It is cold today, and quiet; the boys are taking a nap, having had a late night last night. I, unable to nap, am enjoying the stillness and a cup of Earl Grey, which smells like England.

I wonder why God built me with such an intense desire to travel when I so rarely am able to do so? I have a friend who would be content to stay home, cocooned in her house in Pipe Creek forever. For her, anything north of the Red River is considered "yankee," and anyone who lives in "yankee territory" is a freak of nature. We have joked often about her having a prejudice for non-Texans, and she has no desire to visit anyplace that isn't small-town Texas. Every so often I ask her, "But don't you want to see Europe? Australia? Ecuador? Oklahoma?" "No thanks," she says. It freaks me out. I am sure she is not well emotionally. She probably needs hypnotherapy. She must have some blocked childhood alien abduction issues or something. She would rather just stay home. The tragedy of it all to me is that she has the financial means and the opportunity to see the world many times over, literally. It simply does not interest her. I cannot fathom such an insular existence. To each his own, right?

I have an intense need to go, to see new things, to breathe in new places and people and flavors and sounds. I crave the British Isles. I must see Australia before I die. I need to go to Belize just once. And oh, how I miss Wyoming! At times I ache so badly for the mountains that I feel that my heart will burst. Last year, when we went to Colorado, I cried at first sight of the Sangre de Christo range. It had been ten years since I had seen real mountains. I don't know how I made it so long without them.

All it takes is a tiny thing, like the smell of Earl Grey tea, to set me off. As I sit at my desk on this cold, damp, cloudy day sipping my tea, I am pining away for Oxford. When I was in college, I took a two-week course over Christmas break with some classmates and my favorite Lit professor, Dr. Smith. On one of our free days, Dr. Smith took some of us on a day trip to Oxford. Dr. Smith and three of us broke off from the group to go exploring. It was Sunday and the town was mostly closed, but we walked around Magdalen College, wandering through courtyards and peeking in windows and talking about C.S. Lewis, in awe that we were walking the very grounds he walked, amazed at the history of it all. Through one of the courtyards, we found a hidden gate, rusty and ancient and wise, and behind it a walking path along the perfectly emerald-green river. It was magical and secret, and utterly peaceful. I remember being impressed with how green the grass was for December, and we watched the mallards idle by in the river and Dr. Smith recited Shelley and Wordsworth and we sighed at the beauty of it all. It was marvelous. I was so full of England and poetry and history and life that it was almost too much. We remained there as long as we could, knowing that this was one of those "moments," and we soaked it in.

Around 3:30, we decided to head back to the city centre for tea. It was getting dark and we had an hour or so before we had to catch the train, so we ducked into a little cafe and ordered our cream tea. It was close to closing time, so the four of us were the only people in the place. We doctored up our tea, laughed at Dr. Smith, who always put exactly two drops of half-and-half in her tea, and thoroughly enjoyed our scones with clotted cream and jam. We were still high from our walk, and as we talked about how amazing and wonderful the day had been, the Eagles came on the radio. We sang "Take It Easy" over scones and tea, laughed at the fact that our Victorian Lit professor who regularly wore Laura Ashley knew every word to an Eagles song, and we were having this classic rock "moment" together in Oxford. It was surreal and yet somehow fitting, and the four of us savored it, knowing that our perfect day was quickly coming to an end.

I grew and learned so much about the world those two weeks in England, developing a fondness for other cultures, an appreciation for history, and a passion for knowledge (not to mention a voracious appetite for books). I discovered how to navigate a huge, foreign city without getting lost, and how not to be the "stupid American." Invaluable life lessons came packaged neatly in a two-week course. My eyes were opened a little more to the world and my life changed dramatically after that.

(Incidentally, it was also on that trip that a painting hanging quietly in the National Gallery rocked my world and became inspiration for a huge part of my life as a musician. That story will be told another time.)

This year I don't have big fine travel plans (except for camp in Colorado with 30 teenagers, but that's more like work than play), and it makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I haven't decided yet if this need to always explore is a character flaw or a gift; perhaps a little of both. But I am learning that the landlocked, provincial life in which I currently find myself is okay, it is just a season, and it's not forever. I am learning to be content with where God has me (which is no small task for the Teacher or the student), and in the midst of this, learning to appreciate the little things: that my 40-hour-a-week job involves being surrounded by books (not to mention comic relief due to the occasional freakishness of the public); that despite the craziness of my schedule, the gigs are coming in again and we are once again playing music; that I have rediscovered writing, though I've had to fight for time to do it, but I've never been more inspired.

So when that incredible ache comes over me on a day like today, and I feel that I simply must hop on a plane or I shall surely die, I allow myself to pine a little, and then I whisper in my spirit, "...but not my will, but Yours...." I am learning the art of surrender. I am thankful for the lesson. And I hope "the urge for going" stays prominent in my heart as a reminder to me of where I've been, of where I am, and of what's in store.


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