Day Ten: The British Museum and Riddles of the World
Exploring a Sense of Wonder
The internship at TAMMAM is going very well and my living situation couldn't be better. I am surprised by the amount of cultural differences, but that has been a very good learning experience so far.
Transportation is kind of spendy, so I've been exploring London's huge offering of free attractions and the beauty of packing my own snacks. Here's a look into my rainy Wednesday evening.
Song of the Day: Seventeen // Alessia Cara
British Museum, London -- I hear waves lapping against intricate ships that sail in glass bottles. Waves of excitement surge through my mind upon entrance to the great room of the British Museum. Books of every hue clothe oak walls with flavorful tales, intricate drawings, and a sense of raw knowledge. Metal domes made for charting the heavens nest alongside telescopes, wax seals, and scattered gold coins.
The smell of earth and curiosity linger over the glass viles of vegetation samples from across the world. Matted roots from South America, a collection of seeds from Asia. A living gaze pours from marble statues that preside over the great room, extending proud, sculpted arms toward their treasures.
A man is bent over his sketchbook, trying to capture the life-likeness of the figures; a mass of wavy brown hair flopping about as he works.
A child in a cherry print dress squeals at the sight of a hundred glittering beads sitting at eye-level. Her little nose print remains long after she disappears into the section of exotic birds.
I used to have a dress like that, I think to myself.
Smokey light filters through rain-spattered windows. Calligraphic letters pull my mind into a waltz through creamy pages, cutting in with Tales of Peru or Accounts of the Amazon. I reach out to touch a flower of the Caribbean, surprised to find every veined leaf and petal confined to the flatness of the page.
An ink blossom with a magical third dimension.
I remain in the museum until the light casts long shadows over the statues’ noble faces. The rain has let up. The man has finished his sketch with an approving nod of his mane, and the little girl has been carried out, fast asleep in loving arms.
The weather conditions leave a 20-minute que outside the tube station as the rain comes back for a stronger blow. Rain drips down my nose, but a woman with elegant smiling lines and glossy white hair is quick to invite me in under her bright purple umbrella.
I doze, damp in my seat, for the hour ride back to East Ham.
I dream of sea shells large enough for the little girls with the cherry dresses to play hide and seek in. I dream of an entire jungle with whispering leaves and scurrying creatures, inhabiting a single smooth page. A universe of palm leaves, of red parrot feathers, of stars cast and named, brushed by God — breathed into being and measured by man. Woman formed from one rib, one slumber in a flowering garden. Man’s learned hands that crafted the telescope.
I dream of the little girl in the cherry-print dress that I used to be, so full of wonder in the presence of creation and innovation.
Tumbling through the tall grass that grew in our fields, grass that glittered with sapphire dewdrops and ruby beetles. In awe of a horse’s drumming heartbeat as we shared apples and true friendship. I dream of the ballerina that turned round, round in my music box, and the way the tiny knobs felt on my fingers as they struck each note.
I’ve watched my childhood slip from me, perhaps much faster than I should have. I am three days from my eighteenth birthday — I’ve come to the part of the chapter, where the last few lines meet the gaping half-page that precedes the next chapter.
In truth, I feel a bit as though I’ve come to the end of my bottle of pixie dust, but remembering the girl in the cherry dress has helped me remember that I don’t have to be a Lost Boy to keep my sense of wonder.
I think that’s part of growing up: you don’t just get to choose if you’d like to eat pancakes for dinner -- you also get to choose to enjoy life, and you don’t have to sail the seven seas or chart the stars in the sky to do so.
Those three lines are due to run out. But that’s ok. The last lines of a chapter have the power to set the stage for the next one. Wonder comes from appreciating life around you and where it comes from. Making every day an adventure.
I want my next chapter to be like that. And I want it to conclude with deep lines around my eyes set from a lifetime of laughter, of wonder, and bright purple umbrellas.