Finding Purpose at the Bronte Parsonage, Haworth, England

I wrote this piece for a college literary magazine a few months ago. It pretty easily sums up how I felt during many times of my study abroad. Read on and enjoy:

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I expected it to rain, but it never did.

The wind was blowing in gales that could rival Rexburg at its worst. It whipped the curls around my face so that I couldn’t see the heath on either side of the path. I determined the direction the wind was blowing and turned my face into its path. It pulled the hair away from my face, waving it behind my head like a banner.

I swear it was going to lift me up and carry me away—away from my friends, away from England, and into the atmosphere itself. My body was going to dissolve into tiny particles, and those particles would reach the corners of the world, fitting into the crevices of every civilization from the Machu Picchu to the Valley of the Kings. But first, they would travel around England, flitting between double-deckers and inserting themselves between Monet and Renoir at the National Gallery. They would touch the rocks of Stonehenge, where fairies held vigil at night. They would fly north into the Scottish highlands and west into the picturesque hills of Wales. They would cross the Irish Sea and settle under pub stools.

But they didn’t. I knew they wouldn’t, because the Romantic side of me is always warring with the logical. It’s as if there are two nineteenth century pugilists going round after round in my subconscious. As soon as one makes a hit, blood flying, reality snaps my attention back to what is—not what could be.

I was having one of those moments now. The wind stung my eyes, so I closed one, keeping the other focused on the path. The group had left me behind them. I could see them on a hill to my left, the valley to my right, and heath everywhere. The heath is mostly brown and green, with hints of lavender in its fuzzy edges. It’s beautiful in a wild sense, like living inside a painting instead of merely looking at one. I don’t feel particularly beautiful at this moment, at least, not enough to be in a painting for everyone to see. If I was, they would peer at me over and over and over, until I couldn’t take the attention anymore.

To be honest, I can’t take the attention anymore.

That’s why I want my body to disband, for the boss in my brain to tell everyone to go home early for the day. If I could just melt into the heath, let the cold, harsh wind become my voice, and stretch my fingertips into the soft dirt at my feet, maybe I would be happy. It would be easier, that’s for sure. If I was an inanimate being, spread out across the ground, or the country, or the world—then maybe it wouldn’t be painful to find purpose in life.

The logical side of me is telling me to stop it, that this thinking is what led to my anti-depressants and introversion. My logical side is right, as usual. But even though it’s right, I’m choosing not to listen to it this time.

There’s purpose in beauty, isn’t there? And history too—I believe there’s beauty there too. There’s beauty in the sound the wind makes as it winds around my body, rustling my clothes against each other. It’s raw, and natural, and familiar in its revelation. There’s beauty in my heightened senses, attuned to the sting of cold on my exposed knuckles.

The path is ending. The graveyard is within view, the Parsonage just beyond it, nestled under a canopy of lush trees. The Brontës must have spent hours walking the paths I just walked, thinking about life, God, and writing. The three things I think most about too. Perhaps I’m a Bronte at heart. Either way, there’s something about this place that brings the philosophical out of where I bury him deep in my mind. When he’s exposed, he tends to wax eloquent but ridiculous. If so, I’ll let him. Just today. Just today, because I’m slowly finding purpose here.

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