September began with a slow, quiet Labor Day weekend, and quickly revved up to include my birthday; two sets of houseguests (including my sister); a work event that demanded great quantities of time, energy and mental bandwidth; and all the daily details of life. This past weekend, we went apple picking with friends, and the hubs has a work retreat coming up.
And later this week, I’m hopping a plane to Oxford.
If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than about five minutes, you know I harbor a deep love for Oxford. I never tire of its golden stone and winding streets, its crowded bookshops and its soaring, ornate, dreaming spires.
I spent a semester there as an undergraduate, then went back to spend a year and earn a master’s degree, and it remains my favorite city in the world.
I haven’t been back to Oxford in five years, which is simply too long – and the timing, while never perfect, seems pretty good this fall.
A dear American friend who lives there has a new baby I need to meet (and a room where she can put me up). Another American friend (and fellow Oxford devotee) has just moved to the UK and will be coming up to spend a weekend. My former housemate Lizzie lives in Oxford (and we are looking forward to several long chats over cups of tea). And yet another American friend and her family are spending the semester there. (Bonus: I’m planning to meet up with Caroline during a day out in London.)
I can tick off all these reasons, but the real, gut-level reason is much simpler: Oxford is my home.
Almost since I stepped off the bus back in 2004, Oxford has been the place where I feel most like myself. It is the first place I chose and made my own that was wildly different from my hometown in West Texas. It is where I discovered the deep pleasure of walking a city, the joys of living independently (but connected to a few dear friends), and the inestimable comfort of a cup of tea.
The dreaming spires (above) are an indelible part of my heart’s landscape. And every so often, I need to get back there for a little while.
In his lyrical book about Oxford (aptly titled The Secret Garden), Justin Cartwright muses, “Oxford has a kind of wildly enhanced significance for me because I was young and almost ecstatically happy here.” When I met Cartwright at the Oxford Literary Festival in 2008, I was both young and ecstatically happy in Oxford – and he, kind man, listened to me gush about the city and agreed with me about its charms. I still have my signed copy of his book, and that sentence rings as true as it ever did.
In short: Oxford is the city of my heart, and I’m so glad to be going back there. Photos and stories to come.
If you’ve been to Oxford, did it capture you as it has me? Or is there another place that seems to belong to you? (I believe many people have a place like this.) Do share in the comments!