Monday, July 28, 2014

mystery and magic

Today was day two of our treks around England. This time, westward ho! We were going to Stonehenge.

We caught the train at Waterloo Station and passed quickly through some beautiful countryside and a lot of purple clouds of thunderstorms. But by the time we arrived in Salisbury, everything was cleared up and dry. Stroke of luck. We climbed aboard the Stonehenge tour bus, which claimed that "you'll enter a world of mystery and magic" as soon as you step on. We didn't encounter that, exactly, but there were some exciting moments careening down windy country roads in the top of a double decker. At some points, Chris Curlett raised his arms like he was on a roller coaster. It felt like that.

Then, we were at Stonehenge. They've completely redone the visitors area, and it looks great. First of all, you can't drive right up to the stones anymore. They are shrouded in mystery beyond a hill. The new visitors center has some definite architectural merit; it looks like it was built from the magical bluestones and it has a state of the art cafe and exhibition center. But even more interestingly, they now shuttle you to the stones in a series of wagons, not unlike Jurassic Park. We crowded into a shuttle and hummed the Jurassic Park theme song.

In a few minutes, the stones were in view. And you know? They're pretty great. It's hard to explain them, really. I've seen them before and I'll see them again - but there really is something special about them. Your brain can't really process how old they are (4000 BC, by some estimates) and you have no idea what they are, or what they're for. They're just so permanent. They feel so determined. And they stand on a windy plain of chalky earth and fields of grain; you can see clouds and rolling hills for miles. It's just a perfect spot of earth with no other explanation. I didn't get weirded out, but I could let that happen if I wanted to.

We sat in the fields for a few minutes. Some of lay down for a nap, others sat and talked. The sun poked in and out of the clouds. The colors and shapes of Stonehenge seemed to change in the light. I pulled my umbrella out for a little shade, and the wind inverted it.

We decided to walk back to the visitor's center. It's only 30 minutes, and the weather was perfect for it. We bought cherries and strawberries and ate them along the way. The path took us through a long field called "the Avenue, " which is clearly an early landing strip for space aliens. Back at the Exhibition Center we watched an interactive projection system of Stonehenge round the year, and then looked at the discovered bones and reconstructed cave huts. At one point a man, dressed as a witch, cornered me with his/her devil stick and started talking about how "curiosity doesn't always kill the cat" and how need to "let the fear go" and started talking about Schrodinger's cat - who can be both dead and alive. This was the creepiest part of my year, and I got right out of there.

We boarded the coach and headed to Old Sarum, mostly because it was on the way back to Salisbury, and also because the signs kept saying "Why not visit old Sarum?" and there were hundreds of them. Why not? Why not? So we did. I visited Old Sarum back in 2006, but don't remember much other than a mound of rocks and grass. And guess, what? That's exactly what it is. But we still had fun there. There weren't many people around, so we had races and took funny pictures and then...then...we played the most exciting game of Jenga ever recorded in human history. Our Jenga was at least five feet tall until Kacey (or, as he claims, "the wind") toppled it. There were tourists watching with bated breath and taking our picture. Old Sarum is beautiful. Peaceful, quiet, and fascinating to roam around.

I did a brief photo shoot, demonstrating my acting skills. The students shouted out different emotions, and I acted them out. See? I'm always teaching.

This one is "hope."

We call this "anger"


Then we were back in Salisbury. We stopped for a few minutes at Salisbury Cathedral. We pretended to be there for the Evensong so we could get in, but then we got busted for that. The Magna Carta was closed, unfortunately. But the cathedral is just as epic and daunting as ever. Tallest cathedral spire in England!

We finished the day eating at Bill's. If you're keeping score, that's two days in a row. Ah, you only live once! Unless you are Schrodinger's cat.