English Magick

I confess to writer’s block. This blog keeps slipping from my grasp. How do you put one amazing trip across the pond into one blog that justly chronicles feeling and thought? What are those nebulous terms anyway? 

Who am I?

Just kidding…

When push comes to shove, the thing I brought home from England was a sense of magic. My small plebeian-consumer bohemian-hipster 21st-century 20s-statistic head got blown to smithereens by the sheer immensity of history. And how that history, the farther it goes back, gets bigger and more unexplainable. 

For instance, how can one man take away an entire country’s culture, kill people, burn all ancient Christian books and ravage churches because of a money-mongering divorce and people still honor him?

Which brings us to kings and queens itself. Visiting Windsor Castle where all the great monarchy of England lived before Queen Victoria and marveling that these walls listened to the daily patter of people who were the leading rulers of the world. The wealth of a castle itself gives authority. For goodness sake, the King had a room to sleep in, to put on his house slippers in, to get his bath in, to eat his breakfast in, to listen to his daily appointments in, to get dressed in… Haha. For real, he almost had that many rooms!

And then we saw Glastonbury Abbey. Burned by Henry VIII. Traced back to AD 64. The legend says that Joseph of Arimathaea traveled here with Jesus in the Hidden Years (when Jesus was 13-29 years old) and they built a chapel of adobe. Joseph returned years later and established a monastery here with eleven disciples. 

The place has an eerily holy feeling to it. Like it’s way bigger than you and you could never know what is here that is unseen. The brilliantly emerald grass of England amongst towering stone arches, Gothic walls leading nowhere. Our Lady Chapel, re-built thousands of years ago when the daub one burned down, is the heart of the Abbey ruins and stands the most in tact. You can almost feel the ages of history, the remains of the thousands of saints that are buried in the grasses surrounding the Abbey. 

And then, of course, that’s where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were buried. No biggey. Apparently when King Edward and Queen Eleanor came to honor and move their grave to the place of honor in the Abbey in the 1000s Queen Guinevere still had shimmering waist-long golden hair that disintegrated when she was touched. And then when Henry VIII ransacked the Abbey the grave was destroyed and Arthur and Guinevere’s remains disappeared.

We know because they took Instagram photos of it. 

Actually back then they had a social media program called an iWitness Account. 

Haha. 

I know. I stink at jokes… ; )

Then there was the day we drove through the dazzling green meadows of England farmland and saw idyllic stone farmhouses with ivy creeping up the walls and orchard trees and white sheep. Or saw the great Bodleian Library where Hogwarts was placed and has books that are thousands of years old and a fellow of the library must know the original language, whatever it may be, to read it.  Or ate in a pub that was built in the 1600s. There’s a reason BBC films all their Masterpiece Theatre mini-series here. They don’t have to build any sets.

The last day in England we stopped at Stonehenge. This place beat any of them. 5000 years old. Stones standing against the cloudy England sky in a bitterly cold, rainy afternoon. Sheep graze around the Henge, keeping the grass naturally chopped short. One of the archaeologists on site told us about the phenomenal history of the place. There are villages that pre-date the Henge underneath the soil. If you knock over a few molehills with your foot, you’re bound to find ancient artifacts. There are barrow-downs everywhere where people who appear to have been great men of ancient eras are buried. You can draw a straight line from the outer rocks of the Henge to the Great Pyramid of Giza (also built around the same time). How did they know how to make a straight line across the world before satellites?

StoneHenge

There’s an outer rock that I am convinced is a troll turned into stone. He was probably the troll set to guarding StoneHenge. Or maybe the troll that was trying to destroy StoneHenge that was outsmarted by a wizard. You can decide for yourself.

TheStoneTroll

There’s a reason so many of the great fantasy novelists have come from England.…

You can look at my iWitness Account on Instagram (@camillerosemary) to see more pictures of Merry Olde England.

 

London Jitters

As a little girl I loved nothing better than historical novels. Dear America Diaries, the Little Maid series, Elsie Dinsmore, Laura Ingalls Wilder, you name it. As I got older, that love morphed into real diaries: Sarah Morgan’s famous Civil War account, Anne Frank, random real diaries that I found as a pre-teen discovering Amazon’s labyrinthine possibilities.

And now I’m in my second childhood. Historical novels. I’ve read nothing but historical novels for 2 months.

I LOVE THEM.

There was a part of me when I was choosing my degree that genuinely wanted to get my Bachelors in History rather than English. In the end, I decided that I could learn about history through English. So I did English. Besides, more novels and less curricula ; ) 

That to say, I hate when I read a historical novel that completely butchers history. Not naming any names, but I just read a novel that totally messed up Anglicanism vs Puritanism. This elderly agnostic novelist had clearly never been to an Anglican church before or read any books about Puritanism other than her 5th grade history book, which also talked about turkeys and pilgrims. 

Grrrrrrr…

Anyway… when I met James he took me out to sushi for the first time in my life. I think I fell in love with him right then and there. I entered into Ginza in Green Hills in Nashville (so yummy) and found myself, with a little bit of imagination, right in Japan. Later on in our dating he took me to an Ethiopian restaurant. Never tasted anything like it, the sponge bread, the tea, the lentils… A Cuban restaurant with dancing and real Cuban coffee. A Costa Rican place. An Indian restaurant, with a man playing zither and mutton cutlets with bones in it and curry (ah, curry!!!) and coconut milk (love love love). And then a Thai restaurant, with more coconut milk (seriously love), where I accidentally poured the wrong bowl over the wrong bowl and made a mess and then had a spice attack of tomato-color proportions blush up over my face and had the waiter laughing at me.

Ah well.

Not to say that those cuisines are my favorite taste-wise, but to me, every time I walked into one of those places I felt like I was in a magical bubble, propelling me into another culture, experiencing another part of the world.

The world is so huge. And I want to see it all. 

So that’s why we went to Italy for our honeymoon. We are incredibly excited to be going to Brazil at Christmas to meet James’s whole Brazilian family (!). And in six hours, I am going to be at the airport getting ready to fly to London. I have the Little Dorrit miniseries downloaded on my phone and Wolf Hall in my backpack so that I can get quite immersed in English-ness before I arrive. You can imagine how excited I am. If you want to see the fruit of the excitement, you can check out my Instagram (camillerosemary) through the journey. I will be spoiling everyone’s news feeds.

OCTOBERS

Sometimes there are periods of life where you walk around in the present and you feel the past with you, at your back. 

This autumn I can’t stop thinking about how last autumn I was newly engaged, spending these four months of the busiest time of our year planning for my wedding day and my honeymoon.

That fall was full of calls to venues, culinary plans, finding dresses, pre-marriage counseling, traveling, red beret hats and wool scarves, leather gloves and long coats, crimson leaves and hot chocolate in the Smoky Mountains.

A year later, after an Italian honeymoon, a blizzard, a busy spring, a crazier summer, and a full cross-country trip, I am again traveling in the vivid paint splashes of dying leaves, this time with my husband beside me. 

I love traveling North in this season. I love Starbucks hot chocolates, fuzzy blankets in the car, hoodies and sweatpants, the panoply of fire-red and purple and canary-yellow flying by the car window. Tennessee is lovely, but the fact of the matter is that its Autumn and Winter pales to the glorious color-ridden climes and then the frosty wonderlands of the north country.

One iconic day this October, we find ourselves in the lovely town of Madison, Wisconsin, performing in a theater in the nearby city of Edgerton. A morning free, and James, my sister Annie, her two children David and Vincenza, and I are off to enjoy a few hours in the most enchanting autumn day I have experienced this year. Blue skies, brisk winds, trees effervescent in the colors of fire, and the lovely downtown of the Wisconsin capital.

After a delicious breakfast of farm-to-table crepes and pour over Ethiopian coffee, we set off to explore the day. Annie and her children enjoy the lovely children’s museum, complete with a fairy-tale porch garden.

James and I enjoy the beautiful farmer’s market in the shadows of the Capitol building.

Among the tables and tables of honey and flowers and vegetables and apples and Wisconsin cheeses, I find a magical cornucopia of everlasting bouquets, scarlet pumpkins, dried maize cobs, pussy-willow and fern.

It is all arranged delicately, atop barrels and baskets or piled enticingly. An autumnal paradise. All grown by an elderly woman who gardens, hangs the plants to dry and then arranges them with twine.

Whenever I see such enchantments, I am inspired. My mind’s eye sees the day, one day, when my husband and I and our seven children will have our own pastoral wonderland. 

And my husband and my boys will till the soil and weed the garden, of course. Why else have all those kids? ; )

Since James and I are a pair of hobbits stuck in human bodies (when we don't feel like being elves), after very little walking and exploring, with two little brown paper packages tied up with string and our artisan coffees, we find a quiet nook to read our books underneath a great flaming tree that blocks us from the chilly sweet-scented autumn wind. 

Because sitting together, reading our books, and drinking coffee on beautiful autumn days is quite our favorite thing to do.