For each phase of this grand British adventure I am on, I have subconsciously created a mental image of who I will be for that segment of my program. My Surrey alter ego was a city girl with a stressful life who had decided to give London up for the more fulfilling occupation of gardening in the countryside. In Sheffield, my alter ego was a really outdoorsy and fit mid 20 something, who rock climbed in the Peaks, hiked in the Lake District, and ate granola and greek yogurt for breakfast. In Cornwall, my alter ego is shaping up to be a free spirit who spends her time making pottery, walking along the seashore with her dog, and running off on fishing boats to escape the troubles that await back on land.
A| I will never be cool enough to have a former life in London to leave behind.
B| I went to one rock climbing class in Sheffield and was sore for a week.
C| I have no troubles in Cornwall to run away from in a fishing boat.
Did I mention that Cornwall is simply stunning?
At the end of my first weekend in Cornwall, I found myself sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I just sat staring at a sailboat as it slowly drifted back into the harbor while the sun was beginning to set. It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and just soak the moment in until you have had adequate time to appreciate it. I've had a lot of moments like that recently, and I often feel like there is so much beauty that I don't have enough time to drink it all in.
One way that I try to drink it in is by writing. My urge to write began at a young age (please refer to previous post on my debut novel, Kate: The Mount Everest Climbing Pre-teen). Over the years, I have always had a journal. It's always a black, hardback Moleskine without lines. Always. Twice in my lifetime, I have been seduced away form my standard black hardback by the interesting color options of beige and sea foam blue in the soft back Moleskine world. Both times I regretted my move, and here I stand today, finishing a blue, soft back Moleskine journal and wishing that it was black and hardback. But, you live and you learn. I often carry that notebook with me because I need the paper and the pen in my hand. I have to take the thoughts that are swirling around in my head and make them physical in the world somehow. When it's all crashing around up there, I get this glazed look in my eyes. Most people who know me well can guess that they will probably see me disappear with my black Moleskine and re-emerge a bit later with a new twinkle in my eye. I think Flannery O'Connor put it best when she once said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Preach. It.
While I was sitting on top of the hill watching the sun set over the ocean, I had a frantic urge to write. I needed to capture the methodical crash of the waves against the cliffs, how the water changed from a deep pure blue into a starch white crest against the black cliffs. I wanted to remember the echo of seagulls in the wind, my hair dancing across my face, the shadows of an old castle looming in its post, and that small sailboat gliding into the harbor. As I wrote, the smell of smokey warmth floated through the crisp winter air, and the sun kept sinking over the complacent water. It was such a rhythmic and gentle moment, one where I couldn't hit pause until I was holding that little **blue, soft back** Moleskine.
Some people would want to take a picture of that moment, some would want to paint it, and some would want to just hold it in their memory. But for me, it will always be writing in a black, hardback Moleskine notebook with no lines. For me, the act of writing is about taking all that beauty that I want to bottle up, swishing it around in my mouth, and seeing what taste is left behind. What I write is often a description of that taste, after I have swallowed and allowed it to become a part of me.
Sometimes moments don't hit me in the face quite like they did when I was sitting on the hill on the coast. Sometimes you look back at a conglomeration of lots of little moments and realize how they all add up to be something quite remarkable. I was thinking the other day of how long I have spent on public transportation in England, lugging all my bags, waiting for trains, checking timetables and bus schedules and finding spare change. I have eaten lots of those very British sandwiches that they sell in train stations that come in weird triangular boxes and you can never quite open it correctly. I have sat next to all kinds of people going all kinds of places. When I look back at just 3 months of these public transportation experiences, I have a huge bundle of little moments that I really love... like that one time I was so desperate for coffee that I ended up slamming a 5 pound note down on the coffee bar and not waiting for the change as I sprinted up the stairs to my platform as the train was arriving, which ended in hot cappuccino dripping down my arm (or did that happen twice?). Despite the desperate coffee runs, I got to places with all that luggage and successfully picked seats that weren't reserved and met people by chance and saw all parts of the country flash past the train window. I started writing this paragraph with no idea what was going to emerge. But here we are, with me pulling a Flannery and discovering something that I didn't know I knew as I wrote. Apparently the drudgery of timetables and bus stops and trains and the serendipitous encounters with people along the way has carved out a very special place in my heart.
**This is not a paid endorsement for British public transportation** (But I do love it so.)
Cornwall is a magical and quirky little place. It is the most south western county in England, the part that looks a bit like a boot that was stuck to the side of the country. It's the land of china clay mines, quaint fishing villages, inspiring coastline, and Cornish pasties. In Cornwall, you must put the jam on your scone first, with a large dollop of Cornish clotted cream on top. Secretly, I feel as if it makes more sense to put the cream on first because it is a bit like butter. But, I don't tell Cornish people that because they will ship me off the Devon, the land of people who put jam on top. All the little towns have old winding streets that are extremely narrow and little harbors that smell like fish and salt and seaweed.
I am working at the Eden Project, which is a massive garden that was built into the pit of a former china clay mine. I don my waterproofs and working boots during the week as I am gardening in the ever changing weather of Cornwall. On the weekends, I work on my Cornwall alter ego by visiting as much of the stunning coastline as possible. There is no lead on finding a dog to take to the beach, but I have hopes for a pottery class and boat ride with a fisherman. I just have to keep my thoughts on the placement of my clotted cream under wraps so I don't get the boot before I fulfill my Cornish destiny! But until that day, the day I reach my Cornish destiny, I will be working on finishing off this **blue, soft back** Moleskine.
Black, hardback with no lines for ever and ever. (And, I am open to being paid for passionately endorsing Moleskine)
Over and out from Cornwall.