Kenyon College

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wales Week 2; Home

I am writing this from my desk at home, in the state of Washington. I've been home for about four days now. I expected that I would experience a culture shock on coming back, similar to what I felt as I acclimated to England in the beginning. Strangely, however, I slipped right back into my way of living here as easily as if I'd never left.

Of course it is not the same. Now I have seven months of life in a richly beautiful country behind me, a section of my life unlike anything I have experienced in the past. Everything that I saw, everyone I met, everywhere I traveled, these things have all changed me, and now I look at my home with different eyes.

That is to be expected, I suppose. All I know is that, even though those seven months were, at times, difficult, they had a profound impact on my life and my perspective on the world, and I am so glad, and so lucky, to have been able to live in a different country for a whole school year. It is an experience I would recommend wholeheartedly to any person. Chances like these are rare.

That being said, I will close this blog with a recounting of the final week of our group trip, in which we moved north into the Lake District.

The beauty of the Lake District is very hard to describe. It is full of deeply colored hills, fading one into the other as they stretch away under a blue and gray sky. The sun, as it set over Easedale Tarn, pierced through silver clouds and cast everything in brown and gold. We walked past a clear and quick stream that fell easily into the angles and outcroppings of small, many-fingered waterfalls coursing over black rock. Sheep moved like tiny grounded clouds or roaming stones across the hills and mingled in the valleys, bleating in the growing dark as we walked back from the lake through twilight.

We walked through Dove Cottage, where William and Dorothy Wordsworth lived for several years. Knowing Wordsworth scaled the very hills we did gave every sight an even more subtle depth, and the question arose for me - will anybody ever love this place again like Wordsworth did? Our cameras are the obstacles to our true appreciation of a place. Although we can capture an image of nature's beauty and keep it forever, it is two-dimensional, virtually lifeless, once removed from the experience of being there, of putting your feet carefully down on rocks, holding onto wet stones with your hands, feeling the waterfall trickle down their shining surfaces.

It seems like Wordsworth, at least, devoted his passion to such sensations, and the attempt to record them. The Romantics wanted a way to capture forever an image of the sublime or the beautiful or the picturesque in nature. Though they were reaching for the idea of the camera, the reality of the camera seems a step backward from what they were trying to accomplish. In many ways, and in the hands of most, the camera is an inhibition to our love of a beautiful place.

To stand on top of a windy hill and see a land, half brilliant water, half field and hill, bounded only by the ever-changing sky, stretching away from you - it is a sensation unlike any other. You feel at once powerful, triumphant, and vulnerable, insignificant. Perhaps it is with these words I can describe the entirety of our trip.