Wordy Wednesday: The City of Dreaming Spires

So, let’s see. What’s happened since last week?

Lots of classes. (Still in love with my classes this semester, although also still kind of terrified of them.) (So it goes.)

Lots of working on writing and Ch1Con stuff.

And, oh yeah, I PERFORMED AT HALFTIME ON SATURDAY (with approximately a thousand of my closest friends).

In honor of the two hundredth anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, the Michigan Marching Band invited the university’s choirs and our opponent’s marching band to perform at halftime with them. It was an INCREDIBLE experience. Also: after being at a couple of the marching band rehearsals, can I just say that DAAANG THE MARCHING BAND KIDS ARE FREAKING HARDCORE. While us choir students stood huddled together, freezing in our five layers of sweatshirts, the marching band practiced wearing as little as possible while sweating gallons despite this. We were at the Big House for four hours Friday night and they spent most of them literally SPRINTING ACROSS THE FIELD. IN FORMATION. POINTING THEIR TOES PERFECTLY IN UNISON. WHILE PLAYING THEIR INSTRUMENTS.

Within the choir formation, I stood towards the top of the S, and the very kind marching band reserve girl who was standing by me to help us stay within the boundaries of the letter wasn’t marching at the game because she got a stress fracture in her ankle FROM MARCHING TOO MUCH.

I’ve always thought marching band people were pretty cool, but I have SOOO much respect for them now. What the heck. They rock.

Anyway, that’s the end of my marching band hero worship for this post. If you’re interested, the halftime show is below!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem I wrote towards the end of my time at Oxford.

**********

I don’t want to leave
I am not ready to go
It’s not that I have so so so much more
to do
But that I don’t want to stop
doing the things
that I already am
with these lovely people
in this lovely place
in this lovely time

We have been eternal
in these fleeting moments
and I am not yet ready
for that glow to fade
to reality
Or ever
Please let me
stay
in this moment
in this place
with these people
Please

This is home
more than home is

Please

**********

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Tales of Wales

This past week, my study abroad programme took us on a four day field excursion to Wales. It was absolutely UNBELIEVABLE there. So full of history and natural beauty.

The first day (Wednesday), we began with a visit to a field to examine some rocks that supposedly look like sheep (“supposedly” is an important word here), then stopped through the Avebury district, which is still in England, but near the Welsh border. It’s home to the big brother of Stonehenge, a group of trees Tolkien apparently used to write under, and several neolithic burial mounds.

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IMG_4667Please pardon my inability to properly take panos.

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From there we drove to our first stop in Wales: Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey is an old monastery that has long since lost its ceiling and floor–but the walls still stand.

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We also made quick stops in the Forest of Dean, explored the grounds of a castle at night, etc.

Throughout the trip, we mainly stayed in cute little inns that our group of twenty+ booked out. They fed us lots of hearty, home-cooked meals. Potato and leek soup might just be my new favorite thing (which is saying something since I normally abhor both potatoes and soup).

Day Two (Thursday) found us heading all over. We made stops in Caerwent, Wentlooge Levels and Peterstone Wentlooge, Caerffili Castle, Rhondda Valley, Brecon Beacons, Brecon, Builth Wells, Elan Valley, Cwm Ystwyth, and Cors Goch and Dyfi Estuary. (Basically: ALL THE PLACES.)

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IMG_4779Yes. Those are cows on the beach. (Also: the land on the horizon is Cardiff.)

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(Random note: I just finished watching the newer film adaption of Prince Caspian and it made me SO SAD about how my class is just about done and I’m leaving Oxford in a little over a week and I DON’T WANT TO GO.)

IMG_4841Our programme director made the mistake of stopping by a field with some horses in it to give a lecture on mountaintop removal mining’s effect on Welsh’s resources. The fact that I have approximately twenty pictures of the horses and none of the decimated mountaintops tells you how distracting they were.

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Day Three (Friday) was the highlight of the trip for me (and probably everyone else, too). We began with a visit to Barmouth, which is a gorgeous (but unfortunately polluted) touristy port by the Irish Sea. We then visited a beach and ate lunch overlooking a castle–followed by my absolute favorite part of the field excursion: hiking in Snowdonia National Park.

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IMG_4899I give you: Snowdonia. AKA The Most Beautiful Place This Side of Heaven.

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Also: Sheep.

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IMG_4966#SheepButtSelfie

We hiked up some hills and around a lake.

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We spent the night in a cute town along the coast called Llandudno. A friend and I explored the pier before collapsing exhausted into our beds.

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Day Four (Saturday), we began with a tour of the Great Orme Mine, which is the oldest known bronze mine in Great Britain and SUPER. COOL. (Both in the literal and figurative senses.) I was really tired of taking pictures at that point, though, so I skipped the iPhone shots of that one.

After that, we were off to another castle (Caernarfon, this time), followed by a tour of of a hydro-electric power station hidden entirely in a mountain (no pictures allowed, unfortunately).

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IMG_5095In this shot you can see part of the old wall the English used to keep the native Welsh out of their special little walled city, back in the day.

We made a couple more short stops after the power plant, but mostly we spent the rest of the day on the bus back to Oxford, alternating between slaphappy singalongs and sleep.

Gorgeous where it’s wild, unique and fierce where humans have done their best to tame it, Wales is a place unlike any other. Just… amazing. I desperately want to go back.

(But first things first: My programme is currently having a blanket fort party/movie marathon. So see ya.)

 

~Julia

This Is Home

I just got back from spending the weekend in London! Saturday we “saw” the Changing of the Guard (far too many people there to truly see much), walked around, made a stop at St. Paul’s Cathedral, then saw Once at the West End (which was INCREDIBLE; I can’t even with the concept and music and EVERYTHING).

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Sunday we toured the Tower of London, walked along the Thames, toured the Globe, and watched the World Cup Final at a pub full of very passionate Argentina fans (while quietly rooting for Germany HECK YEAHHH).

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We then caught the bus home and actually made it back with enough time to get a few hours’ sleep before needing to be up to work on homework and go to class Monday morning.

Basically: I am in awe of the fact that I currently live close enough to London to just pop over whenever I feel like it. (I may also be about to spend way too much money going to West End shows every chance I get.) (Like I just dropped over fifty pounds on a ticket to Shakespeare’s Richard III with Martin Freeman and I am not at all sorry.)

It was funny, on the bus ride home, because I fell asleep while we were still in London and when I rubbed my contacts back into focus upon waking, it was as we pulled into Oxford. And even though I’ve only been here a week, I absentmindedly pressed my forehead to the double decker bus’s cool window and smiled as High Street smudged past, because I was home.

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I spent my entire childhood in one city, so I never realized how multiple places can feel like home at once. But as I’ve seen more places and spent more time in them, more and more have begun feeling like home as well. So now it’s not just the house I grew up in, in the middle of the Michigan suburbs, but also a vacation rental in Orlando, and a dorm room in Ann Arbor, and the streets of Chicago and New York. It’s walking beside the Thames and writing this blog post in a dorm room with a dove cooing in the fireplace behind me.

It’s playing cards in the Eagle & Child and punting under the Magdalen Bridge. It’s ogling all the gorgeous old buildings and complaining about the wifi. It’s staying up too late because this dorm room is too big and quiet, and rolling my eyes at the tourists even though I was one of them just a year ago. It’s drinking a thousand cups of tea a day and having the first The Hobbit movie open in another window as I write this post (because even though it’s nothing like the book, hopefully it’ll help me a little with the paper I have to write about Middle Earth).

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It’s missing my hometown and dog and friends and family every hour of the day, but missing this place every hour I am away from it as well. It is knowing I will have a warm bed and peace and quiet to return to after adventures.

It is being so in love with a city it hurts, because you know you will have to leave but a part of you is already so tied to it, you’ll have to cut that part free to be able to leave at all. It is belonging to so many cities and people it seems impossible you will ever be whole again, but also comforting to know you will always have a place in another one when you need somewhere else to go. And you can always come back.

It’s dreaming of coming back before you’ve left.

My hometown. A vacation rental in Orlando. A dorm room in Ann Arbor. The streets of Chicago and New York.

Oxford. Oxford. Everything about Oxford.

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This is home.

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Old Lipstick

I HAVE INTERNET ACCESS ON MY LAPTOP! After spending basically every free moment since I arrived Saturday at Oxford struggling to find a USB to Ethernet adapter, I’ve finally got one. And it is beautiful.

The last time I had internet access on something with a halfway decent keyboard was two weeks ago yesterday, back in the bowels of the Michigan suburbs, USA. Now I’m sitting in a fancy schmancy dorm room at a beautiful college at Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, EUROPE. Obviously: a lot has happened since I last wrote a Wordy Wednesday.

I’ve been to Amsterdam, and Paris, and London. I’ve eaten all manners of food, and met all sorts of awesome people, and gotten sick in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and climbed the Arc de Triomphe, and saw Anne Frank’s house, and visited a fake Van Gogh museum, and ate tons of really delicious French bread, and basically ALL THE THINGS. Today our program took all of us out to Winchester and Chawton to see where Jane Austen is buried, and where she died, and where she lived, and also–oh yeah–supposedly the Great Hall that used to house THE Round Table.

And it has been incredible. And lovely. And as much as I miss my family and friends and home, I’m also really going to miss Europe when I go back to the States at the end of August. (Considering going to grad school now literally just so I can come back to Oxford for longer than a month.)

I have so many pictures and stories to share, but right now, it’s after midnight for me and I’ve got a couple books to read and a paper to write and some places to explore before I leave for this weekend’s trip (back to London!)–so: sorry, but my gushing with specific details is going to have to wait for another post. (SERIOUSLY THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING SO UNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE WONKY POSTING THE PAST FEW WEEKS!)

In the meantime, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem I wrote while cleaning out my bathroom drawers at the beginning of the summer.

**********

The taste like chalk,

consistency rubbery dry;

color orange-red, vibrant.

Dance recitals, ten years,

and stage lights baking it

to my lips.

Tube of cheap grey plastic,

clear rectangular top;

name written in careful thin tip

Sharpie by Mom’s careful hand

at the base, a side per part.

And now the lipstick twisted

from its tube, naked

on a Kleenex on my

milky pink counter,

and the last application

on my lips, tongue;

smudgy and strong

in my nose.

Close my eyes and the bathroom

lights are stage lights;

five years old,

the beginning of the show–

it’s long over now.

Time for a new tube, color, flavor

of lipstick.

Wash it from my hands

and stare in the mirror

at my lips and the twenty-year-old

behind them.

A ballerina somewhere in there.

**********

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Talk to you in two weeks!

Hannah and I leave for Europe tomorrow! I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. I’m so excited and scared and nervous and excited and I have no idea how I’m going to sleep tonight.

I’m going to miss you during the next couple weeks before we get to Oxford, but I’m also thrilled to share all the awesome interviews and guest posts I’ve got scheduled. (Thanks to everyone who sent one in!)

Fingers crossed I’ll have wifi access and downtime here and there so I can post on Facebook and tweet and reply to emails. But if not, I hope you have an amazing two weeks, and–pending survival of all this tourism we’re going to be up to–I’ll talk to you when I’m settled at my new dorm!

Love you! ❤ Bye!

 

~Julia

Big News Post, Take Two

I’ve been promising another Big News post for a couple weeks now, and I FINALLY CAN SHARE THINGS WITH YOU!

Drum roll please…

This is a Book Too is back!

Yup, after our unplanned hiatus (school has this annoying habit of getting in the way of projects like this, yes?), Mel and I are finally back in action with This is a Book Too. Check out new chapters on the official This is a Book Trilogy blog at: www.thisisabookthebook.wordpress.com.

I’m attending BookCon (AKA “Power Reader Day” of Book Expo America)!

I’m so excited to finally get to check out this event! (By which I mean “fangirl all over my favorite authors, likely scaring them so badly they’ll never come near me ever again.”) Plus, I’m attending with my super talented writing friends Ariel and Joan, and a couple of our parents, so that automatically makes it 110% awesomer. (Also: I love New York. Like a lot.) (Also, also: BROADWAY.)

I won the Arthur Miller Award!!!

The Arthur Miller Award is a prize here at U of M for writers. The winner receives a scholarship, an autographed copy of DEATH OF A SALESMAN (because Arthur Miller), and, you know, the right to stare in disbelief at the email and jump around a lot and maybe even cry, just a little bit. (Not that I did any of those things.)

I’m so incredibly honored to have been selected to be this year’s recipient. U of M’s got a kind of crazy number of talented writers, so the fact that they chose my entry blows my mind. A lot.

… Aaand, last but not-at-all least:

I’m studying abroad at Oxford this summer!!!!!

THAT’S RIGHT. I GOT IN TO MY DREAM STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM. AND I’M GOING. OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH.

I’m studying British literature in the place it was written, and some of my friends are going to be there at the same time, and it’s basically going to be beautiful.

On top of that: While in the UK, Hannah (who’s in the same program as me!) and I are attending–wait for it–JK Rowling’s session at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival! (If you happen to feel a flutter in your chest at this news, that’s probably the heart attack I had while scrambling to purchase the tickets rubbing off on you. I apologize.)

The plan is to keep the blog up and running while I’m over there, so prepare yourself for a deluge of posts about how wonderful Europe is.

I’m off to daydream about summer (so close, yet so far away). Love you!

~Julia

NaNo Day 4: The Art of Not Being Homeless (or Failing Classes)

I ended up not getting much time to write on NaNo yesterday because, get this, outside of my Spanish essay (which, by the way, I only got like a page and a half done on–I suck), I also had to extend a short story for my creative writing class, and what started out as about three pages is now up to almost fifteen. And probably will be there by the time I finish, which I’m about to go do once I’m done with this post.

The unfortunate part about being a creative writing major in college is that, although I do get to write more than I would if I weren’t a creative writing major, in general the things I write aren’t the things I want to. I could probably work it out with my professor to make NaNoWriMo a project for class, but then I’d also have to turn in pages every week for critique, and the problem with doing that is that I treat NaNo very much as an ongoing experiment in quantity over quality. And having someone critique my novel every step of the month sounds like a surefire way of making me burst into tears and set everything I’ve ever written on fire and decide to become an accountant.

Sooo yeah. Not doing that.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to finish my Spanish essay today, go to the school-related things I need to (office hours for genetics, since science and I have been such frenemies lately, and a learn-more-about-study-abroad thing in the evening), and still have enough time to get caught up on NaNo. And, you know, watch HIMYM at 8:00. And shower. But we’ll see about that.

Upside: This morning I signed the lease for my apartment next year! So I’m not going to be homeless! (Yet.)

day 4

~Julia

PS. Crap. I forgot I have to study for a social science exam too.