Monday, March 18, 2013

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

One thing I love doing is walking around London. 
I love it so stubbornly, I refuse to not do it.
On my way home from the Victoria & Albert this afternoon, I walked all the way back in the sweet London drizzle.
I love walking so much, I ignored the number 14 bus that literally dogged my steps all the way to Piccadilly.
And that's saying something, because I love the London Bus System.
I love it so much, that if it were a man, I would marry him. 
It would be a slightly haphazard, sort of ridiculous, rather daring marriage. 
But it would have a rhythmic poetry all its own.
And it would be a good deal cheaper than the Tube.
Priorities.

One thing I love even more than walking in London are nature documentaries.
There is nothing more comforting than a good nature documentary.
Mr. Bennet says to Lizzie: 'Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love now and again.' And when she's fed up with being crossed in love, a girl likes to sooth her savage nerves with a good 90 minutes of fish swimming in coral reefs or pumas stalking wildebeasts.

So, naturally, as a lover of nature documentaries, I couldn't resist the siren song of the National Geographic store that was right across from Harrod's. The door was open, and I walked right past, but then I did a quick U-turn, and I walked into the chintzy rainforest-themed store.
I was greeted by a proud little tome, boastfully called: The 10 Best of Everything.
I flipped through a book filled with glossy pictures of the Aran Islands, Cinque Terre, and Costa Rican Cloud Forests.
The ten best of everything, I thought.
And then I thought how silly that was, because I could think of so many of the ten best things that that book has never seen.

Like the time in San Luigi dei Francesi that the small little blonde French girl smiled at me while we were looking at Caravaggios together. Or the time that I saw a sunset from the Spanish steps that turned the whole sky pink and the white church gold.
Or a magical spot on the other side of a lake that reveals to you just how magnificent the place you live is.
Or when you burst out of the Lafun basement like a wild thing set free, and you spinny hug and sing and dance and run around God quad with your friends on a starry night at 3am, and you are delirious with gladness and lack of sleep and too many Rold Golds with Nutella.
Or when you sit above the city of Rome, with your friends by your side, sipping sweet Italian wine, and discovering what fresh mozzarella tastes like (answer: divine).
Or when you clamber out of the cozy minivan onto the rocky coastline, and you feel the fresh ocean water on your feet, and the smiles on the faces of your traveling companions, and you taste the salty sea air on your lips.
Or when you stand in the hushed stillness of St. Peter's square at night, surrounded by the stone images of all the people who have died to ensure that that mammoth basilica is still standing.
Or when you sit on a crumbly brick wall in the midst of an overgrown garden overlooking the Tiber, and you celebrate a liturgy that the entire city of Rome is a part of--the French tourists clambering up the hill, the choleric bus driver honking at the cars, the pack of seminarians heading towards the Vatican--all of them are participating in an event of which they are not yet aware.

Or walking through a cool March drizzle in London, and being surprised by the first crocuses of spring bursting out of the muddy earth in Hyde Park, brilliant deep purples, and bright sunny yellows.
Or running through Trafalgar square with a borrowed green umbrella, your boots clip-clopping on the pavement, and splish-splashing through puddles, with enough change in your coat pocket to buy a packet of Tesco Everyday Value digestives.
The air is warm, the rain is cold, and the sky is a strange creamy green color.
And you are very glad to be alive.

If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard.
[which currently happens to be the Themes river. Casual.]
--The Wizard of Oz

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