I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.
- William Butler Yeats
The air is getting chilled. I return to Oxford in my mind. Oxford is always in my heart. I walk the streets paralleled by walls laden with green ivy vines and centuries of whispered stories. So much of every inch of this place is ingrained in the past. Even the shadows are beautiful, as they are silhouettes of ancient architecture. The cobblestones have rested there hundreds of years, being trod upon by the musing, thinking students, the professors, and the tourists. Each crevice of the stone buildings cries out for the learning life. Gardens are tucked away behind the ancient stone walls. The very air has the scent of life-long pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, trials, research, and history.
The streets are paved with learning. The desks are lined with books. The windows are decorated with flowers when you need a colour pop. Ancient tales hide in every nook.
Students have satchels filled with books as they ride their bicycles across town and hop off in front of a coffee shop to dash inside for a cappuccino before a tutorial.
Why does Oxford draw me so?
If you set up a profile for me and had to list my hobbies and preferences, it would read something like: excessive reader (especially of British authors from 1400s-1900s); avid writer; loves to drink pots of tea and eat scones; prefers the cold, greyscale weather; loves to roam old bookstores for treasures; feels giddy with excitement when entering a library (the older, the better); an old soul who prefers traditional services like evensong; delights in orchestra/concert events and lecture events; great reader and researcher of the Inklings literary group; frequently goes on long walks; loves a good mix of city and country sights; admirer of Medieval, Gothic, Norman, and Classical architecture.
Oxford is the only place in the world that is a perfect match to all of these things that describe me so precisely. Can a soul be matched with a city?
Why Oxford over other places?
That question could lead to an entire dissertation, so I will ere on the side of brevity. Have you ever been to a place that has caused you to stand in awe of it (be it size, history, beauty, detail, atmosphere)? A place where every sight you behold makes you pause and admire with great respect? When the respect runs so deeply through your veins it becomes part of your draw to the place? A place that feels like a second home, but then always somehow feels so steeped in the past that you cannot possible belong because you live in the future? It feels like I step into history when I am there. Another day in Oxford is like turning a new page in its journal - centuries of historical importance.
I don't miss other places like I miss Oxford. Many other places in England and in the States I have loved and wish to return to, or explore more deeply, but Oxford is always the place that tugs at my heart to return as often as possible.
I agree with Mr. Yeats, but all I do is dream and remember Oxford when I am not there, and when I am there, it's all dreaminess.
I picture dreaming spires lovingly in my mind.
An imitation of Oxford you shall never find.
You cannot reproduce the authors and tales of place.
You cannot rearrange a skyline of spires full of grace.