I’ve been in London now for just over a month. It’s a new beginning for me in this country, in a new field of study, in returning to school but in a different time and system – all unfamiliar, though oddly not as strange as I’d have thought.
In the week I arrived, I managed to find a flat in Camden Town, a place where I have some experience, as I was once in love in Camden Town. It seemed like a magical place – somehow it seemed bigger then, too. Perhaps that was in part why I was drawn back here. Not the only reason, of course, because I also wanted to be near my university. Camden Town started as a separate village from London, fed by the useful Regent’s Canal and connecting to the rail system. It is still village-like, in a way, and I find that that has held true even without the magic of love to sprinkle her additional charm over it all. It just glitters a bit less now, like the sparkling sucrose crystals gone from a box of frosted flakes. The cake without the frosting, the sundae without the topping. Ah c’est la vie, I suppose, that’s just how it goes when something slips away and you don’t know why, like my dream of a houseboat failing to materialize. But I’ve mostly been too content with my flat and too occupied with studies and visits from dear friends to dwell too much on what’s missing.
The first weekend – indeed the day after – I moved into my flat, Sarah came a’calling and I was happy to have a place to host her. We explored the city in a way I haven’t done in a few years, and then I was being guided – almost never on my own and certainly not giving a tour! We wandered hither and thither, visited Camden Market and Harrod’s and Selfridges and went out one night with our good friend Kim, exploring the local pubs.
I had lovely meetups with friends who live in London, including New York friends and some friends I made at Nora’s wedding in November – Natasha and Pritish. We went out for a delicious vegan feast at a local place called Manna. It was delish and great to see these wonderful women again!
Soon I got a visit from Mary Caton, in London for a conference! What a treat to have double doses of my besties! All we were missing was Nora, who was due to have her first child any day – and did, not long ago! A joy to know that she and her beloved Anders have brought baby Jack safely into the world and their lives – all our lives! I can’t wait to meet him! MC and I had several afternoons together to roam and eat tasty meals and drink delicious drinks and just enjoy London before my classes start. She was staying very near to UCL and it was nice to show her my campus and my neighborhood. We had one last night together in Camden Town and enjoyed ourselves before going to rather early bed, as I was coming down with a cold and she had to catch a noon flight back home.
Since she left, I have been working on reading and school stuff in general with some nights spent reading at a local pub, mingling with the townies. London is a friendly town, in many ways. I’ve been drinking tea and cider and visiting my local charity shop, Mind in Camden – which I am sort of in love with. I visit on days when I do have classes and often find just what I need for my little flat – a silverware holder for the dish drier, a teapot, pepper grinder, framed print of Victorian England, crystal fruit bowl, silver serving tray – even a laundry hamper from a rather shi-shi store. I’ve also been to Brick Lane market several times and really enjoy looking through the flea-markety tables in one area – they also have some Turkish tiles and bowls I’ve been thinking about ever since I decided not to buy one!
I have gotten to go to some lectures and an exhibit about the Scythian people I have long been interested in – an excellent exhibit at the British Museum of artifacts and many textiles. It was right up my alley.
Friday was my 36th birthday, which I intended to be a gathering of friends (plural), but ended up a night out with my singular friend Vilde. We volunteered together in Molyvos, on the island of Lesvos, and it is good to be able to swap stories and memories about our experiences, as it was such a surreal time.
After dinner and pints of cider (and a few more pints), we headed back to my flat for a couple of Red Stripes and I read her tarot cards. It was a very powerful reading and really full of information about some major changes coming up for her. I hadn’t read anyone’s cards in a while and it felt good to do it – like visiting an old friend.
I thought to treat myself to finishing off my new Philip Pullman novel or watching something on Netflix, but I was both hungry and tired, so I heated up some leftovers and ate them as fast as I could and then went pretty much straight to sleep.
Fridays are the most exhausting day, as I have class from 11-1:30 and then again from 3-4:30. I was out like a light, but awoke rather early this morning, feeling compelled I suppose, by the sunlight through my little window. I have had vivid dreams lately, in my London bed. Hard to tell what they signify, if anything, outside of my own desires and questioning.
I am of two minds – that of moving forward and past what’s passed and toward all that is new and promising, and that which reflects and looks back, that which still appeals to me, like a call I hear off in the distance. Is it just an echo, fading, or is that persistence a sign of something that is still pertinent, valuable, remarkable?
I must admit, I cannot tell. My heart still dwells on an old amour, yet I am simultaneously sure that I’ve gone down this road before and it led me to darkness, sadness, and despair. I thought I did my best to sift through the ashes of that old burnt out affair to make certain nothing was left to salvage. I tried to test those waters, just to make sure there wasn’t a baby hidden in that bath before I tossed it and moved on. It seemed that there was no “there” there. There, there, little heart. She heals but slowly and sometimes there is a need to return to the scene of the deed just to verify that it’s done.
I suppose I should read the cards for myself and see if they have any light to shed on me. It is funny how sometimes I encapsulate so many different things inside one being. Parts of me tend to stay hidden, though unintended messages surface. I cannot quell the part which whispers of the mystical and inquires after curiosity, clings to the arcane and eschews merely mundane explanations.
I love looking after mysteries, but still I remain one to myself. Often, my desires take aim and fire before considering the repercussions. I fell before without concerns for where I’d land, and ended up a heap when my trust fall failed. I don’t want to be untrusting, but not do I want to be a heap.
I keep thinking about the story of Eros and Psyche. It came up in classes at the Carl Jung Institute in Manhattan. Psyche falls for Eros without really knowing or understanding who he is, and on the condition that she not attempt to look at him. Everything’s happy until, encouraged by her (jealous) sisters, she peeks at his sleeping face and sees that he is beautiful, but she wakes him with dripping wax or oil and he runs away.
She then spends years looking for him everywhere and ends up at his mother’s house – Aphrodite in the Greek myths but she hearkens back to the old Mountain Mother, who’s priests were castrati. With Eros imprisoned inside her castle like Rapunzel, Aphrodite assigns Psyche to complete four impossible tasks, which she eventually does, with help from different animals. Still, she is defeated by a trick of Aphrodite: Psyche is sent to retrieve a certain box from the Underworld – a place of no return – and told that it contains the elixir of youth. She is warned not to look inside the box, but as before, she goes against instructions, because she just has to know. Instead of eternal youth, she finds eternal sleep inside the box and passes out for good until her beloved asks Zeus to revive her.
Eros and Psyche end up happy in the end, but it is a story which carries both historical and allegorical seeds which fascinate me. The tale of her descent into the Underworld makes me think back to the story of Inanna’s descent into the Great Below, her deep sleep is the parallel for Inanna’s death at the hand of her sister, Ereshkigal, who smites her with the “eye of death” and hangs her from a meathook. Like Psyche, her curiosity, her desire for power, have led her to a state of unconsciousness – death of the soul. The butterfly struck through, stuck to a velvet lining.
But in Inanna’s story, her lover is not faithful – he was not the one to plead to Zeus for his beloved – it is Inanna’s friend, Ninshubur, who goes to ask for help. She is the one who keeps vigil for Inanna, while her beloved seems unconcerned with her disappearance, even sitting on her throne. When Inanna returns, she is angry with Dumuzi for his lack of faithfulness. There was a price to be paid for her return, and Dumuzi, through his betrayal of his queen, has earned himself a place in the Great Below. Through an exchange, he would return seasonally and bring the green of spring along with him, – and when the seasons turned the women would weep for him, gone again to the Great Below, leaving the Queen of Heaven alone.
Three years on and I’m wondering what, if anything has changed? The day after my birthday was the three year anniversary of the last time I saw the man I was in love with in Camden. I happened to see him again, the day after my birthday. It didn’t occur to me to mention it
Love and miss and happy Halloween! I’ll leave you with a pic of my pumpkin and my recent altar for the New Moon. Nice to have my flat feeling homey!