Old Man Coniston
I spent the summer in London. The first three weeks were dedicated to the
Beatles class taught by Glen Gass. This trip was amazing; it gave us all a
chance to listen to great music and learn about the society that surrounded us
during the time period of the Beatles. Above all, this program gave its
participants a chance to see parts of London we would have never ventured to
see on our own. We were also lucky enough to explore Liverpool. After the
trip was over I returned to London to take two English courses.
The biggest culture shock to me was the transition to a big city.
Coming from Bloomington, Indiana, London is overwhelmingly large. However,
after a couple months of taking the tube to classes I could hardly imagine my
days without the people watching during my commute. I still have no
expectations of topping a night out in London with the bar hopping of
Bloomington. London holds so much culture. Within a short bus ride one can
see a blues jam in a basement club, Les Mis done flawlessly, or the movie
premier to Spiderman II.
I loved London, but I still found myself in need for a different kind
of adventure. With the help of the staff at my IES center, I planned a solo
trip to the Lake District. My destination was a small town called Coniston.
I took the train to Windermere and spent hours in a lite, cold rain looking for
a bus stop. I finally boarded a rickety tiny white bus to Coniston. It took
two stops. On the second bus, I got a call on my cell phone. It was a boy
that I had loved greatly and for years at one point in my life. His
conversation led to his confession of loving a new girl. I would have not been
able to get through this heart break in any other part of the world. I was
surrounded with what looked like the set of "The Sound of Music." I spent the
later part of the day surrounded with the dissonance of my beautiful
surroundings and my inner heart break.
The next morning I awoke in a hostel and had breakfast with a couple who
had come to run a mountain marathon. The woman was 47 years old and told me she
had plans to visit a friend she had not seen in twelve years. Her friend's
husband had been murdered, and she was left with three kids. This story put a
lot of perspective to my own pain, and I decided would not let it ruin my trip.
My attraction to Coniston had been, Old man Coniston, the largest fell in the
Lake District. I only had two days and the weather was horrible. It was cold
and raining very hard. Most were advised to stay off the higher paths, and the
weather was rumored only to get worse. However, I knew I needed to find solace
somewhere. I bought a map of the fell and a compass which I knew not how to
use. I set off to meet Old Man Coniston.
I was wearing all of the clothes that I had packed. I had originally
packed for a city in the summer, so none of my clothes were climbing appropriate and I
was soaked before I had finished my hike to the base of the fell. Eventually,
I found myself cold, wet, and lost with a compass I did not know how to use.
When I was about to turn around, I saw three men of varying ages hiking a
connecting path. Because of the weather, I had only seen one other group out.
I asked for help reading my map. Brian, a hiker of 65 and in great shape,
recognized my inexperience and my accent immediately and said: "You're a long
way for the colonies, young lady."
Brian invited me to finish the ascent with him and his two friends. They
were three Scottish men each representing a younger generation. They said I
completed the age range by being the youngest. Brian had stories all over the
fell of ice climbing in the 1970s. When there was a lapse in the stormy
weather they decided to take a break for tea. They each had thermoses, sugar,
and a coca cola bottle filled with cream. It was the most English scene I
could have witnessed in my time abroad. In the mist of horrible conditions,
half way up a mountain, we had stopped for a tea party.
The storm continued and so did we. Brian kept a slow pace, but good
conversation. He told me on a good day the view of green hills and Lake
Coniston goes on for miles. We pasted mine ruins and beautiful pond near the
top called a tarn. Our final obstacle was what looked like the staircase
Frodo, Sam, and Gollum climb in Return of the King. I could not see anything
in front of me and was desperately out of breath, but we found the top of Old
Man Coniston. Brain said our reward was unprotected wind, little visibility,
and more rain. However, I got much more from that day. I found more than
solace. I found great company and a growing confidence in myself. I also
found that bad things happen in life, but sometime you are lucky enough to be
in the only place that could heal your struggles.