We are in Cambridge, entering into our last full day here. Living in university housing, eating crumpets and Indian food, stretching our muscles, resting our muscles, and most importantly walking along the river and punting along the river and watching musicals and children's stories with our dear friend, Erin.
So much has happened in the last few weeks, but of course so much has been happening since we left the relative calm and habits and cold of Boston in March.
It feels good to be in English-speaking lands again, to worry a little about pronounciations and some different nomenclature and phrases, but generally to feel confident in being with old friends in the only language you have ever been accustomed to.
Cambridge is a very pleasant place, and I am enjoying it, the strawberries and raspberries and street performers who sing as African choirs or small Reggae outfits or don a gown and recite very old verses in front of a church. It is interesting, 800 years old this year, and Darwin, one of its students, is 200 now. In the zoology museum are displayed his finches and box of beetles, slides of whatnots, and first, old texts, alongside a massive skeleton of a land sloth and downstairs from a dozen stuffed birds of paradise.
On June 11th, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the priests and worshipers and blessed sacrament were walked through the street, the followers behind singing sad atonal hymns behind. The bells ring with a rapidity I'd never heard before, impossible to match in whistle or hum, a bit mad.
We have been walking, smelling along the river the disposable barbeques sold at the co-op and in town the hot sausages for sale at wagons peopled by vendors with striped shirts and straw hats, and through a fair on the green dirty smoke from steam engines that you could ride on the grass for a fee.
We also went punting, more or less gracefully (if not always steering so clearly as Erin) through the waters tread by moorhens, along the route of ducklings and mothers, with other punts with other students, a baby beneath a black umbrella, and jocular British families. When we stopped to picnic we came upon an unruly gang of geese, thick necked and orange footed, hollering at the river, the ducks, their comrades and finally us, though we had luckily finished our meal by the time that they began their saunter close, honking and craning and distracted by the bits of bread that Erin threw in a diversion.
I always forget how peaceful it is to be on a watercraft down a gentle river. Erin said we ought to have been reading poetry and turning parasols in our hands, but we were happy. It was like the feeling of drinking champagne with something salty even though you are not doing either, which is also how I feel while reading Hemmingway (which I do in the mornings here, and feel fantastically thirsty and hungry and generally content with his words and characters and stories of Paris in the twenties, in cafes and pages and Ezra Pound's flat).
Tomorrow, per Betsy's suggestion, we begin our hike through the Cotswolds, and at the end will ferry the Irish sea and finally arrive on that island of which I have heard more stories and presumptions than I have about any country other than America. I look forward.