From where I sit, the trees out my window look like they come straight out of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. One tree after another, layered on top of each other, branches sweeping in all directions like wild swirls of green paint on the canvas of a master. In this moment, these are not Bob Ross’s “happy little trees” . . . but they do dance under the cloudy sky.
I woke up this morning to a wet world and the coldest day we’ve had since I arrived. It reminded me of a poem that we studied in my high school English class, a rough English translation of a Russian poem: “But you’ve been breathing this thick foggy air too long; you wouldn’t believe in anything but the rain.” I couldn’t help smiling as I walked to class because my sun-baked soul delights in the rain.
I had my first lectures today, and the last one was held in the dim, book-lined tutor’s office while the seven of us sat in a circle and took notes with our laps as the desks. He wore brown tweed (or something similar to my untrained American eye) and thin-framed spectacles, and sounded exactly how I imagine an Oxford don of eighty years ago would have spoken. For an hour, he talked to us about royal courts of the Middle Ages, and for that hour, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
In one of my favorite essays, C.S. Lewis writes what has since become a somewhat famous quote: “He [the reader] does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: this reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”
So many of my favorite stories take place in England that I was a little worried that my expectations would be completely skewed and I would be disappointed by reality. But days like today remind me that sometimes the stories help to make the pieces of ordinary life feel a little . . . well, extraordinary.