Although I have travelled many places, there are spots which are magnets which causes me to pull back again and again to them. They are special for different reasons, but mainly it seems like fate keeps pulling me back there over and over.
One of these places is definitely Oxford. I am a firm believer that all places are wells by which we tap into an energy that overflows within that place. Whenever I walk the pebbled paths of Oxford, my brain starts to charge with intellectual electricity.
In every corner there seems to be a story, or some intellectual discovery. It also has spiritual significance for me as it is where Shoghi Effendi studied. You can see glimpses of how he was inspired by Oxford when you glance up at the large walls in Balliol College where you see peacock statues, and eagles perched on globes as well as Grecian urns. All of these architectural wonders can now be found in Haifa, where years after he studied in Oxford he bought replicas to decorate the Bahai World Centre.
There is something entirely quintessentially whimsical about Oxford. There are various worlds tucked in this place. There is the academic world , filled with uni students eager to dive into their studies like deep-sea divers finding pearls underneath the ocean. These students barely give the sea of bustling tourists a glance , as if they cease to exist for them and they do not notice the way tourists insist on taking their picture.
I experienced this briefly when I first went to Oxford on a Study Abroad program for English Studies. And what an amazing place to be for a writer! Our professors allowed us glimpses of the Bodleian, and showed us where famous writers gathered to compare notes on their work. Everyone from Virginia Woolf to Tolkien had at one time walked through the cobbled streets of Oxford. If you are lucky, you could catch current writers sipping coffee in coffee shops and discussing their latest novel.
The second world to take in is the architectural wonders which are everywhere. These buildings date back hundreds of years, and have stood the test of time. It is no wonder that when films wish to depict castles or Hogwarts, they go to Oxford. It is one of those things that I love about Europe, where buildings date back farther than those found in America.
Some of the architecture is downright macabre. One of the scariest buildings are those found in the Bodleian Building. They have large heads , blackened with soot which look almost like the doorway to hell. At one point I made the unfortunate choice of walking at 3 am as the eyes of those heads seem to pierce right into my very soul. ( Or so it seemed at such a late hour when I seem to be at my most dramatic)…
Others seem carved out of fairy tales, and it is no small wonder that it inspired many fantasy novels along the way. I love getting lost on those corners and finding hidden wonders everywhere… it is truly a majestic experience.
For the tourist, there are countless things to explore and to do. The gardens and lakes are especially wonderful to discover. You can do anything from rowing boats, to strolling through palaces.
But there is another hidden face of Oxford. There are people who live there everyday and have little interaction with these other worlds. They cannot afford the luxurious lifestyle to see those wonders, or become a part of that beautiful academic world.
About ten minutes away from the main center you will find boroughs which are highly poor ( for England anyways) , and high levels of crime. Yet there are examples of great courage and beauty in those places.
Two of my friends went to live in one of those neighborhoods, in Rose Hill for a while. One was a feisty , beautiful Blonde named Clare, and the other a Persian Indian girl named Grace. They were creating community with a group of Nepalese girls and junior youth groups. It was amazing to see how transformed those communities became, and how much of a starking contrast it was from the abundant wealth in Oxford. It is through these glimpses that I reaffirm my belief that there is at times little difference between third and first world countries. The media just distorts our perception of it
Oxford has been through all the phases of growth in my life. While my first adventure into Oxford might have been with wide-eyed amazement to a seasoned resident to someone reaffirming her belief in the power of junior youth all of these facets made me love this city even more.
When my mother got a summer job in Oxford, it was always wonderful to visit her and do mundane things like shopping in Marks and Spencer.
Yes, Oxford is one of my favorite places and I will always find my way back to it.