So here I am.
After a long, wonderful whirlwind of travel, I’m at Oxford. I’ve been here for a week and a day now, and I’m just now finding time to sit down and process all that’s happened. Talk about hitting the ground running!
Oxford. The other visiting students at Wycliffe will tell you, sometimes I just stop and laugh. At least once a day, I have a miniature freak-out. I can’t believe I’m here amidst all of these beautiful, brilliant people and all of this wonderful learning, amidst the dreaming spires and winding waterways, joining in the community that is past and that is presently in the pursuit of knowledge. If ever there was a dream come true, it’s this one.
I spent most of the day today in the Bodleian library, the historic library of the University of Oxford. Harry Potter fans, it’s the HP library, and I get to study there. It’s so fun to walk past all the tourists taking pictures of the library, past the sign that says “Registered Readers Only.” I feel so out of my league as I sit at the ornate wooden desks with all the distinguished-looking gentlemen and classy ladies with glasses. It’s not uncommon to see people riding bikes in Oxford in full suits.
My first essay is due Tuesday, and it’s on Julian of Norwich: her mental state, treatment, and literary output and reception. And I won’t say it isn’t intimidating. I came into the semester pretty confident in my academic ability, but I quickly found that the level of research and argument that’s expected here is so much higher than I anticipated. And I should have known; it is the University of Oxford. I just didn’t expect to have to research a topic that’s totally unfamiliar, support a robust, coherent argument, and write an eight-page essay about it in the first week, in addition to all the settling in and finding my way around the libraries and the city and attending lectures. It’s a lot to handle academically and socially. But I think I’m adjusting.
After a day of wrestling with Julian’s records of her visions and writing about the affective spirituality of the medieval mystics, several of us decided to go to the Eagle and Child for dinner and drinks. It was a bit crowded when we first walked in, but we quickly found seats in an alcove. I’m convinced that the Eagle and Child is enchanted. The evening was nothing short of magical as we ate good food and drank good drink in the pub where Lewis and Tolkien met to discuss literature and theology. And of course, we had to talk about Lewis and Tolkien ourselves.
The rest of the week has been quite full of activity – finding my way around, getting to know the town of Oxford. I live at the Vines, a house in a suburb of Oxford, and it takes about 15 minutes to bike into the town, so it’s wonderful beginning and ending my days cycling the back way, through fields with cows and across gurgling streams. We have a beautiful garden out back, and my room is on the top floor, so from my window I have a great view of all the Oxford spires. Most of the week has been orientation activities, meeting other students, and researching, and yesterday we took a trip to Stonehenge, the Salisbury Cathedral, and Old Sarum, which was a wonderful outing and a welcome break from the hours spent poring over journal articles and books. Though I know I’m just getting started in that arena.
This post is in no way coherent, because I’m just finding time to catch my breath and record a few anecdotes, but here I am! The University of Oxford. Still can’t believe it.
Because I’m in the land of Anglicanism (and because I simply will always love the Gloria Patri),
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be — world without end. Amen.