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February 10, 2009

Three Things to Pack…

I have some pack-rat tendencies, and sometimes these questionably helpful habits show themselves in my suitcases; "This just might come in handy," I'll say as I throw in the papier mâché dog I made in fourth grade. But actually, I packed pretty well for this trip. Considering that I walk about a mile to go anywhere, I have been especially thankful for three somewhat bulky items.

The right shoes. Oxford is a city for the pedestrian, and I am what my dad calls a wimpoosie when it comes to uncomfortable shoes, so I am naturally quite happy about bringing six very practical pairs. I could have gotten by without the suede boots and house slippers, but it would have been a close call. My most bulky pair of shoes, however, has saved me from substantial discomfort: The Wellies (http://www.wellieboots.com). I think I heard somewhere that it is wet 349 days out of the year here in Oxford: I take pictures when I see dry pavement.

The right backpack. I see a lot of backpacks that look like less fashionable versions of the dog-purse. However, if I must consider toting animals on my person, I'm not content with Chihuahuas. I am of the firm belief that a backpack ought to be big enough to carry a Shetland pony. My 3100 cubic inches of backpack space has been a fantastic way to load up on books and groceries for the mile-plus hike to my flat, and the hip strap has saved my shoulders from many unnecessary knots.

The right food. A juicy orange is refreshing, and it is a good way to remember God's love in the midst of thirteen hours of travel. England has plenty of fresh fruit though, so I would not recommend bringing any for beyond the actual travel time. Brain food, however, is a practical necessity for the time spent walking. Geniuses may solve the world's riddles as they walk, but we laymen have to do this kind of work by reading, writing, and talking to others. There is no reason, however, for the layman to consider walking time lost; the trick is to feed yourself ahead of time. The best brain food that I have come across takes a little bit of work to obtain, but reaps many benefits. Last semester, I memorized four poems by different Victorian poets. The previous memorizing assignment I had gotten was in Sunday School, and at first it seemed childish to have to memorize for a college literature class. However, memorizing these poems out loud helped me understand these poems better; not only did I better recognize the rhyme scheme and rhythm, but I got a glimpse of an oral tradition that the West has slowly traded for mass culture within the past fifty or so years. All the walking here in Oxford has afforded me many opportunities to recall these poems and stimulate the ole' synapses.

So pick up The Great Divorce and find the description of the chess men in heaven, or look up Charles Dickens' description of Scrooge; flip to I Corinthians 15 or a Psalm. Or join me in memorizing 'God's Grandeur' by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Write your choice for memorization on a piece of paper and post it in your bathroom, or fold it up and put it in your coat pocket and take it out when you have a moment to memorize a line or two. Your brain is growling for some food.

JoyLynn Yoder
Fellow, Hilary Term '09


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