It was this kind of day in Cambridge.
And so, after I (merrily!) did my laundry and had some toast and yogurt for lunch, I skipped out to town, thinking that I'd fill my prescriptions and buy a windbreaker for my trip to the sea. But once I was out in the day, I decided that it was too glorious for doing an errand at the pharmacy. I cut through Clare College (my college's parent), which has become my preferred route into town because it's open to me (as a university member) whenever the gates are open, and because bicycles aren't allowed on its paths--which dramatically reduces my chances of getting run down by an insane cyclist. Or four.
This afternoon, as I entered the court, I could see my friend entering it from the other side. "I was just going to call you," he said (and this would have brought us to twice this week that my having my phone on me would have, um, enabled us to communicate). "There's a concert in King's College Chapel today at 5:30." We decided to go, but I was in jeans and thus felt that changing beforehand would be a good idea. But it was only 3:50
For my walk home, I flashed my university ID card and cut through St. John's College, where the Bridge of Sighs (which I'd not yet seen) is, and from which I could get a different perspective on Trinity College, its next-door neighbor. And suddenly it hit me that one of the things I love most about this place--and one of the reasons I'm so adamantly against the idea of being thought a tourist here--is that it's not (or not primarily) a museum. It's a functioning, living place; there are undergraduates and graduate students and researchers here all digesting information and producing new knowledge. There are people here loving what they're learning, and there are people here rejoicing openly at a gorgeous day, and there are people telling each other jokes beside a river, just as there have been for 799 years.
After I got home and changed into something a little smarter (which was harder than I thought it would be, as it seems that my black trousers no longer fit, leaving me to choose among my skirts), we headed out again, this time into the early evening.
Nothing had prepared me to go into the King's College Chapel (which was completed in 1547); somehow, I hadn't even begun to translate the grandeur of the building's exterior (which you know from my pictures of the cows grazing across the Cam) into the spacious grace of its interior. I can't do it justice here; it will need its own writing, and I won't be able to produce it until I've gone there more.
The service turned out to be a Sung Eucharist (rather than an Evensong), and today was the Feast of St. Francis. Despite (or perhaps because of) my efforts to be of good cheer about my writing and my work in general, I've been worrying no small amount this week, and lo and behold, I turned up at King's on just the right day: the gospel reading was Matthew 6:25-34. I actually laughed (to myself, though I don't think I was able to suppress the grin). It was my best and most extravagant experience yet with (a kind of) bibliomancy: "Neither be of doubtful mind.... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And running under the winking surface-level reassurances was the challenge to get over myself, to quit it with the self-indulgence already.
I know that I've mentioned this before: I have a fairly a vexed relationship with religion. I honestly do not know what to do with my body or with my words in a church anymore, when to say Amen, when to perform the gestures I know so well. I don't want to do anything that seems faithless in ways that I am not; I don't want to do anything that seems faithful in ways that I am not. I end up listening and feeling my way through everything, in ways that are in some (probably many) ways less conducive to reflection than being able to shelter and develop my thoughts through fully participating in ritual. Today, I was helped by the fact that we were in an Anglican service, not a Catholic one, and that I was with a companion who is not Christian. At some point during the service, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd been in a church during a service. I used to haunt Cornell's Sage Chapel in its off-hours, as I still do (though less frequently) with the college chapel at Kenyon. But it's possible that I haven't attended a service in nearly three years. But somehow, I see more late-afternoon trips to King's in my future.
When we came out, the sun was settling swiftly, and my friend waited patiently while I tried for the last light. We ditched the throngs when they headed out into King's Parade and we alone headed through the college, over the bridge, and back to these rooms that, in only a month, we've come to call home.
At dinner, a new fellow joined us; talking with her, I think we both realized that we're no longer newly arrived here, that the right answer to "And did you just get here?" is no longer "Yes." "And did you know each other before?" she said. We both shook our heads. Later, she turned to me. "And you're friends now? Good friends?" I nodded, and smiled.
It was that kind of day in Cambridge.