England: Part 1


It has been a full and dynamic week. We are staying with a wonderful couple in Oxted, just a few miles from Churchill's home (we walked there yesterday). When we were in Paris, each day was busy but wrapped up with us all sitting around, eating or checking emails. Now, our evenings bring us into a living room with scotch, British punk records, and stories swapped with our new friends. So, there has been less time for writing, but today is our "day off," so I'm playing a little catch-up. I have the new Sara Watkins album in my headphones, English clouds rolling by outside my window, and a pile of Jaffa Cakes by my side. Here goes a bit of the week in review.

Monday found us in the heart of London, where we visited Kensington Gardens. We are all familiar, I believe, with Peter Pan. His creator J.M. Barrie has been a great literary influence to me for many years, and he was especially fond of this magnificent park. He wrote a prequel to Peter Pan, in which Peter escaped his perambulator and was raised by the fairies in Kensington for a while until he could fly himself well enough to reach Neverland. Before seeing the place myself, I would've doubted how a child could live in hiding there for any length of time. Shows how much I know! We picnicked near the entrance with some local friends and then wandered toward the palace. Once we reached it, we started the other way, aiming for the legendary Peter Pan statue.

After walking, walking, and walking to the palace, we walked, walked, and walked some more to the Long Water river toward the statue. Along the way, we saw a gaggle of kids playing football (soccer) around the pond, and a little further along an old man feeding a hundred birds like they were his children. We passed another statue, a mighty one called something like "Energy," though my friend Lauren and I agreed it could've been more energetic. Finally, we came around a bend and there it was! A solid black edifice spiraling high; a boy in his tattered nighty, playing his pipe with no care or even regard for the passing world; he stood aloft a rock, and below his bare feet, fairies and critters reach for the impish figure overhead.

In 1902, Barrie commissioned this statue and had it placed in that spot as the spot where Peter landed when he flew from his perambulator. Philip carried me up the steps to it and, as we circled it, I ran my hand over the fairies' wings and faces. Time ceased as I took it in. As I've read Barrie's work and read about his life, I can't help but connect. The way he saw the world, the way he interacted with it, and the struggle he bore internally to process all that through writing. I see a kindred spirit in his words, an elder with a hand on my shoulder, saying to me it'll be ok. So I let it settle in that day - that I stood where he stood one afternoon and saw what he saw a hundred years ago. We stood there together, looking at his boy Peter, and he said to me, it'll be ok.