Confessions of a drinker student abroad

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Term and the Unkempt Tapestry

Whew, exams are over. Now just to wait two weeks to find out how it went. The new term isn't bad, my schedule is rough on mondays, but because of that I get fridays off all term, which is suweeeet! Finally a day when I can catch a train and go a touristing. I'm also studying nanomechanics this term, and I don't have to tell you how awesome that is. Bloody love it, although it's kind of disturbing to realize how far away from the original construction inspector I've come. Who knows what the future holds at this point, but I'm kind of curious to find out. Anyways, I won't bore you with details of the Lennard-Jones potential, or Chiral spun CNT's. Instead, here's a bit of writing I've been thinking about. Enjoy.


The Straw colored Hat; or, The Unkempt Tapestry

It was a January day in Wales... a typical day. The rain was falling as usual, the ground was soaked, as usual. The wind was blowing, as Welsh winds are wont to do. Today though was a day of particular fury for the Red Dragon's attack. It was no mere playful wind, or winter gust that swept the streets. This was something entirely new, a wind that whipped at your hair and pushed you back while you walked, tipped your bins, scattered your rubbish, stole your hats, and made your eyes water. It was in this wind that I saw the straw colored hat.

The hat was perched ever so daintily on the back of the blond girl's head, delicately resting where it should by all rights be battened down. There were no visible tie downs on the curious furnishment, instead it seemed perched there, determined to stay where it wanted, regardless of the weather. And when I looked into the eyes of this girl I could see clearly why. Her eyes were the color of the Pontcanna fields freshly covered with dew, sparkling on the cloudy day when all other eyes had turned bleak and cold.

The girl carried a cello in a white case, with a single daisy painted near the head. She couldn't have possibly been much larger than her instrument, and her shoulders sloped under it's weight. Still, the head was erect, the eyes beaming out in wonder at the world. I stopped in my tracks, unable to explain what I was doing. As my newly taken position lay in her path, she could not help but notice me. I made a weak gesture of greeting, stated my name, and inquired if I might buy her a cup of tea. She smiled at me, a smile that had seen a thousand sunsets, and a thousand more sunny fields.

Abigail, that was the mortal attempt at naming this splendid young woman, an attempt that fell far short of the intended mark. However, while it missed describing adequately the beauty in her eyes, it resonated deeply with what she had to say. We skipped straight over the standard pleasantries that so often drag down human interactions. Neither of us inquired about the weather, or the other's studies, family, welfare, or hobbies. Instead, we spent the next hour deeply discussing life, and beauty itself.

I am an engineer, a practical man. I saw Cardiff for what it was, home to thousands of young people with far too much time, and desperately few inhibitions. It was a place that once held beauty, once represented greatness, now driven down until it was the home to a hundred seedy bars and clubs, each vying to bring in the most degenerate and wealthy crowd possible. It was wet, cold, dark, and dirty. Their drainage was poor, their pavements failing, and buildings crumbling. All the while I spoke she smiled patiently at me, until finally I simply stopped and waited for her reply.

She said very little, and I don't remember it word by word, but the spirit of it was a concept that grasped me so tightly I could never let it go. Cardiff, was humanity, at its best and its worst. Cardiff was where children went to grow into adults, they experience the violent extremes of ecstasy and remorse before emerging as a new individual. People came to Cardiff to find themselves, and ultimately it would not be done in bars and nightclubs, it would be done on Rugby pitches, on city sidewalks late at night, in dimly lit cafes. Cardiff was a tapestry, woven from frayed and untested threads. They strained and stretched themselves, but ultimately pulled together to form a beautiful pattern.

I still think of Abigail when I'm walking down the streets late at night. I think of her when I see someone carry a stranger to a cab, when the small birds whistle and sing in the early morning stillness, but most especially when it is dark, cloudy and windy, and some vestige of the beauty around me appears. Tonight it was a single Lily in a window. Th vase that housed it was plain, the flower itself quite small, but it was beauty, being kept and appreciated by someone who cherished what it represented, one tiny bit of light and beauty in a city struggling to find itself. It is then that I realize how the straw colored hat stood upright against the furious winds that day. It remained upright because it was beautiful that way, and it would never dare to disappoint someone who so loved beauty. Someone with a white cello case, with a single daisy painted on it, walking joyfully down a dirty sidewalk.

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