This trip has been somewhat unusual and draining, for one reason -- it took me a long time to get acclimated to the time change. I couldn't sleep until late, late at night, then needed a nap later in the day. Why? I'm not sure. I'm suppose it wasn't surprising that I got a migraine on Thursday morning, which put me out of commission for part of the day. Fortunately I recovered quickly, and went on to have a great work session with Robert on Friday.
I really didn't feel adjusted until Friday afternoon, and of course that's when I left for London! Oh, well.
When people ask why I'm going to England, or what I do when I'm there, I usually say that I'm going to work with my advisor, to discuss what I'm working on at the moment. And that's true, but (fortunately) it's incomplete.
One of the things I like best about Durham is how many different things I get to do while I'm there. There are some perennials: studying and writing, going to the daily services at the Cathedral, Bimbi's and the Market Tavern, walking along the river and watching the ducks. And now a new perennial -- having dinner with Robert, Margaret, Iona, Jamie, and Maeve. And in between, there are always interesting additions.
- Attending a postgraduate seminar on Jurgen Habermas and Cardinal Ratzinger's "The Dialectics of Secularlization: On Reason and Religion" (and having one of the professors bring a tray of coffee, thank you Chris Insole). There's something... deeply right about discussing the role of religion in the public square, then the brilliance of Calvin & Hobbes & The Far Side, one right after the other
- Learning more about For City Sake!, a group of Durham locals who are protesting development along the riverside
- Meeting Robert and Margaret's friend Sean -- it's always interesting meeting your friends' friends, you inevitably see a new side of them
- Attending a lecture by Jean Porter on "Natural Rights and the Trajectory of Human Rights" (I'm fairly sure I didn't get that exactly right)
- Walking through an old cemetary (circa 1820) where they are cultivating a natural greenspace for wildlife. I'm trying to think if anything sounds more peaceful than a field of moss-covered gravestones, where birds and wildlife can live quietly.
- Remembering that you owe the bed & breakfast £10 from your visit last November, and having a good-natured laugh about this as you settle the account
Dinner with Robert, Margaret, Maeve & Iona was great. (Jamie was there, but went to bed early-ish.) I brought a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon for the adults, and "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein for Iona's 11th birthday. (Both were well-received and quickly ingested.) Margaret has been reading Shane's book, "The Irresistible Revolution", and we talked about the trials of living faithfully & courageously as the course of our lives changes through marriage, children, employment, and everything else. I find it very comforting that there are others who grapple with these issues, and who want to have the conversations about the journey.
One of the blessings of a trip like this is the deeply renewing nature of everything I get to do. I feel renewed by the time in the cathedral, where the presence of centuries of worship feels like a heavy blanket in winter; the sheer weight of it is comforting. I love the vista of the cathedral -- as I arrive on the train, as I jog along the river, as I leave the library at night. I love the lectures (even when I'm not sure I'm following them), extended conversations about meaningful topics. I love meeting other students, companions on that peculiar journey of doctoral work. I love going into the pub, having comfort food and pints of beer, feeling at home there. I love seeing the daffodils and forsythia blooming on the castle lawn. I love having a serious block of time to concentrate on my work, and the conversations which make that seem so much easier.
I'm so very blessed to be able to do this.