May 4-7, 2000
Where were the stories from the classic Alice and Wonderland and the more recent film Shadowlands was inspired from? Oxford and, of course, the university is the dominating feature of the small city with its 26 colleges and fantastic museums open to the public.
My first day here was spent poking around artifacts from around the world. First at the Ashmolean Museum on one end of town, where the meticulously handwritten tags and signs written decades ago are something to ponder in themselves. Eminent prehistorians have studied and translated history here, but there are new experts living today. Next to mummy cases it's not hard to get that mortal feeling that the death of today's scholars is going to make room for someone else to make a discovery in the next generation. It's almost a reassuring: You could be Picasso, Shakespeare or just become someone in your own light simply because the others aren't alive to fill their shoes and can only leave a mark in history, not a stretching line (although they may influence the rest of our civilization).
On the other end of town was the University Museum where I would walk around the skeletons of animals of today and remains of extinct ones from one hundred years ago, including the famous Oxford Dodo.
Behind this museum was the Pitt Rivers Museum. This could easily be the attic of Indiana Jones. Hunting trophies made from human skulls, tribal costumes, stealthy canoes and South American shrunken heads that held my attention so strongly, I didn't notice the costumed flies reportedly on display somewhere in this semi-cluttered back room.
I was staying with SueW (a most excellent hostess, I must say) from the Sunseed Project (Los Molinos, Spain) and on Friday night we headed out to help with a local survey of the badger population. Each year a few dozen volunteers scatter around badger holes and sit silent and still for nearly two hours. The shadows of trees on our skin were replaced with goose bumps.
Unfortunately, we didn't see any badgers (but some others in our group did); however, we did while riding the bicycles back at night.
The next two days we had a mini-reunion with the most of the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers). We are also planning an environmental education camping/hostel weekend in Wales together in July plus a gathering in London in two weeks. No doubt it is both our surface differences and core philosophical similarities that create a dynamic bond of character and consciousness.