This time several years ago, we were in England. I somehow thought I had posted this little memory, but on looking back through all the months, I cannot seem to find it anywhere.
Our first real stop was at Stratford-on-Avon, home of the Bard, and we toured his home and gardens, with a lot of picture-taking and exclaiming at Anne Hathaway’s lovely thatched cottage. We gazed up at the Juliet window in his house, its mullioned shutters open over the little balcony, and as we entered, we were swept up in a tide of the very young “Up With People”-type crowd that had surrounded us in the airport, their red polos and khakis their admission to the club.
I lost sight of everyone in my tour group, so I just explored at my leisure, seeing the canopied bed (a rope-suspension affair that I cannot fathom being comfortable, no matter how many geese were sacrificed to the mattress), and the rough tables at which I imagined him penning his magnificent verse. The fireplaces still held ashes, the candle-drip still clung to yellowed, bent tallow, and the windows looked out upon the colours of Spring.
I stood for a moment in the Juliet-window, not imagining a young swain come to sweep me away, but trying to grasp the universe of ideas and words and contexts which must have whizzed through that amazing mind as he gazed out. His words poured onto the paper, onto the stage, into minds and hearts and down through wars and changings and evolvings of our world, making the phrasings and idiom of yesteryear into a part of our own vocabulary, sometimes understood, sometimes lost to Time, but an integral part of today’s theater and language, fresh as from the Globe.
I wandered on through, emerging into the gardens. Our guide had said that we had two hours to see the site and the town, with a hand-waved direction toward the souvenir shops branching out on almost every street. I stepped into the first shop and bought ten postcards and a tiny, pocket-sized golden book of sonnets.
Walking out and around, I headed away from commerce and tourist confusion, in the direction of the big parking lot where waited our bus. Within a couple of blocks of there, I spied a little gravel-paved courtyard within a small gateway, which framed an enormous yellow rosebush with branches reaching up to the housetops. I couldn’t resist stepping in for a moment, and since the sign advertised only weekday hours and the "closed" sign on the door greeted anyone who might enter that deserted, walled place, I realized that my Saturday presence would probably be of no bother to anyone.
Whilst all my traveling companions were strolling and looking, buying garish bits and pieces of take-home and send-to memorabilia to commemorate their time in this place, I walked to a low stone wall encircling the plot, sat beneath the great golden umbrella of roses, and read all the sonnets in the Summer sunshine of the place they were created.
Try buying a keychain or a coffee mug that can top that.