London in Black & White

Photographs from my recent trip to London

IMG_9763b-X3IMG_0032b-X3IMG_0066-X3IMG_9712-X3IMG_2867-X3IMG_9610-X3IMG_0300-X3IMG_0263-X3IMG_2937-X3IMG_9997b-X3Authentically Aurora

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A Tale of Two Sides

One PoundThere are two sides to every story like there are two sides to every coin.
I would love to hear your version, and I’d love to tell you mine.
You’ve decided not to trust me, so yours I may never hear,
But if you have the time and are willing to lend your ears,
I’m keen to let you in and give you a look around
My tarnished, scratched-up side of our shared, once-shiny Pound.

I’ve loved you for some time now, but I never could discern
If my affections were reciprocated, so I aimed to learn
If you could ever love me; if you knew how to let me in.
But you mistook my caring for over-sharing, and that’s where we met our end.
If only you had shown me where I really stood with you;
If you’d held my hand, I’d understand you were invested, too.

I was unsure of your affection, and that’s why I acted out.
My heart just longed to better know what your heart was all about.
The conversations that I had, supposedly behind your back,
I only had with friends to learn where your thoughts were at.
They love you well; they want your best; their heart is for your good.
And my aim was just the same as theirs: to better know you if I could.

For months and months, I prayed that you would woo me to yourself.
I prayed you would pursue me and not keep your emotions quelled.
I longed to really know you, but I always sensed you had repressed
Your true self; it seems locked deep within, and no one gains access.
I wish you’d let me love you and that you’d loved me in return.
Is letting someone love you something a closed-off heart can learn?

I’d hoped that you would trust me, but we’ve gone the other way,
To broken shards and broken hearts and broken games we play.
But now the game has ended, and the pieces have returned
To their former lives; their former selves with maybe nothing learned,
Except that love is hard and requires both parties to fight
To fan the flame, to trust, forgive and choose the harder right.

Love is a commitment and a choice we have to make.
People are messy. Life is hard. And we all make mistakes.
Christ loved even the unlovely, and we are called to do the same.
All of us, from time to time, “unlovely” status claim.
I may never fully know how you truly felt about me,
But, if nothing else, I hope you look back and remember me fondly.

I think of you, now and again, and pray for you joy and peace,
With faith we’ll say hello again when this journey is complete.

Authentically Aurora

Laughing Our Way Through London – Part II

ManateeIf you were an animal, what animal would you be? I’ve found this to be a great first date question. The animal a person assigns to oneself can reveal much about interests, values and self-perception.

Unfortunately, the last time I played that game, I asked it on a double date, and the three other people at the table dubbed me a weasel, a mouse, and “a large, white rabbit” – the last one from my ex-boyfriend. So not only am I most definitely a rodent, I am evidently a large rodent. Was the word “large” really necessary, sweetheart?

Ashley, Kelly, Ron and I played this game over a traditional High Tea in Oxford last week. I’d been curious to try clotted cream, and Browns Brasserie delivered. In addition to Earl Gray tea – served in a porcelain tea pot, complete with cream and lumps of sugar – we were served cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, tarts, truffles, custard and more.

After finishing off our tower of treats, Ashley leaned back in her chair, looked over at me and asked, “Do you feel like a large rabbit? Because I feel like a manatee.”

As we all laughed, she went on, “Do you know what a manatee is?” Without missing a beat, she said dryly, “A sea cow.”

Alluding to the relationship between Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins on Parks & Recreation, I joked, “But you are a beautiful, majestic sea cow.”

Ashley’s retort? “I need to be more like a majestic antelope.”

Fair enough. That’s what post-vacation diets are for!

Authentically Aurora

Laughing Our Way Through London – Part I

Hyde ParkLondon is a peculiar city. It has the hustle and bustle of NYC, the rich history of Rome, the quaintness of small town Germany, and the diverse ethnicity of Houston. Over the course of the last week, I found that I quite like London more than most other major cities I have visited, largely because of this synthesis of large scale opportunities with small town class and culture.

My traveling companions on this trip were Ashley, her younger brother Ron, and Kelly – a university friend of Ashley’s who turned out to be delightful company. On one of our first days in London, we explored two of the city’s largest parks: Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.

During our walkabout, enjoying the unexpected sunshine and sipping on iced coffee, we explored many twists and turns of greenery dotted by the occasional monument or fountain. After quite a few miles of walking (we walked a total of 16 miles that day), Ashley called out to the group, “Is that a statue?”

I looked around and only saw people sitting on benches or laying in the grass. Then I saw where she was pointing. A particularly dark featured man sat reading under the shade of a large tree. He was all one uniform color, dressed in dark hues and sitting immobile. I squinted behind my sunglasses, trying to make him out. Was it a statue?

The rest of our group peered at him as well. “He is very still…” mused Kelly out loud. But then– No… no, he moved to scratch his nose. Definitely not a statue!

We all gave Ashley a hard time about her faux pas until I had one of my own. We’d just come from a Harry Potter walking tour where we saw many of the filming sites for the Harry Potter movies, so I had magic on the brain. Walking through Hyde Park, I saw a cluster of people in the distance all wearing flowing black robes.

“Look! Wizards!” I said with delight. I was surprised so many people had dressed up for their Harry Potter walking tour. But as the group got closer, Ron snorted with laughter. They were not in fact wizards. They were Muslim women, dressed in full hijab. Oops. 

Lastly, near the end of the day, Ashley, Kelly and I went to use the public loo in Regent’s Park. Ashley and I both had the misfortune of walking into stalls without toilet paper, so Kelly had to pass some to us from under the stall door (thanks, Kelly!).

As we all finished washing and drying our hands, another woman walked into the loo and straight into one of the stalls without toilet paper. We all looked at each other, horrified, before I called out to the woman, “There’s no toilet paper in that stall.”

She didn’t respond, but I heard the sound of her already using the facilities. So I went into the stall next door, wadded up a ball of unused paper, and held it under the stall door for her. We ladies have got to look out for each other, after all.

“Here,” I said kindly. “That stall doesn’t have toilet paper.” Ashley and Kelly watched my actions. We all waited in silence. The woman never said anything, and she also never took the toilet paper.

After waiting for an uncomfortable amount of time, I glanced at Ashley and Kelly, who both looked very awkward about the entire situation. Then Ashley, with wide eyes, mouthed, “Let’s get out of here!”

So, giggling silently, I pulled my hand back out from under the stall door, stuffed the unused tissue in the bin, and ran out into the sunshine with Ashley and Kelly, laughing all the way.

Authentically Aurora

London: Motherland of Magic

HP WorldAshley and I have gone to Harry Potter World every year for the past three years – without small children in tow as an excuse for our unbridled enthusiasm. We unreservedly embrace our inner nerdiness. Especially since, with the coinage of the term “hipster”, nerdy is the new cool. I didn’t have it so good in junior high. But I digress…

Last year, I wore this shirt around Universal Studios all day:

Harry Potter Grumpy CatAshley was still willing to be seen with me and even take pictures with me. I am sure there is now no doubt as to why she is my best friend.

This year, we decided to change it up and go directly to London, Motherland of Magic. United Airlines will serve as our portkey to the UK.

Ashley and I are convinced that the only reason we remain stuck as Muggles is that Voldemort was in power during each of our 11th birthdays, so we never received our Hogwarts letters. We’re headed to the heart of magic to see the Headmaster himself about either adult admission or use of a Time Turner. The official Pottermore quiz has already declared that I am, without a doubt, intended for Gryffindor.

While we’re in London, we will surely stop by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. When I was in elementary school, my mom wouldn’t let me have the Sonic Sleuth Bionic Ear (something about eavesdropping being rude?), so I was thinking about getting a magical Extendable Ear – that is, until my full physical earlier this week.

The technician administering the hearing test had a look of awe on his face when I exited the hearing machine. “Wow. That is the best hearing test result I have ever seen!” He looked at me in wonderment. “What do you do again?”

So. Extendable Ears? Not needed. Born with ’em! But I could be talked into picking up one of those love potions…

amortentia

Authentically Aurora

A Meeting of Minds

Keep Calm and DateI’ve spent nearly 20 hours with Bryan in the last week. And I don’t even know how it happened.

On Wednesday, he took me out for tapas. On Thursday, we met at a grocery store, and I cooked him scallops in a lemon butter sauce with fresh green beans. And on Saturday at 9am, he drove us to a downtown pub that hosts watch parties for Chelsea FC, his favorite football club from his time in London.

When I’m with Bryan, time flies by, and I am never ready for the day to end. We don’t really have sparks or intense chemistry like I do with Flynn, but we share a comfortable companionship. I enjoy doing life with Bryan.

When I cooked dinner for him on Thursday, it was my first time to see his house. It’s a three story house in a ritzy part of town. No surprise. One of his neighbors owns three BMWs. The other has an Audi and a Porsche. You know… no big deal.

Bryan gave me the tour, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is in the process of building a gazebo on his rooftop porch. He didn’t strike me as the kind of guy to work with his hands, but it is pleasing to me that he does – and that he enjoys it so immensely. There is something very attractive about a man who works with his hands.

Later in the evening that Thursday, in telling me about his travels (and explaining the stories behind the various cultural relics decorating his home), Bryan made reference to being happy to be back in his own bed. “What color is the comforter on your bed?” I asked offhand, trying to envision the room as I often do when people are telling a story.

He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Don’t you know?” Well, he’d given me a tour, but I hadn’t noticed.

“If you did know, what color would it be?” he asked me.

I thought for a moment. “…blue?”

He smiled warmly at me. Affectionately. Pleased. “Yes.”

“Why are you looking at me like you know something I don’t?”

Bryan explained. “I recently read about hypnosis theories. Apparently your subconscious is constantly picking up on more than you realize in your focused, conscious thoughts. One of the tricks of hypnosis is to ask your subject things like, ‘If you did know…’ or ‘If you had to guess…’. That causes the subconscious to activate those memories you didn’t even realize you had. Your subconscious provides your conscious with the answer.”

These are the kinds of conversations we have all the time. We talk about logic puzzles and brain chemistry and psychology. It’s interesting. Intriguing. Entertaining. Like I said before, when I’m with Bryan, time flies by, and I enjoy doing life with him. But I want – no, I need – more than just a meeting of minds. My heart needs lighthearted playfulness. I need someone who can be silly and who makes me laugh.

Bryan says I still have walls up – or rather (in his words), a curtain. He claims that I peek over the top of the curtain so I can see everything that’s going on, but I never part the curtain for anyone else to see in. He says that I project the image of myself that I want others to see. And that image isn’t false, but it’s only a part of the whole.

Bryan also says he is determined to break through the barrier. Leave it to Bryan to be perceptive enough to recognize my shielding… and to be compassionate enough to genuinely want to know me – all of me.

More than anything, I want to be known. Fully known and fully loved, despite being fully known. But I know that if I part the curtain, Bryan won’t like what he sees, and then he’ll reject me, like so many have done before.

I told him as much. His response? “How do you know I won’t like what I see? You haven’t given me the opportunity to make that determination.”

“Everyone else has rejected me when they’ve seen in.”

“And, based on what you know of me, am I like everyone else?”

No.

But… better to keep the curtain up for now.

Authentically Aurora