Here in the UK, “orientate” is actually an acceptable verb. And it’s one they use often. (more…)
I first visited Wales and England in 2011. Not sure why it took me so long…
Though there’s a short street in London named after him, the actual spot where Samuel Pepys lived and worked on Seething Lane has been converted into a garden—or had been. It’s now part of a massive construction site. The above poster appears on the hoarding. (more…)
On Saturday, I was invited to join a sort of huntless hunt in the wilds of darkest England. The local beagle club assembled next to the barn on a big estate belonging to a member of the titled aristocracy who had given permission for us to ramble over hill and dale, following a well-trained pack of beagles who were in turn following a scent trail laid down the day before. This is known as beagling. Since the actual hunting of hares with beagles was banned in 2004, this is the best that the beagle clubs can do. I’ve always been wary of sports with too many rules and I like to walk, so it suited me just fine. (more…)
Isis or Oasis? This ship of fools we’re on has no permanent mooring. (more…)
I’m about to begin the long journey back to central Pennsylvania after three months abroad. This last week since our return from holiday in Cornwall has been full of outings with friends and last-minute visits to things we’d meant to see all summer. But I promise some more photos and travel posts after I get settled in at home. My other home, that is.
I’m wondering what I’ll miss most about London, aside from Rachel and my other friends here, and I think it might be that particular, delicious kind of lostness that comes from immersion in a constant stream of sensory inputs and the whirl of cultures, languages and dialects that one can only get in a major city. I’ll miss good beef, street-corner pubs, old Slavic fisherman on the canal path and Muslim families picnicking in the park. I’ll miss sitting like a king in the top level of a lumbering, double-decker bus and watching the endlessly varied streetscapes scroll past.
And what do I most look forward to at the other end of my journey, aside from family? That’s easy: the lush meadows, the forests, and all the singing insects that I’ve missed listening to here — especially the throbbing choruses of northern true katydids that are such a feature of August nights in Pennsylvania. All the distinct dialects of silence.
where the dog threw up
at the edge of the road
early morning gulls
the incoming tide
a ground beetle rotates
on its back
through a gap in the hedge
as we flash past
a partridge and her chicks
retired fishermen gaze
at their old nets
rain in the campground
a girl hops back to her tent
on one foot
the sun comes out
a tiny spider rappels
from the brim of my hat
over there by the car park
a band practices songs
from World War I
in the still forest
one limb is swaying
boys on a rope swing
the whippet’s thin hind leg
glows orange in the sunset
listening to an owl
pale magnolia blossoms
as big as our faces
Who are we, really? The current exhibits at London’s Wellcome Collection provide several intriguing suggestions. I loved a photo of the neural network pulled from the body, which looked like some kind of fairy shrimp, and a photo of many pairs of socks shaped like chromosomes. But I wasn’t moved to pull out my camera until we got to a printed edition of the complete human genome. Each volume had a thousand pages, with type so small it was difficult to read without a magnifying glass.
Human-being-as-library is an attractive metaphor to me, not least because when I was growing up, I often visited my Dad at the academic reference library where he worked. Plus my Mom was a writer and our home was full of books.
Reading was always a great way to live in my head.
Antony Gormley is famous for making casts of his own body. His art prompts us to ask deep questions about the meaning of human embodiment and habitation, such as, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could stand on the ceiling?”
But as some of the art unearthed at Pompeii demonstrates, people have been indulging in gravity-defying fantasies for a long time.
One of the sculptures I particularly liked was a human skeleton with the skull substituted for the pelvis and vice versa. Such acts of imagination strike me as essential to who we are as social and ecological beings, attractive as it might be to pretend that we are entirely scrutable — recorded in the Book of Life or programmed in the hard drive of our genes. Besides, 90% of the cells in our bodies belong to microorganisms.
a blown-glass sculpture
of the HIV virus—
loud children swarm past
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was indeed well-lit, and offered stunning views of the Millennium Dome and the towering steel and glass centers of global finance.
It was low tide on the longest day of the year. At the Thames Barrier, we saw a cormorant and a curlew. House martins fed their young in an artificial cliff above the river — a concrete apartment building. (more…)