I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Friday, November 24, 2017

The British Museum


If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and a pencil, is truth? Thus provided, thus confident and enquiring, I set out...

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Yesterday was my free day in central London, and after a sunny walk through St James Park in the morning, I spent most of it here.

Not quite by design -- Bloomsbury was more of a hike than I remembered and it took me longer to get there than expected -- but somehow once I arrived I couldn't manage to leave, returning to favorite rooms two or three times before finally dragging myself out into the dusk for the long walk back.

Virginia wouldn't recognize it now; I hadn't been there in decades and I didn't either, at first. The Reading Room and Library have been moved to other locations, and the fusty old courtyard is now a beautiful, light-filled space, with modern staircases facing off against the old stone pediments.

But when I was standing in front of the Rosetta Stone, and the Parthenon marbles, and the Assyrian reliefs, time melted away and I remembered the young woman who first saw them long ago, and I felt so clearly who I had been and who I was now that it left me a little shaken and brought tears to my eyes more than once.

She loved London so much, that young woman. Me. I hadn't really forgotten, but yesterday it all came back to me and I saw the old stones with fresh eyes again. I wouldn't be twenty or twenty-four again for anything; I've earned every one of my years. But I'm glad that I can still feel that sense of promise and possibility, that there are things to learn and adventures still to be had, that I felt then.

I am so lucky. And I know it.

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