Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oxford's Balcony

Imagine you are walking through a stadium. Alone. The sound of your footsteps echoes a bit in the hefty silence of the place. As you near the exit you pause for a second to look up into the balcony. Not a seat is empty. Thousands of people fill row after row, quietly looking at you. They don't turn their heads, don't shift in their seats, don't clear their throats or make small talk. They have filled the top of this stadium for hundreds of years, watching those who walk below. 

Such is the experience of walking in Oxford. Preoccupied with James Thompson's Preface or finding the Tourist Information Station, students and tourists alike can easily forget about their upstairs neighbors. But on any old street, along the under ridge of any old building, faces peer down. I've seen angels, knights, men, women, dragons, gargoyles, smiling faces and spooky faces, serious looks and outright giggles on the still, silent faces above me. One only has to turn her face to the sky in Oxford to take part in a quiet dialogue which has been going on for many centuries. They've been watching since long before I was born, and they will continue to watch long after I move on to Bulgaria. Somehow, instead of making me feel small and unimportant, this simple fact makes me feel part of the flow of this city of change. I'll remember the two stone women watching from below the Magdolen College Balcony, and somehow I imagine they'll remember me too. 

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