shakespeare and co

When we first set foot in Paris, it was hot, we were dragging our luggage, and we didn’t know exactly where our hotel was.  But I didn’t care.  My first impression of Paris as we stepped out of the train station, despite the stress that my parents felt, was untainted.  I took in the cyclists, and the cafes, and the lampposts, and the trees planted every so often, and the effortlessly elegant natives that crossed the street with us.

There are a lot of beautiful people in Paris.  It’s sort of unfair, how attractive they are.

We finally caught a cab, and I cobbled together a sentence in French from my crash course and knowledge of Spanish, much to the delight of our cabbie.

We wandered that day to the Louvre and down to Notre Dame.  I think we walked the whole way, since we hadn’t bought our Metro passes yet.  It was gorgeous, and I loved it, even though I was incredibly out of it.

This is where my favorite discovery came.  I ended up going here twice.  Shakespeare and Co, an English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris.  My professor had mentioned it to me before and it sounded fascinating – who wouldn’t want to visit a bookstore that famous expats of the 1920s had frequented? Seriously.  Just imagining all of them converging on that one city, creating, thinking, writing… Ugh.

(On a related note, I saw Midnight in Paris shortly after I got home… OH MY GOSH.  It was brilliant.  I actually threw a pillow across the room when T.S. Eliot popped up.  But I’m getting sidetracked…)

This bookstore.  It’s… it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve been.  And that sounds odd, having seen monuments and architecture and museums.  But I cannot even describe the atmosphere there.  For a book lover, it was absolutely mind-blowing.  Books were organized enough to be found but not enough to give it an atmosphere of sterility… The whole place was just breathing.  Everyone inside that store was there because they wanted to be, and nobody was in a rush.  A love for books just permeated the whole place.

I could have stayed there forever, and I mean that.  I really do.  My family had to drag me out of the shop.  Everything about it was perfect, and I’ve never been anywhere like it.  It’s almost entirely classics, and the atmosphere is… homey?  There are signs, and little sections you can visit.  Hanging above the stairs is a sign that reads “Be not inhospitible to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”.  They have a section called “BEAT” and one simply titled “LOST” for Joyce, Hemingway, and their whole generation.  There’s also a well in the floor labeled “FEED THE STARVING WRITERS” and a cell filled with poetry.  Did I mention the entire Shakespeare section?

The best part about it, though, was the way that they encouraged reading and, further, writing.  They fostered creativity in that spot.  Upstairs, they had two reading rooms, a chess board, a piano, a typewriter, and the kid’s section.  There are so many places where you can write, though.  By the typewriter and the YA section, you can just leave notes, scraps of paper, and bits of prose and poetry, tacking a little bit of yourself up on a Metro ticket or shoving your soul into a crack in the wall.  A mirror in the poetry section also urged you to leave your own poems.

It was beautiful, and alive.

And so began a new adventure, which was chronicled with just as much love and affection as the last.  More later, maybe.

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bear with me!

Here’s the deal.

We’ve been travelling, and then some family stuff came up, so I haven’t posted in a very long time.

Forgive me.

But I have a lot to talk about, if I can just remember it!  So, bear with me! I’ve just started reading Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, so in the meantime, here’s a quote:

“I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.  Also, of endless books.”

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thoughts on travel

Hello, my dears! Or rather, Guten tag… 🙂 right now, I’m on an Austrian train from Salzburg to Vienna, have finished with my school trip to Ireland (which was amazing) and am about a week into my family trip.  I’ll try to post as often as I can, because I have a lot to say, but we shall see.

This is where I went to church this morning:

It was lovely, and the choir may have honestly been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.  It was also entirely in German, but oh well.  Details.

I thought I’d briefly type up some of the things I’ve learned thus far while travelling.  Maybe it won’t be brief.  But here are my reflections:

Pack light.  With all of the stairs, trains, and cobbled streets, the last thing you want is a giant suitcase.  Mine, regrettably, seems to be growing with each stop.  I just keep sitting on it… Also, you don’t really need everything you think you’ll need.  Vacuum bags are a thing of beauty.

Another reason to pack light is that you’ll buy things.  And you should.  Not the stupid knick knacks that they sell at souvenir shops.  But if there’s something thats sort of expensive but that you’ll a) never see again b) use a lot c) cherish for a long time, buy it!  I ended up going into a tiny Parisian shop that sold dresses and coming out wearing one of them.  But it’s designed and made by a local woman, so I’m sort of excited about that.

Accept that you will lose something.  Like maybe a brand new CF card.  Or the food your brother steals from you.  Or all of your socks.

Accept that you will be a tourist.  That always makes me feel awkward, going to a sight and taking lots of pictures and speaking loudly in English, but I just had to say screw it and smile when my mom points the camera our way.

Be a good tourist, and not an ugly American.  That means being quiet (such a struggle for me…) and being aware of cultural differences, like bathroom fees and opening train doors…

Unfortunately, you’re still going to offend someone.  Like the very angry bathroom attendant who yelled at me when I didn’t have money to pay the optional fee.  I didn’t know!  Oops.

Make friends!!!  This one is my favorite.  People have so much to say.  Just start talking to someone.  If they’re unfriendly, then all you’ve lost is their opinion of you – and who cares.  They’re a stranger, let them think you’re weird or awkward.  If they’re friendly, though, you’ve gained a connection, a friend, a way to pass the time, and all of the stories that they tell you.  Be safe, CLEARLY.  But chatting with your cabbie, listening to the stories of two old Irish men revarnishing a Presbyterian church, getting emotional with someone about the Gutenburg Bible at TCD, or talking to a dapper British man reading Roald Dahl at a Parisian laverie? Probably okay.

Try to learn the basics of the language.  I haven’t been very stellar with this one this time around, but I can say “please” and “thank you”, apologize (sort of), say “it’s good”, and greet people.  My accent may be awful and embarrassing, and I’ll probably make some hilariously awful slip ups, but most people appreciate the effort.  Well, some people.  It’ll be a mess when we switch countries.  Oh well…

Be aware of the homeless.  This one doesn’t just apply to traveling.  Okay, if I could, I’d give money to every homeless person or street performer I came across.  Maybe not the rude ones.  But I feel for them, and I really want to help them.  Money doesn’t do much, but it’s one of the only ways I can show them that they are loved.  I’ll never forget.  We were walking into the subway system in one of the cities when this very sweet man asked for money.  We moved on, since I didn’t have any, but I got some and ran back to give it to him.  He kissed my hand and absolutely beamed.  Not because it was a lot of money, but because I went back for him.That said, be careful (girls especially).  Don’t be stupid, and don’t talk to people when you’re alone.  Some homeless people will hassle you, and many are mentally unbalanced, so don’t disregard your own safety in your generosity.

Wander.  Dear heaven, wander.  This is some of my favorite advice, because I’ve found some of my favorite places this way.  Stray a bit from the beaten path of touristy areas and find somewhere cool.  Shakespeare and Co is the most wonderful place in the world, and I LOVED IT, and I wanted to live there… I’ll probably write a whole post on it.  UGH.  And in Salzburg, we walked through an outdoor market and bought food from lots of different stalls, then stood around a table outside to eat. We had fried chicken, pretzels, and raspberries, and it was lovely.

Be patient with your fellow travellers.  This is something that I have not been, and I’m so sorry for that.  When you’re with someone constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sharing rooms, you might start to wear on each other a little.  And that’s normal.  Be gracious, and forgiving.  Try not to fight (or apologize after you do).  Give each other space and alone time.

Don’t sleep in.  Also ridiculously difficult for me.  But when you roll over in bed, and it’s deliciously comfortable, and you’re warm and sleepy and never want to move, try to remember that you’re in a new place that begs to be explored.  (this is a bit of a confession/ self-reminder since it took me 30 minutes and my entire family yelling at me and pulling off the covers for me to get out of bed…)

Do your research.  It will help you be a savvy traveller, and you’ll feel super cool when you know your way around and have tickets and things planned out.  It also makes things less stressful.

But embrace when things don’t go according to plan.  I say when, because they won’t.  Make the most of it, though, and see where the changes take you, because it might be better than what you originally planned.  One day, our episode of Awkward Adventures in Germany was entitled “We don’t get off of trains when we’re supposed to”.  So it turns out that doors don’t actually open automatically… Another American was very upset about it.  And we were too, to a degree.  But we were sitting (serendipitously) next to a wonderfully sweet stranger from the Railway Advisory, and he helped us.  That day was also one of the most fun I’ve had with the jokes that happened and the people we met (Too late…….).

Record your adventures.  Take pictures (but don’t spend so much time behind the lens that you miss out!).  Keep a travel journal.  Don’t say, “I’ll remember”.  You won’t (I’ve forgotten many things this way).  Write it down.

Finally, consider it a beautiful, glorious thing that God is the same in any language.  Christianity allows people to keep their culture and individuality while still being a part of the same family, and it’s amazing to meet and see others who worship the same God all over the world.

That’s all for now!  And I realize that wasn’t brief at all.  OH WELL!  I’ll write more soon with excerpts from my Ireland travel journal and places I’ve been (SHAKESPEARE AND CO).  Until then!
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music.

First of all, I’m terribly sorry I’ve not updated recently.  Secondly, (just as a heads up), I’m going to be on vacation for all of June (I leave tomorrow! Weird).  I may get a chance to post something while I’m gone, but it’s very doubtful.  I’ll have plenty to say when I get home, though.  Okay on to the real post!

This will be fairly quick, because there is SO MUCH I could say on this subject and not enough words to adequately convey my feelings.  During exam week, I’d been listening to quite a lot of Pandora, which is nice because I don’t have to worry about picking each song.  But every once in a while, a song will catch me off guard, gently pull at my heart, buffet me until I listen to it again, and grow on me every time I hear it.  I would listen to a hundred songs just to find one like this that touches something internal and refuses to budge.

I think it has to be a combination of lyrics and melody for it to stick.  The actual music is clearly more important, because there are hundreds of gorgeous, gorgeous pieces without any words at all that move me in a way that I really don’t understand (hello, Beethoven).  But I love it when the chords surprise you and the lyrics inspire or incite or raise up some emotion or make you think about something in a new way, and think deeply… And the two things, working together, intertwine to create something absolutely wonderful and amazing.

A few weeks ago I found myself literally tearing up at a song because of… just everything about it.  Music is relatable, and touching, and somehow creeps into your very heartbeat, taking something from creationand repurposing it.  It’s made up of sound, of vibrations – it literally moves you.  I think, of all of our senses, we tend to take hearing for granted.  Listen, right now.  There’s a lot happening around you that you’re barely aware of.

Anyway.  It’s a beautiful connection when their intensity and emotions somehow move me into emotion.  A bond is formed there, and you’re torn between wanting to share the song with everyone you meet and wanting to hold it close to your soul to play it on repeat as your personal anthem.  It’s intensely personal and wonderfully communal all at the same time.  Music both unites and speaks to you as an individual.  I don’t understand it, but it’s a beautiful thing.

So, yeah.  Heh.  If you couldn’t tell, I sort of love music, and the way it gets inside of you, and the power behind a good song.  Even the amount I sing in the shower is a pretty good indicator of my happiness and/or need for catharsis.  I’ve got so much to say about music in general, but I’ll leave it at that.

Recent obsessions:

Australia, The ShinsI love this.  I just… I just love it.

Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley.  I was actually crying at this.  Also I couldn’t decide between the above version and this one.

Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men.  I can’t take how beautiful this song/ the described relationship is.

Down in the Valley, The Head and the Heart.  I actually love Lost in my Mind just as much as the above (if not more?), but the music video is pretty and you can watch it at that link.

Breathe, Anna NalickI just… really like this.  Alright.

Old favorites that never get old:

Awakening, Switchfoot I think that hearing this in middle school was one of the first times I realized how cool music is.  It still makes me happy.

Death and All His Friends, Coldplay.  There’s… there’s something special about this one.  It always, very gently, touches something inside of me, calms me town, or makes me tear up.

ANY MUMFORD AND SONS EVER.  I can’t even tell you how good they are.  Sigh No More is one of the only physical CDs I own.  Here’s Awake My Soul.

Alright, my dears.  If I continued on with all the songs that I love, this would be far too long, so I’ll leave you with some Queen and Boston.  I hope you like classic rock.

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airport.

Friday, 2/3:

I’m in the airport, and some odd instrumental version of Phantom of the Opera is playing over the loudspeakers.  It’s kind of weird, but whatever.  I don’t think that the Phantom is going to come through the windows behind me and teach me how to sing.

The loudspeaker tells me that someone’s forgotten their iPad, which is quite a shame.  It keeps muttering over the bustle of the terminal in constant reminders, a disembodied Hermes, shuttling messages to forgetful mortals everywhere.  Maria might miss her flight to Las Vegas if she doesn’t hurry.

Airports are always the most marvelous place to people-watch.  I can’t think of a better one.  Nobody stays in an airport.  That’s not what it’s meant for.  It’s inherently a locus of comings and goings, entrances and exits, a stage of life where no one stays for very long.

People become a single one of their features as they quickly pass: a bald head, a funny hat, velcroed shoes, an enormous book, a wedding band, a stroller, a designer handbag.

Final call, flight 1683.

It’s interesting to dream up stories here, watching the ebb and flow of humanity.  Everyone is going somewhere, and each of the lines of each of their lives momentarily converge, mingle together, tangle and untangle, before separating to continue on with their own hopes, dreams, wants, needs, families, friends, jobs, studies.

I’ve tried to employ and improve my powers of deduction (what has Sherlock done to me?), but it hasn’t been hugely successful.  She’s married? Well, considering her husband and two point five children, I probably could have guessed.  Or, he’s left handed!  …Useful.

After a failed attempt at conversation I managed to deduce that my cab driver was a Baptist, was orderly and careful but not anal, not very fond of his job, and a fan of R&B.  All not very useful things.  But I’m starting somewhere.

I should probably stop watching and start interacting sometime soon, but everyone’s pretty wrapped up in their phones, magazines, novels.  I guess I’ve got my laptop, here, as well.

Maybe in a moment.  But I just thought I’d stop and reflect on the interestingness of airports as a singularly liminal place and the sympathy and empathy they give me for the lives of others.

Final call.

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new tab!

Although most of my break has been spent reading, seeing friends, and watching entirely too much British TV, I haven’t been completely unproductive.  I’ve uploaded some of my photos from various trips or just everyday life.  Take a look?  🙂

https://theparadigmshifts.wordpress.com/photos/

Thanks, guys.

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antiquing

Hello again!  Sorry I’ve been absent so long.  I was visiting my grandparents this past week for Christmas, and it was lovely and wonderful seeing everyone (I even interviewed my grandfather about his life, which was cool), dancing with cousins, and going antiquing!

My grandparents collect and sell antiques, which is something that I never appreciated until very recently.  I remember being dragged into countless antique stores as a child, my little brother and I bored out of our minds as our parents and grandparents scoured the store.  Old chairs.  Bottles.  Lunchboxes.  Who cares?

The best was when there were Persian rugs in the back.  That made for some fun times when my brother and I climbed the stacks, ran around, and leapt from stack to stack, being adventurers until our mother or the store’s owner angrily dragged us down.

And although I still don’t understand the lunchboxes or salt and pepper shakers as much, I’m a total sucker for old books, jewellry, and clothes.  I just love old things!  I bought my friends Christmas presents, and I also got myself a few marvellous things that I stumbled across…

My favorite finds (in hastily taken, poor quality pictures!):

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1.  The book.  I stumbled across John Donne’s sermons.  Whose previous owner had handwriting that looked like the Burmese written language.  In a book from 1932.  NO BIG DEAL OR ANYTHING.

2.  These jewellry pieces, my dear readers, are scrimshaws.  Sailors used to carve them out of ivory or whalebone and send them back to their sweethearts.  I passed the case at least four times and stared at them (especially the pin) every time.  They’re simple.  But so… romantic?  Intensely personal?  I don’t know.  I started writing out a short sketch of who the previous owner might have been, and it ended up as a seven-page story about an Irish sailor and his chestnut-haired girl.

And this is why I love old things.  This is why they matter to me.  Because each of these pieces holds generations of stories and has witnessed so much life, love, tragedy, and history, and it’s now witnessing mine.  Thinking of who might have owned it first, made it, loved it, or cherished it gives a certain weight and beauty to each piece that could have been considered plain or “old”.  This is how my story ended (with me finding the scrimshaw):

The girl will see in the detailled lines of the plain whalebone the care and love of a sailor and the struggle that he and his love endured.  And she will find it beautiful once again.  The scrimshaw will finally be worn again to gain a new life’s story to remember.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.  Another year rolls by, and we’re one step closer to becoming antiques ourselves.  Cheery?  Not at first glance.  But think of the stories you will possess by the time you’re as old as some of these pieces.

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