On Hampstead Heath


THE POETRY of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills..
-John Keats, 1816

London: everything I do, everything I see, happens because of literature. I can’t take a step outside without getting smack over the head by a literary reference. Either I’ve walked past the home of a fictional character (221B Baker Street) or the home of a real yet dead author (Keats’ home), or I’m standing on top of the graves and memorials of those dead white men I taught in British Literature last year (Poets’ Corner).

It’s very surreal, especially when one reads One Day and finds that one is subconsciously following in the footsteps of Dexter and Emma – or are they following me?

You know sometimes I look around at the people I pass by everyday and largely ignore, and I think, I wonder what their lives are like? I wonder what they do for fun? I wonder if they’re nice or mean? Is she an actress? Is he a doctor? Stay-at-home-mom? Drug dealer? Politician? And where are they going and what are they doing?

And sometimes I look around at the people I pass by everyday and largely ignore, and I think, How many of these people are just existing? Just living quiet lives of desperation?

I wish my life was like a book: a set beginning and ending; an author to make sure everything runs smoothly, even the terrible, agonizing, I-can’t-stand-the-pain moments; characters who come and go, and some who stay forever, written especially to be that role model/bosom friend/kindred spirit/one true love that I’m looking for; plots that are interesting, where the mundane and tedious moments of life can be summed up in one sentence so that life is just a progression of all the important bits.

And then, I think, what I really want is to live forever. What I really want is to experience everything.

I have been a Narnian queen, a Russian peasant, a vampire, a pioneer. I’m Cleopatra one moment, Juliet the next. Detectives and orphans and monsters.

And these characters live forever: Frodo is eternally walking into Mordor; Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis are always watching for that train to go by. Peter Pan never grows up not because he’s youth, joy, and a little bird that has broken out of the egg, but because we’re forever reading his story and performing his play and watching his movie.

Is life a story? I like to think it is.

And there is an Author out there, contemplating my steps. He gives me opportunity to develop and change and become a dynamic character, not static or an archetype.

And as for living forever – well, I can, but I won’t be trapped in the same story, will I?

Sometimes I wish my life were a book, and then I remember life is better.

Up on Hampstead Heath, I think, This story’s pretty good so far.

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4 thoughts on “On Hampstead Heath

  1. You are making me want to check flights to London… I love those dead white British guys! And thanks for the Keats, I can read him any hour of the day, any day of the week. Glad you have been a part of my story. Much love from the Kaz…

    • Nadia! You need to go to London. Or just England in general. There’s so much more that I need to see and do here. A return trip is definitely needed.
      Keats is by far one of my favorite poets – so much better than Shelley and Byron. (Gag.)
      Love from London

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