I woke up at 3:15 am (thanks, jetlag!) to the sound of silence. Disorientingly silent silence. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t in Oxford anymore.
Abingdon House, our dorm in Oxford, is situated on busy Abingdon Road with its constant flow of traffic, except for a brief respite early Sunday morning. Even with earplugs, the noise is loud and constant. It’s a little annoying at first, but then one gets used to it, grows comfortable with it, becomes soothed by it … almost like hearing outside your window the sound of waves crashing endlessly on the sand. Almost.
There’s a trade-off to everything. The trade-off to silence is the excitement of living in a vibrant city, filled with noise and vitality. The trade-off to the comfort of one’s own bed (and own bathroom!) is living in community with fascinating people from every walk of life, with different views and beliefs. The trade-off to the convenience of one’s own car is that you get to walk everywhere and experience things you wouldn’t from the vantage point of your automobile. A trade-off to an indoor gym is a daily workout that tones and strengthens you in a more “natural” way, as part of your daily life. The trade-off to preservatives in food is food that tastes delicious but spoils really, really quickly! Oh, how I miss that fresh fruit!
But having had that little British adventure, I’m happy to be back at home, where from the deck at the back I can look out on hills and valleys and spacious, modern American homes and the house of my Korean neighbors (the only “foreigners” in town — Ozark isn’t exactly known for its diverse population) who are growing corn in their backyard.
Here, there is silence, broken only by the sound of the air conditioner kicking in on a regular basis — again, a sign that we are not in Oxford anymore! It’s hard to believe that just a couple of days ago I spent the day in London dressed in two t-shirts (layered for warmth), a winter sweater, a raincoat, and a scarf … even wishing for gloves! And now they say the high here in Ozark will be 96 today. Craziness. I don’t think people in England can even imagine temperatures this warm.
And as I step outside in the heat and humidity, I get a little pinch in my heart as I think of Wayne, our dear red-head of the group, who needed to be forewarned of any walk over 20 minutes in length so he could apply sunscreen …