I am going to share some random snippets of my big trip to Britain over the next few days, I hope.
Many people, as we geared up for the trip, warned me that my romantic ideas of Britain and its history would not live up to the reality when I actually went. It put the seed in my head, and I worried that I would be disappointed, or unable to reconcile what I wanted to experience with what I actually did experience.
That somehow, the number one destination on my travel list would not be what I thought it was.
However, one thing I promised myself was that as we travelled, I would be present in the moments. I would open myself to emotions and feelings that came to me, and allow myself to immerse into where I was at that moment. Embrace the unexpected, accept the results. If something was disappointing, so be it. If something was utterly amazing, embrace it.
In the end, I had a multitude of immeasurable moments. I am sure my husband was secretly laughing at me the entire trip because invariably at several points I was the round-eyed tourist gasping at every monument, vista, historical anecdote, and remembered “old thing”.
I hope to quantify some of these memories (or try!), as I remember them. After the break, is my first.
Echoes of Templar
It was early into our second day in London, and we were visiting Temple Church first thing. It was quiet, early enough in the morning that there were only a few of us wandering about inside, most enthusiastic tourists. As I stood in the Nave (the original part of the church), the whispered footsteps on the well-swept floor echoed softly in my ears, and I was struck by the enormity of the lives that had passed through this exact spot.
I was suddenly, electrically charged as if I had been plugged into a socket. “Oh wow.” I remember thinking. “This is a thin space.”
I had only ever heard of “thin spaces” (could also be called holy ground, if you will). This is a concept where, in a specific place, the living and the spirits can sense one another. It can also be described as a deep appreciation for the world around you at that moment, physically felt. A moment of faith, of understanding, and of utter awareness of yourself and your spirituality, if you are so inclined. It can be anywhere; in a forest, in your own home, out on a bluff facing the ocean, in a place of worship.
I think that is what this place was, right then, for me.
I know, I know, I am likely overthinking it, being dramatic, and I can hear your eyes rolling… But it is what I felt. Everything was so crystalline-clear in my eyes, drinking in every detail to remember it, from the meticulously cleaned Persian rug to the gleam of the organ’s polished wood in the Chancel, to the cool, worn stonework all around me. My skin prickled and I could hear my heart in my ears. I think the adrenalin of being somewhere I had always wanted to be was also hitting my bloodstream, and it was a huge rush all at once.
Yeah, I can be like that. I am sometimes just a big kid.
I put my hand out to balance off a column, draw from its steadiness. I closed my eyes and listened to that distinct echo you get in churches when people are moving about in them, the murmuring and staccato rhythm careening off tall ceilings and walls. My fingers pressed into the smooth surface, cool and reassuring, and I was able to open my eyes again, reaching through the years to imagine what it was like, here, in this place, on any Tuesday morning from the past eight hundred years.
At my feet was William Marshall, the first Earl of Pembroke. The broken and battered marble effigy was silent and heavy there on the floor, but my mind was racing with him in his adventures. That man, buried (supposedly) right there in front of me, died in 1219. Seven hundred and ninety-five years ago. He was the man who helped mediate between the Barons and King John, to sign the Magna Carta. He was regent for (I think, must look it up now… Henry III?). His sons are beside him. I couldn’t move for a few moments, thinking about all of that. Wishing the Blitz hadn’t damaged so much of the importance in front of me.
My excitement to be there must have shown on my face, because several strangers asked me questions as we visited, assuming I was some sort of historian. I hope I did not disappoint.
For me, this was not disappointing in any way. It lived up to everything I expected it to be, and more.
Temple Church is just off Fleet St. It was £4 to get in the door, and you can take all the pictures you want. http://www.templechurch.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Church for more information.
And you know, I didn’t even think about the Davinci Code until we had left, on our way up to St. Bride’s. It had never even crossed my mind.