Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If only all midwestern towns were still like this...

Tonight is my last night in Chicago, for a pretty long time, most likely. I'm more than a little bit sad. To celebrate the wonder of bygone midwestern days and the continued charm of small midwestern towns (not that Chicago is--but we've been to/through several small towns while I've been here, so you get the idea).

If you haven't seen Robert Preston play the Music Man, then do it right now. Here--I'll help.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


This is the song I kept thinking of while I was thinking about this:

When I first got back from my semester in England, virtually every person that knew where I'd been said similar things. The conversation invariably went something like this: 

"You got to study in England? Wow! You are so lucky! How was it?"

At which point, I would usually say some vague, all-encompassing phrase like, "Oh, it was so great. I just loved it." Which was, and still is, true. But I always felt a bit like I was cheating my experience to sum it up in one trite word or two. After all, my near-four-month stint in England did more to help me see and understand myself than anything else in my had. And I'm calling it "oh, so great?"

"So great" doesn't say anything about the breath that flew out of my lungs when I first saw St. Paul's Cathedral, silhouetted against the sunset, with streaks of pink, gold, and orange bursting from behind it.

It doesn't describe the love I felt for the people around me when I sat in Tube (the District Line heading towards South Kensington, if you were wondering) watching the young couple across from me play with their son and ask him to "give Mummy a kiss" just because "she loves you so much."

Nor does it explain the gratitude I felt as I stood next to Benbow Pond in Herefordshire, thinking of the hundreds (literally) of my ancestors who became members of the LDS faith there in England in the 1800s and who sailed over to America to join other members like them.

This time, when I went back with my family, I wasn't sure if it would be the same. My sister and I talked later in the trip about how we weren't sure if it would be such an overwhelmingly wonderful feeling all the time, the kind that lives deep in the soul, like it was before. But then  we arrived, and I found myself feeling the same comfort and happiness as before--the way you feel when you've been gone doing hectic, unpleasant things for weeks on end, and then you finally get to come home. 

I enjoyed the whole trip, naturally. We spent the first four days in London, and then we rented a car and drove up to the north of England for the last four days. It was all beautiful, and given how happy I was to return, it was even better to be there with my family and have the opportunity to show them all of my favorite places and re-experience with them so many familiar things and savor new opportunities as well. But I think I realized why being in England makes me feel so happy and myself when we stopped at a church in a tiny village called Farnworth, on the borders of Widnes township. This village has a church that was built in the 11th century, under Norman rule, and my ancestors, the Rathbones, lived in Farnworth in the 1500-1600s. They were christened and (some of them) buried there at that darling little church that has been there for almost 900 years (see below). I stood there and thought of them, where they came from and where they had been. And then I wondered what they would have said if they could have see almost 500 years into the future and known that one of their great-great-great-times-a-big-number granddaughter would have flown over the ocean, driven to this tiny town to stand there where they worshiped, and stood thinking of them, wishing to meet them.

For me, the best thing about being in England is having experiences like that—standing in a church where my ancestors walked, socialized, baptized their children, and worshiped God. They lived too! The British Isles are more than just lands with lovely countryside, rich history, and excellent literature. Our identities are wrapped up so tightly in our heritage and where we come from, that when I go to England, I truly feel as if my soul is coming home. And then, on top of this extraordinary kinship with my ancestors who lived there, the connection I feel to England is so much more solidified because so much of what I like, what I study, what I think about, and what is beautiful to me is found there. That’s not to say that I don’t find those things elsewhere—certainly not. But the culture, history, and beauty England just feels so inextricably a part of my roots and a part of my soul, that how can I help loving it as I do?

Though a tree's roots aren't always seen above ground, the tree wouldn't stand without them.  The roots are the lifeblood, the stability, and the strength of the tree. 

I'm glad to have found mine.