Friday, November 1, 2013

The Call of the Will-o'-the-wisp

Happy belated Halloween! I must say a great perk of moving to the UK is that, for the most part, Halloween is a lot less of a big deal than it is back home in the States. Since I always had to be dragged out to costume parties, I appreciated the somewhat lower key vibe to the holiday this year. I did still find an excuse to completely overindulge in candy, though, so I'd like to think I still embraced the true spirit of the holiday at its core.

One of the big developments of the last week is that, due to some eligibility requirements of which I had not previously been aware, I had to relinquish my place on my novice boat at the Pembroke Boat Club. I was initially really sad about this, as it means that I won't get to race this term. It's a situation that's ended up having a big silver lining, however, because as a result I've been invited up to join the senior women in some of their workouts. These workout are obviously a lot more intense and I'm feeling a lot more like a little fish in a big pond than I was in novice land, but I'm really excited to use the higher intensity to keep bringing my fitness to the next level.

Last night, on the eve of Halloween, I had my first session with the senior women: a grueling 4x750m erg test. The Pembroke boat house is located on the back of Christ Church Meadow, which, with its lack of any street lights, leafy cover of trees, and vast stretches of unoccupied space, felt eerily quiet and dark as I set out walking. My eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, but it was still far blacker and stiller than anything I'd experienced in weeks since moving to this big, bustling city so distant from my quiet little Massachusetts farmhouse home.

And then, wavering in the distance at the far end of the path, came the smallest and most innocent blueish white light. It bobbed and swayed rhythmically, almost invitingly: a disconnected lantern in the dark whose purpose was unknown.

It took me a moment to realize that what I was looking at was in fact the flashlight of another rower coming back from his own evening workout session. But in those intervening seconds, I could not help but imagine it to be the light of a will-o'-the-wisp, a real honest to goodness phantom dredged up on Halloween to lead me off to some unknown danger or delight.

In a way, it still did feel like that, even as the human attached to this bobbing point of light materialized out of the darkness and then slipped away again into the night, and I made my way finally to the warm wash of light coming from the boathouse door. This foray into rowing itself is indeed an adventure whose path I can't really predict or explain. Fortunately, unlike the will-o'-the-wisp, I'm not getting a real sense of peril in what I'm doing, but I do feel like I'm being drawn off onto a path that I thoroughly did not foresee.

Perhaps it's just the spirit of the season, but I'm finding myself very excited to see where these ghost-lights lead.

(The view from the other boathouse Pembroke uses, which is in Radley, a few miles south of the city proper, and which I got to see for the first time today - so serene and lovely!)

(The downside to the Radley boathouse is that it's a 30 minute bike ride away. The upside is that that 30 minute bike ride is liberally populated with PONIES!!!!)

1 comment:

Hannah said...

That sounds like the perfect pre-Halloween. :)

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