I take the Jubilee line to Waterloo Station, where I ascend from the Underground to make my way to the river. I can almost see the Old Vic Theatre to my right. Since 1818, it has staged the likes of John Gielgud’s Hamlet, Laurence Olivier’s Macbeth and Othello, and Judi Dench’s Juliet performed solely for Her Majesty, the Queen.
A few blocks to my left runs the Thames. I make my way along ancient-modern paths, narrow alleys of cobblestone and glass, eavesdropped on by cathedrals and temples of commerce, through artisan’s wharves and clusters of dramatic life.
The wind off the Thames heralds a coming joy. Wreaths and lights drape on shopfronts.
Communities collect and spill out of pubs into the December cold.
I don’t know anyone here, but between the warmth of this Flat White in my hand and the National Theatre just there, I’m placed. A self at ease with itself. In this gentle ease of being, I feel myself differently.
I felt overtaken by some thought when I passed through the maddening crowds at Waterloo, but I don’t remember what by. Something from back home I carried over here. I’ve been discontent about so many things for so long I can’t say when I picked it up, but I felt its weight. Here, now, I feel the cold on my ears, this Flat White, and my feet along something of a sacred path.
The feel of Southbank changes the closer you draw to London’s dramatic heart. An aged vivaciousness. The Tate Modern imposes itself over the Thames. I’ve lost time in its eccentricities, its oddities, its subjective perfections, but I’m not meant for them today.
A street performer carols for donations. I don’t have a pound on me, but I invest my heart for a moment.
Psithurism along the Thames sounds unlike any other place in the world. The leaves rustle like sonnets. I go out of my way to stand before the Globe. All the world is a stage. I’m playing my part.
I take a sip, then another, as if I might drink the warmth of this worriless day.
At the foot of the Millennium Bridge, a hotdog vendor announces his raison d’être. I wonder if he wonders at his place in this great play. He, the Olivier of hotdogs, with daily performances for all of Southbank. Even St. Paul’s Cathedral has a cheap seat from across the river. In this scene of this act of my life, that’s where my part’s to be played.
And as I walk this thousand years along an Advent way toward that Dome of hope rising as a lord over the London skyline, I stop to look back to see the path I’ve taken, banked just there by this river I’m suspended over, and I want for nothing.
The featured image is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her permission for Cultivating.
Corey is a poet, writer, speaker, and educator. He holds Master’s Degrees in Religion, English, and Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Literature. He is the author of C. S. Lewis and the Art of Writing, and the forthcoming The Serve the Work: Stray Thoughts on Christ and Creativity. Corey has written articles and given talks on subjects ranging from C. S. Lewis, the theology of creativity, the neurology of the imagination, and the power of story to heal life’s wounds.