William Still. A free African-American, Still was a prominent member of the Underground Railroad, as well as a businessman. In the film, Still is understandably cautious of Harriet’s bold endeavors, but he admires her grit and ingenuity.

Rounding out the principal cast is Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon. A free woman who runs a boardinghouse; she acts as Harriet’s mentor, confidante, and protector, even when it costs her. Monáe is known for her R&B music career, but she cuts her teeth on a fine role. One of her first interactions with Harriet is her apologizing for a lack of understanding- a beautiful moment of recognition and solidarity. At another point Marie muses “What’s a man to a woman touched by God?” This recognition of solidarity and power is an affirmation of Tubman’s grit and grace.

The movie makes good use of certain metaphors and motifs. The most prominent is an image of Harriet on a white horse against a sunset. The first instance of this image is when Harriet crosses the Pennsylvania state line into freedom, and the second is near the end of the film, where Harriet confronts Gideon. Another important symbol is a river, serving as a guiding path and means of communication.

Two other noteworthy actors are Joe Alwyn as Gideon Brodess and Jennifer Nettles as Eliza Brodess. Jennifer Nettles is best known as the leader of the county group Sugarland, while Joe Alwyn is a newcomer actor, and Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. Alwyn’s character harbors intense internal conflict and self-denial which is interesting to watch. White people were trained to see African Americans as sub-human in that culture, and his conscience has a hard job convincing him otherwise. Nettles serves a noteworthy performance as widow Eliza Brodess who slowly loses her fortune and sanity. At one point she says “I feel imprisoned…surrounded by black-faced guards”. The sheer irony of this statement is almost comical-she’s one step away from empathy, but can’t make the connection. Nettles has a complex and unpleasant role in the story, but she tells it as gracefully as she can.

Throughout the movie, Harriet is guided by visions from God, warning her of danger and guiding her path. Around 37 minutes in, Harriet describes a traumatic head injury in her teens that brought on the visions and sleeping spells, simply saying “[The] hole in my head made God’s voice more clear”. The strong spiritual guidance is also shown through characters singing spirituals and using them as code. A particularly touching scene is when Harriet bids her mother goodbye through song.

Stand Up-Oscars 2020

But of course the shining jewel of the film score is “Stand Up”, performed as Erivo‘s solo. The song is an anthem for uplifting communities, and the unstoppable vocals were robbed of the Best Song award at the 2020 Oscars.

In regards to rating, the film is rated PG-13, mainly for language and moderate violence. The “N-word” is used often, along with several punches, hits, and other abuses to African-American characters. One character is killed onscreen by a kick to the neck, and guns are fired often.

Overall I give this movie 12/10, because I’ve given 10/10 before and this movie surpasses all others. The depth of storytelling is unparalleled, and the actors show respect and reverence for their roles. Mr. Blanchard’s score is a lovely blend of spiritual and “action movie”, underscoring the truth of the narrative. I recommend this for anyone who has limited knowledge of Harriet Tubman and wants to know more of her history and context.

In Time-Instant Revolution

Hi friends! I’ve had a busy two months, with returning from my trip and taking an intense writing class over the month of January. While I adjust my routine and figure out my personal brand, here is a movie review I wrote on my trip of an indie dystopian. Enjoy!

I was first drawn to this movie for how it plays with time and power. In a dystopian future, time is the new money and “Darwinian capitalism” rules the masses. Unfortunately this intriguing premise is ruined with a generic plot and horrible characters. I don’t love doing bad reviews, but I’ll make an exception because I was inspired to fill in the gaps.

This “sci-fi noir” (early dystopian) film tells the story of Will Salas, a man who “just wants to wake up with more time on the clock then hours in the day.” After the death of his mother and an unrelated sudden inheritance, he heads to the capital to take down the oppressive dictator, with the help of said dictator’s bombshell daughter (Amanda Seyfried). The actual system collapse doesn’t start until an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie

This movie is actually similar to the (author) short story “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, in that both explore the futility of greed and the endless hamster-wheel chase of survival in poverty.

While the movie has some interesting musings on capitalism, In Time suffers from what I call “Twilight syndrome”. Every side character is interesting and I want to explore their story, but I’m forced to watch Bonnie and Clyde stumble through a romance while destroying a nation. We have Henry Hamilton, a 105-year old who commits suicide and jumpstarts the “conflict”. We also local gang leader Fortis who is out to find Will and Sylvia and collect their bounty. And then we have Raymond Leon

This is Timekeeper Raymond Leon, and the whole reason I’m talking about this movie in the first place. Not only is Leon portrayed by our charming Cillian, he is far and away the most underrated character in this movie and the one with the most possibilities for backstory exploration. All we know about him is that he has been a timekeeper for 50 years, he was from Dayton but managed to escape, and he knew Will’s father. That alone is a more interesting use of the premise than the basic Robin Hood story we are given. His character arc is minor, but there’s room for interpretation of his motivations and actions. His ultimate demise casts the rest of his narrative into a new light, as a man failed by the system he fought to uphold.

Last Five Minutes of In Time

This ending to Leon’s arc reminds me of Luke Castellan’s ending in The Last Olympian. Those that fight hardest for corrupt systems fall farthest when they are let down.

The movie as a whole feels underdeveloped and more fitting for a soap opera series. The collapse of a way of life is seen as a matter of course and powerful leaders react with alarming indifference. The police force also gives up with no fight, setting down their guns and walking away as Sylvia and Will overthrow the system in front of their eyes. I understand the social commentary this movie is aiming for, but even in the real world dismantling a system is never resistance-free. Anyone who calls themselves a feminist can attest to this reality of life,

I give this movie 5/10 for interesting premise, good visuals, and Raymond Leon. Half points docked for a mainly insufferable cast and a generic plot. If viewers want to become emotionally invested in a semi-relevant side character, they are free to watch this movie, but the general *plot* and leads are an utter waste of time.

Travel Update-Closing Thoughts

This post has been in my draft for the last two weeks, and will now be released on the very last day of my Study Abroad term in England. We leave our hotel on December 5 at 8am, and it has been many amazing adventures compiled into one beautiful story.

After Oxford, we spent three days in Canterbury and three in Cambridge before settling in Ditchingham for finals week.

Canterbury Cathedral has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen’ and at this point, I’ve seen plenty. We stayed at a conference center on the cathedral grounds and explored the picturesque streets.

In Cambridge, we explored more picturesque small town streets, along with the many colleges of the illustrious university, and attended Evensong at King’s College, which was an ethereal experience. I’ve attended many Evensong services over the last three months, but there is a reason that the King’s College choir is world famous.

Our week in Ditchingham was a unique experience. We stayed in a conference center with sketchy WiFi and turned in a plethora of final projects. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. One of the highlights of the week was performing scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest for our final drama project. Every group had been assigned a scene but very few people knew the plot of the entire play so it ended up being a giant collage of fun.

We got to London on the 29th and I saw Waitress that night (here’s my review). It was an absolutely incredible show, full of empowerment and self-discovery and an amazing score. The following night I saw Matilda, which was another giant collage of fun, with some light horror thrown in. Apart from that, I’ve been exploring the city, working on final papers, and reminiscing about the past three months.

Yesterday I went with some friends to the Sky Garden. We rode to the 35th floor of a snazzy downtown building and watched the sunset from a terrace higher than the top of the London Eye. The restaurant/bar is a cross between the Como conservatory and the overlook at the Guthrie theater.

Let me first state that I recognize and cherish the increíble privilege of seeing so much of the world. This trip has been incredible. Back in August, I had one sort of vision of how this semester would go and it was honestly just a hazy stereotype but this trip has been beyond my wildest dreams and I’m so grateful for all of it. This is my last day in Europe, which is mind-boggling to consider. There are definitely parts of my life that I can’t wait to get home to, the biggest one being my family and the second one being my kitten, and I am excited to take the lessons I’ve learned from this semester and build a new life for myself going forward. I absolutely want to come back and revisit some of my favorite sites at the earliest possible opportunity, so keep an eye out for the next travel announcement.

While all of this travel has been amazing, moving from place to place every week can make a head spin. We roll up to a town, see the highlights, and then we’re out. On my next sojourn across the pond, I want to stay in one place long enough to become a local. I want to see what normal life is like, outside of a church or a holiday.

Another interesting learning curve of the trip has been the fluctuating social dynamics. There are 20 people on this trip, and I like spending time with different people in different degrees. There’s also the issue of coordinating logistics amid so much free time. As a result, it can get hard to plan social outings with more than three people,

Part of the reason I haven’t blogged as much in the last few weeks is that I lost focus a little bit. After Salisbury, I got sort of caught up in my head for a few weeks and wasn’t paying as much attention to the amazing experiences around me. After some time I got somewhat desensitized to the increíble cathedrals and informative museums. I’m not proud of it, but it did happen. But I got some good reminders to refocus and I’m soaking up every moment of these last hours, and cherishing the priceless memories of the last three months.

I was texting a friend and she said “I can’t wait to hear about your trip!” While I appreciate the sentiment, something about that sentence felt odd to me. I wouldn’t call this a “trip” so much as a lifestyle change. In my mind, a trip lasts one to three weeks, perhaps a month. We’ve been traveling for so long that we have embraced the nomadic way of life.

Our teacher told us that upon our return, many people would inquire about our experience and most would expect a one-word response. Some of the words I would use are: “amazing” “unique” “incredible” “broadening” and “beautiful”. I’ve seen so much more of the world, of myself, and of my peers, and I will continue to process these observations over the next weeks. Thank you for following along with me on this journey, and I’ll see you soon.

Bon Voyage ❤️ E

Waitress-Life is What You Bake It

Hi. Ive been busy with finals the last week so i haveń´t had much time to write. We got to London on the 29th and I saw Waitress at the Adelphi Theater that evening. Here are some thoughts on it.

Start with a base of a 2007 independent movie, stir in a Grammy-nominated score, fold in powerful feminist themes of motherhood and self-reclamation, and the resulting hit musical Waitress will go down easy as a piece of pie. Witnessing the November 29 performance at the Adelphi theater was a treat in every sense.

The musical is based on the 2007 movie written and directed by Adrienne Shelley. The story centers on Jenna (played by Lucie Jones at the Adelphi), a waitress and pie prodigy at a small town diner in rural America. When she finds herself pregnant by her parasitic husband and begins an affair with the new gynecologist in town, she finally finds some self-confidence and the grit to make a better life for her daughter. Jenna is supported by coworkers Becky (Sandra Marvin), Dawn (Laura Baldwin) and Cal (Stephen Leask), along with a lively selection of patrons. Most stories have at least one character who features as a guardian angel, but this story has two. Jenna is supported by the presence of diner owner Joe, and by memories of her late mother.

While all of the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, the most irritating example was Jenna’s husband Earl, played by Tamlyn Henderson. Throughout the play he consistently abuses her in every possible way, from verbal insults to implied sexual assault. Jenna is continually encouraged to leave Earl, and the birth of her daughter finally pushes her to stand up to him in a satisfying comeuppance.

Not only does Jenna break up with Earl in the delivery room, she also breaks up with Dr. Pomatter. Throughout the play, the doctor comes across as awkward and goofy, but remains a source of tenderness and care for Jenna, despite his own marriage. I found myself rooting for Jenna and Dr, P, and then remembering that the relationship is an affair and feeling conflicted.

The musical is built on a score by Grammy winner Sara Bareilles. Her single “She Used to Be Mine” is seen as the cornerstone of the show, but I was disappointed by this rendition. The song is performed in the second act of the show, after Earl has confronted Jenna about hidden money and she decides to drop out of the baking contest that would have changed her life. Sara B performs the song with an aching nostalgia that transforms into determination to change her situation. However, Jones sang the song in a higher range than originally performed and came across as nervous throughout the performance, and the determination of the second half of the song came across as desperation. This is not necessarily an incorrect interpretation of the song, it just felt too forceful for my taste. However, the rest of the score is energetic, heartwarming, and pitch-perfect.

Two songs that I found incredibly endearing were “When He Sees Me” and “You Matter to Me”. The former is performed by anxious waitress Dawn in anticipation of her first date. The song hits on many modern fears about the kind of men out there (“he might sit too close or call the waiter by his first name”), but it also touches on the more poignant and personal fears of rejection and abandonment that haunt us all on the search for love and understanding. This search is reflected from the other angle in “You Matter to Me”, a tender duet between Jenna and Pomatter as they bake a pie together. Jenna’s revelation of what acceptance and desire feel like

In contrast with the simple one-room set of Last Orders at the Dockside, the set of Waitress involved many moving parts such as tables and a counter for the diner, a living room for the house, and a table for a gynecological office and hospital room. I was impressed with the speed and efficiency of the scene changes, often involving members of the ensemble. One interesting feature was an orchestra on a platform that rolled in and out. For a majority of the show, the orchestra platform stayed on stage right but for the final number

One of the sweetest surprises of the play was the appearance of Lulu, played alternately by Juliette Clemens-Lary and Annabelle Jones. In the performance I saw, the child was either a fabulous actress or Lucie’s daughter. The last song of the play reveals that Jenna has taken over the shop and renamed it Lulu’s Pies, getting herself and her daughter on their feet surrounded by friends.

Overall I give the show a 10/10 for an entertaining cast, strong musical score, and powerful themes of self-reclamation and family. I would recommend this show for a mother-daughter night, or for those who need reminding of their own potential.

Oxford-A Tale of Two Libraries

Hi! Here’s a slightly tardy update on a cool experience in Oxford. As of publishing, I am in Canterbury and we leave for Cambridge tomorrow afternoon.

On the 16th, I visited the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, which is an incredible experience. There are books on display from 1505, and the library itself dates back to the eighth century. Later, I visited an unassuming boba tea shop with windows and walls covered in notes. I was honestly more intrigued and impacted by the note wall than by the library.

First, some explanation: I have the utmost respect for established institutions and it was amazing to get a peek into the inner workings of a historic university. We learned about the practices and habits of the college in regards to administration and education and even discipline. Our tour guide said “there is an easy way and a complicated way to do things, and people of Oxford will always choose the complicated way”. This proved true as she described the system of smaller “colleges” within the larger university and which jurisdiction belonged where.

The Radcliffe Medical Library. Pictures of the inside were forbidden, but they have not only an ornate building, but a labyrinth of underground book storage and reading rooms. The people of Oxford are dedicated to the preservation and expansion of knowledge to an impressive degree.

This is the Oxford coat of arms. The Latin phrase means “God my inspiration” and the open book is something of an Oxford inside joke, since the Cambridge coat of arms is a closed book. It was fun to learn about the ongoing friendly completion between the two iconic institutions. This is the only example where the page is turned down, to show that they read more than one page of the book.

The tour was lovely, but at the end I was left to find lunch in Oxford and while away two hours. I was burned out on travel and history and needed a break. I was also going through some issues with comrades and feeling insecure and isolated. I wandered through town until I found the Covered Market, with a sign proclaiming the establishment dates from 1774. Although the concept of the market had deep roots, many of the shops looked new. An unassuming boba tea shop caught my eye, not because I was thirsty, but because the walls were a work of art.

The sheer number of post-it notes on the windows made for a Pinterest-worthy set up. The color was a refreshing surprise on a dreary day. Upon closer inspection, I saw a variety of words and artwork on each note,

This note made me smile. I don’t know who Lottie or Melissa are, but I hope they and their feet are happy together.

This was my small contribution to the collection. I don’t know who will see it, but I hope they will smile.

The connection between historical and modern records struck me as intriguing. I found myself wanting to know more about the writers of the notes and what prompted them to inscribe their thoughts and feelings. While the records of history are important and well worth preserving, they are less accessible to the general public, and less applicable or relatable. I found myself understanding and agreeing with many of the neon sentiments and engaging in a sort of conversation with them. It just goes to show that while the methods and frequency of written records have evolved over time, the impulse to preserve our minutiae has not.

This leads me to question the nature of my blog as well. I view my writings in a similar position as notes on the wall, as thought processes that someone down the line may enjoy. I don’t necessarily write for approval, although I won’t turn it down. I write to share my passion about things that spark joy in me, to process complex ideas and themes, and to hopefully inspire discussion and thought in others, whether I know them or not. What I write about may change over time, but these core values are my North Star.

Non Voyage ⭐️ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E

The Crucible of Chaos

What day is this being written on? I am aware it is sometime in November but beyond that I have no idea. I’ve discussed the malleability of time at length, but it continues to amaze me. Particularly here in Salisbuty, when the night is fully stretched out by 5:30pm, and we have little on our daily agendas.

We’re coming to the end of a slower week in Salisbury, the longest I’ve been anywhere since Florence. I left Florence about 21 days ago, and that already feels like a far-distant memory, a symptom of leading a life of organized chaos. This trip has hammered home the old adage that “the only constant is change”. Less than two weeks ago I was in a house with seven people feeling more at home than I had in weeks-or was it days? And now I am in a small solo dorm and the beach of Lyme is a world away. The only thing I have held onto over these turbulent months is myself. I know that no matter who I am with or where I am, I am with myself first.

I think about December 6 often. What will my morning look like, when I have no itinerary or assignment lording over me? How will I choose to spend my time in an unfamiliar home? Sometimes I worry that upon my return, this entire incredible experience will vanish like a cloud; that the present moment is all there will be, and the luxury of permanence will lull me back into complacency. I worry that I will be the same person I was, just with some cool photos.

Outside the John Fowles cabin in Lyme, I was speaking to a Scotsman and I told him we had been in Edinburgh “a couple of weeks ago”. My travel mate reminded me that it had been months rather than weeks. Lately I have had increasingly vivid memories of the first weeks of our trip, while other segments have entirely vanished. I remember how unsure and scared and shocked I was. I knew nothing of how the world worked, or who my travel mates were. Now, with less than four weeks remaining in our journey, I can see the end in sight as if it were a moment away. I can see the beginning and the end and flashes of the middle. But the middle is where the magic happens. The bulk of the trip has been about learning who I am apart from the communities I was raised in, which is what I set out to explore. What I have found is that I am who I always have been-resilient, inquisitive, sociable to a point. In essence, I am me. This is the barest possible introspection, and I will be processing and unpacking this journey long into 2020.

This trip has forced me to reckon with myself and with how I approach the world as a whole. In my prior life, I was never one to sink into the present moment, but here I have no other option. I feel that I have finally learned this lesson only a moment too late. I had some issues early on with hanging on to useless attachments back home, but I have compartmentalized and released them. But I have also unconsciously released memories of incredible moments through the journey. Of course one mind cannot be remembering all of the last three months simultaneously, but I am making a conscious effort to retain every shining moment, whether through writing it down or tying it to a song or capturing it in a photograph. Back in Coniston I wrote about the balance between capturing a moment and living in it. That tension has only sharpened with the intervening months.

As I come into the home stretch of my journey, I begin to see the final side of the prism. We return to London for the last week of our journey and I am curious to see how perspectives will shift with the seasons. I am only beginning to examine the effects. My journey into the first steps of adulthood truly began this summer with the writing of the essays, and this trip has been the crucible in which my new identity has taken shape.

Bon Voyage 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E

Poppies and Prayers

There’s a red poppy on my table. There’s a red poppy on every table, and in every gentleman’s lapel. It is Remembrance Sunday, but I have to ask the store clerk what exactly this nation is remembering. She graciously informs me that Britain remembers all war conflicts on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, which is the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month-an auspicious anniversary indeed. As I make my coffee run, I see a notice that even Starbucks will stop all service for two minutes at precisely 11:00. I woke up entirely unaware that today had any particular significance, but I am now overwhelmed with the weight of the day.

Today is also Veteran’s Day back home. Prior to this trip, I never gave Veterans Day much thought, apart from as a day to honor my grandfather who served as a medic in the Korean War. But having seen so many war memorials in the last three months puts it into a new perspective. An ocean apart, a bittersweet holiday is remembered.

Family photos of my grandfather circa 1950. He served in the Korean War, but family knowledge is inconclusive as to whether he was a conscientious objector. He served for two years before returning to Bemidji and starting the amazing family that now surrounds me.

I see more elderly men around town today than I have all week. I wonder how many of them remember their fathers and how many remember their friends and fellow solders. There are many who wear medals and sashes today. I don’t understand the complexity of representation of each garment, but I admire those who have the courage to serve and am pleased that this service has drawn a large crowd of solidarity.

Here is a shot of the historic cathedral from last night. This is approximately 600 steps from the front door of our lodging, and I have been spending as much time as possible here this week.

Our service today was led by the Reverend Joseph Moesel, who served as an active army chaplain for the last 20 years. He reminded us that “Those who experience war are those most ardent in establishing peace”, and the real “architects of war” are those who fail to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (‭‭Micah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬). The a capella chanting of a verse of “For the Fallen” by Lawrence Binyon felt as though it had been recorded from a war funeral, although the choir of children sang it yards away from me.

When the congregants rose to sing the national anthem, I felt a moment of conflict: was it my place to sing the anthem of a nation I am a citizen of? But “God Save the Queen” is less a patriotic battle cry and more a blessing of a ruler, a sentiment that transcends citizenship.

The solemnity of the day is a testament to the scars on the global psyche, and I am reminded of the regrown trenches of Albert. When we visited Albert, the gaping craters had grown into soft valleys, almost appearing as places of rest. A similar thing has happened in the minds and hearts of British citizens. Holidays such as Remembrance Sunday have allowed craters of grief and rage to be mended into scars, honored and acknowledged but no longer an immediate tragic apocalypse. I went back to Salísbury for Evensong and the reverend spoke on the balance of remembering the past while imagining a better future.

I have grown accustomed to an “ordinary Sunday” Anglican liturgy, but today’s emphasis on peacemaking and remembering our fallen soldiers was a rare and precious experience, if not an entirely pleasant or joyous one. I’ve lived through many Veteran’s Day celebrations in America, but only now do I begin to comprehend the weight of the sacrifice we honor. It was a privilege to bear witness to a sacred tradition and honor my family in the process.

Bon Voyage 🌺 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E

Home is What We Make It

A Sonos speaker and a charging dock. Two inconsequential household items, yet I was sucker-punched to see them as we settled into the Sundial House in Lyme. In my house in Shoreview, we have both and use them regularly; they have become part of the landscape of our home. To see items from my house in a dining room across the world felt like a mockery of the life I missed. But I refuse to spend the next month in self-pity and nostalgia; I will be present and soak up the blessings that surround me like the constant rain.

A day later. I am stubbornly clinging to optimism and gratitude in the face of exhaustion and social burnout.I want to get out of this weather and away from these people. I want to go home, We plod up the hill, defying the droplets that heckle us from above. I don’t want to be here any more than the next person, but I know I will never experience these moments again, and I refuse to let them pass me without gratitude. I brandish my umbrella, a talisman against the rain and the resentment. I will drink up every moment of these next 29 days. Within 30 minutes I have traded my umbrella for sunglasses and am veritably traipsing through the same woods that I fought through moments earlier. I have always felt at home under a blue sky and green trees, wherever I am in the world.

After the hike, eggs and French toast and bacon rest in serving dishes around a table. Eight mugs are brimming with warmth, eight distinct voices blend into a soul-nourishing clamor. What was a mockery of a home has become a reinvention, an adaptation. It may not be the home I am used to, but it is a home nonetheless. We create this home by serving each other, by creating intentional community time, by laughing and living together. I refuse to waste these precious 29 days. I will sink into the blessings and lessons of each day,

It is Fawkesgiving, our own special holiday. The eight inhabitants of Sundial House have spent a collective 24 hours preparing potatoes, roasting chickens, and concocting a pumpkin dip that is a delightful danger. We set the table and document our aesthetic efforts for social media. It is the calm before the storm.

Chicken and sweet potatoes and green beans and French silk pie lounge on my plate. Our pumpkin pie awaits devouring and the creamy pumpkin dip is already half gone. After five hours in the kitchen, we have opened our home to our friends and created something beautiful. I had been expecting to be bowled over by homesickness throughout the evening, but my only tears fight through during the gratitude exchange, a moment to truly celebrate each other and the amazing journey we are blessed to share. I enjoy reaping the fruits of the labor of the day, but once again Iam overwhelmed by the number of people in our house. The eight of us have created a home perfect for us, and the sheer number of guests feels more overwhelming than welcoming. When the party dies down, the eight of us gather in the basement to just be together and nourish our souls with community. The storm passed and we found comfort in relaxing in our own home.

Eight hours later my housemates join me again, and we share the quiet vulnerability of an early morning, laughing about homework progress and nibbling our Thanksgiving leftovers. The basement is a mess of Monopoly but the kitchen is clean, a testament to our diligence and collaboration. This is my home now, and I never want to leave.

I do miss the community of my home, but sterling moments of new community exist right in front of me. They exist around a shared table, each scholar fighting against a deadline. They exist in the kitchen, as we stand shoulder to shoulder, staring down the suds. Home is what we make it, and we have made an oasis of community and rest.

Divine Healing Then and Now

On Friday the 1st, we went to the Roman hot springs of Bath and took a tour. I was fascinated by the holistic approach to healing. The waters and exercise treatments refresh the body while temples and altars refreshed the spirit.

There was a lovely exhibit on the story of Sulis Minerva, the goddess of the hot springs. Local tribes had named their patron Sulis, and worshiped her as they bathed in the benefit of her blessings. When the Romans arrived, they brought their goddess Minvera with them/ The goddesses blended into Sulis Minerv, healing triumphing over cultural barriers. I see Sulis Minerva as an example to follow of proper prioritaztion.

The thing I was most impressed with is that the baths are still in use 2000 years later. The main pool of the museum has been corroded with algae, but the springs still bubble and burst and water still flows. The healing powers of nature are immune to time. I was fortunate to experience the healing waters myself the next day.

I almost skipped spa night. It was already dark and wet before we left and it would be dark and wet on the way back, but I would rather go than regret it. The Thermae Bath Spa was well worth the £40.

We floated around the rooftop pool. The November air in Bath is cold enough for discomfort but won’t cause hypothermia, and the warm pool is a lovely complement. I looked out over the Abbey and the smaller church steeple, drinking in the once-in-a-lifetime moment.

The steam rooms were a bit intense for my taste, but I joined my friends for as long as I could tolerate them. I breathed in the burning air and felt both my body and soul release the buildup of two months of travel and chaos. We hung out in the Infrared sauna and I felt at home. In Minnesota, my mother and I frequent the infrared sauna tt the Awaken for Wellness health center. Sitting in a similar room across the ocean I felt at home again.

The starlight room was the star of my night. Visitors recline on mosaic chairs, viewing images of space backed by a soothing melody. The first image is of a spaceship crossing the moon, and when I first saw it I thought the ship was a face. I rested in the dark and let my mind be still for once.

The spa night in Bath was the perfect restorative thing for me. I’ve always felt at home in water, wherever I am. It was such a priceless privilege to explore historic healing and couple that with my own experience. The reset helped fuel me for these remaining weeks of travel and gave me some amazing memories. Onward!