every time I see my backpack...

15 April 2008

Everytime I walk by my hiking backpack, I get really excited and cannot wait to pack it for England. It has 2800 cubic inches of space plus three external pockets for those little items that get so easily lost in the bottom of the main compartment. Its straps are comfortable, and it has waist and sternum straps to help carry the load. What a piece of excitement! I think of where it will go and what sort of floors it will be tossed upon in just two months--let's see, a family home in East Sussex an hour south of London and west of Kent (Canterbury Cathedral) and the white cliffs of Dover; a loft in the Lake District, which Edward describes as a sort of stone tent with an outdoor loo and primitive shower; and an English castle near the Welsh border which, I hear, has a resident ghost of a dog, some ancestor's faithful hunting partner several centuries ago. I'm not sure where the ancestor resides.

My backpack will also see several hostels--two stays in the Bird's Nest in Greenwich and a stay in my beloved Oxford. It may also travel to Scotland near St. Andrews, which is a new development in our UK trip plans. Linda, a former GCC student, is completing her doctorate on the influence of Medieval literature on the work of Charles Williams (what a dream study!) at St. Andrews and, although she has a one-room cottage, eagerly has offered my roommates and me her floor for a few days. We originally planned the WWOOF trip around a Scottish mansion, but it turned out that the couple had no room for us (in terms of jobs, not space, I'm quite sure) and our Scotland plans fell through. We are so excited to resurrect this part of our UK journey with the generous hospitality of Linda.

WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization which offers people of all ages the chance to work on farms in return for lodging and food. I joined with Meagan and LeeAnn just because I love to travel and this was the cheapest way to do so, but now I am actually quite interested in learning about sustainable living, especially after having read the Agrarians' book, I'll Take My Stand. There is something to be said for living amid the cycles of life and death which help to foster a concrete vision rather than an abstract vision, which comes with the danger of losing sight of or fragmenting the really real into something which may turn out not to be an accurate reflection of the True.

So yes, I get excited whenever I pass by my backpack, because on its new and innocent nylon exterior I can imagine the smudges and tears of the experiences I'll gain in the UK as I meet people from different cultures who are established in the time-honored way of farming. They are among those of us who do not embrace Progress wholeheartedly but who insist that concrete tradition must not sacrifice itself to some vague vision of the future. And a summer spent roaming? How lovely!

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