After this I promise not to write anymore about my time in England. As far as being back at Trinity Western in concerned, I am loving it. And I intend to elaborate on that another time, but for now, please indulge me these final thoughts on Oxford.
About seven weeks have come and gone since I arrived back in Canada. It’s novel to think that mere weeks ago I was hopping from Oxford to Venice, Venice to Florence and then finishing in Rome. Novel in that now that I am back at TWU it is easy to forget that I ever left it.
It’s true that I talk of my travels, I have many pictures to show and have brought some new habits back, but to remember it, to savour with my mind what I once did with my senses, that is hard. On my way back from England I read Earnest Hemingway’s memoirs of his time in Paris after the First World War. He said of the city, that it was for anyone who had lived there, “a movable feast.” Every day since my departure I have picnicked on the memory of my term in Oxford. It has become for me what Paris was for Hemingway. Its cobbled streets, dreaming spires, dusty books and charming pubs have all endeared themselves to me; they shall forever go with me in the locker of my mind.
The city’s footing in my memory is such that at any time I can snack upon it, glean some succour or fondly admire some quality, but its footing is also such that these meals are always fleeting, forever transitory. It’s a feast that can only tantalize, never satisfy. To gorge on the feast of memory is to waste away. I may claim each moment as my own when it is present, but I may not do so with what is past; I cannot marshal memories like Shakespeare could words or Napoleon could men. Memories are much akin to shadows, though they may follow us, they are not us.
Any lingering felicity to be had, as garnered through memory, is gratuitous; I cannot claim it by right. Twenty years of my life have come and gone, and how odd a thing it is to be separated from years of your self; how natural it is too. An allegorical example would be the experience I had last weekend when a friend took me up in his helicopter. He flew us to the lakes and mountains north of Chilliwack, revealing a world that was simultaneously home and hostile. I saw the tops of mountains as birds do, but I am no bird. I hovered over peaks and precipices as clouds do in the sky, but I am no cloud. All the time I felt the visitor, that I was allowed to see but not to stay. So too with memory: by it I see what was once present now as past, in such a fashion as was incapable before, but one must avoid becoming reclusive. I shall keep me helicopter memories for a long time, hopefully gain profitable moral lessons from it, but I could not live suspended in the sky anymore than I can live in the caverns of my mind – in memory.