Before drafting this post, I went back to my journal entry of Sept. 28, 2020, which was the beginning of my journey to Oxford. When I wrote it, I was sitting in an empty restaurant in Chicago, Illinois’ O’Hare International Airport waiting for my flight to board. That excited and overwhelmed Cameron, who was about to face two weeks of quarantine in an unknown city and unknown accommodation, wrote:
It is so hard to explain my emotions. I am worried about my next two weeks and am totally intimidated by Oxford. I am full of self-doubt, self-pride, and accomplishment. I am confused, I have wagered everything, sold everything, and ended almost everything. … Soon I will be immersed in a new world, discipline, and lifestyle; but it is what I want. It is my dream. And knowing how rare and special this is to me — to anyone trying to follow their dreams — is what keeps me going.
In many respects, as I begin to plan my departure from Oxford and St. Cross College’s Stonemason House, much remains unchanged. The 2021 world, like the 2020 world, is still saturated with the pandemic’s unceasing trauma, fear, and infection. I remain full of self-doubt because I do not know if I wagered too much to make my career as a PhD’d American History Professor a reality. And I still chafe at the volley of daily unknowns and forced adaptions that I have to contend with to make my remaining time here as comfortable as possible. Sure, I am exploring this country’s amazing landscapes and treasures, but that is just a self-constructed veneer to hold in the loneliness and uncertainly that I face, that we all face, everyday.
But, magically, there have been changes and transformations these last ten months. First, I have been blessed with the friendship and support of so many new friends. There are too many to list, and sadly most of them have left the UK for home, but I can say I am honored to have undertaken this journey with them, grown from their life experiences, been challenged by their academic excellence, and benefited from the grounding they gave me. Second, despite the sea of chaos that washed away my in-person instruction, social and college life, and access to the vast educational riches and resources of St. Cross College and the University of Oxford, I completed my MsT in U.S. History, created a new classification of historical figures, and drafted a 25,000 word dissertation about Tobias Lear, George Washington, and the operative. I am proud of what I have done and I hope I can share my experience and scholarship with you one day. (I continue to struggle with how to do this and how to record and tell the story of my journey here at Oxford, but I think I need some time to reset for perspective and understanding first.) And finally, I am a gratefully transformed person. The months in the crucible of isolation, scholarship, adaption, and thought has burned away the unnecessary and girded me with increasing love for family and friends; respect for time; the importance of a hug, laugh, and touch; and the respect for the fragility of life that is unceasingly rich, vibrant, and fulfilling.
I wish you nothing but health, happiness, and the will to keep pushing forward to the horizon of your dreams. Drop me a note, stay connected, and I will talk with you soon.
The Dinosaur Plants of England
Throughout my travels, I continue to be surprised by, what I am calling, dinosaur plants. They are tropical, spiky, woody, and for some reason seem out of place to me. Mostly in gardens, private and public, this greenery is nice to look at but, I learned the hard way with a brush against a nettle, deserve respect. For some reason I thought England was just forest, grasses, and farmland, but continue to be proven wrong and surprised by my temporary home
The Things Cameron Has Seen Walking Around
Everything, EVERYTHING, here comes in plastic. I have no idea why. It is unnecessary, it is costly, and it is bad for the environment. Come on guys, you can do better.
This is my customary American taking the train in the UK travel picture.
When I was in London’s St. James’s Park, I passed this fountain, and it was working. I have not seen, or heard, a working fountain in almost two years. It was delightfully comforting.
I’m the one on the left.
My elevator in London was made by Schindler, Inc. and goes negative. Is this Oscar Schindler’s company? I don’t know. And as background, in the U.S. the ground floor is “1” but in Europe the ground floor is “0”, hence the “-1”.
Discretely posting without comment.
The Kings Men Stone Circle is a neolithic stone circle dating back to 2500 B.C. It is located in Chipping Norton and is covered with 600- to 800-year-old lichens, a delicious buffet for these little guys who were tucked into one of the ancient rocks munching away.
This pooch is LOVING his ride on the train.
This beautiful iron column is located at the Great Malvern Train Station on the Great Western Railway.
When I was at the Hampton Court Palace, I saw this automated, Tudor lawn mower in action. It was a historical first for me.
These tiled murals of the Southwark Bridge over the Themes River, in addition to additional cityscapes and industrial scenes adjoining it, decorate a pedestrian tunnel just off the bridge.
Please? Whilst? The signage in this country is nothing but polite and respectful.
From time to time on the BBC I’ve seen stories about increasing vehicle traffic in residential neighborhoods and the way many municipalities, like Oxford, are dealing with the issue by rerouting traffic with barriers like these.
I’m not a scotch drinker and had no idea the brand Cutty Sark was named after a 150-year-old, extreme clipper chip called Cutty Sark. I ran into her when I was in Greenwich exploring the Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House.
A moth-balled public restroom in London.
This straw hat rests in Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History and, surprisingly, is Roman. It’s easier for me to imagine it hanging on a mud-room hook or on a shelf in a neighbor’s garage than being a hundreds-of-year-old museum piece.
The Queen’s Horse Guard does not mess around. If you ever get a chance to walk by them, and their grounds, please spend some time watching the men and women who loyally serve the crown and their perpetual pageantry.