28 March 2012

The Same Moon

 I was a weekened guest in a vast house that was perched on a hill overlooking the ocean. Because of its steep bluffs and proximity to the sea, the small coastal village is simply called "The Hill" by locals and visitors alike.  Unable to sleep, I crept upstairs to sit on the sleeping porch, listening contentedly as the sea washed sonorously against the nearby shore. 

The house was filled with books and as I passed through the library I chose several to look through with the hope that I might grow sleepy.  Settling down in one of the large chairs, I opened one of the books—a gilt-edged biography of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of my favorite painters—and a folded sheet slipped from its pages onto my lap.  

With some trepidation—and a few glances over my shoulder—I opened the paper and saw that it was a letter, written on stationery from University College-Oxford. It was dated "Monday—May 30th" and although there was no year given, it was yellowed with age and dog-eared with frequent readings, convincing me these words had been penned many, many years ago.  The sender had used only initials so there was no way of knowing to whom—or from whom—it had been sent.  It was a brief note, written on only one side of the vellum sheet.  I settled back to read it, the stillness interrupted occasionally by the wash of waves against the nearby shoreline. 

"A glorious sunny weekend here has inevitably turned my thoughts to you and the Hill.  I thought of you particularly last night seeing the marvelous moon here, which must be sparkling and gleaming on the sea there.  It is marvelous how much the mind retains of things it loves and how easily they can be evoked.  How much richer is life for this!"   

I folded the old paper and placed it back amongst the pages of the book. How strange to find this letter from Oxford, written by a distant friend, or perhaps a brother or lover. I tried to imagine where he might have been as he watched the moon rise. By the River Cherwell, perhaps, seeing her lift above the tree branches? Or standing by the Bridge of Sighs, watching her passage over a network of college spires?  Wherever he was, he knew that in a matter of hours the same moon would be making its way to the sea-washed shores of the New England beach town he loved. 

And here was I, only just returned from Oxford myself... sitting in the dark on the verandah of that same house, watching the moon as it glistened on that same briny sea. And the happy-go-lucky author of that letter, written and posted so long ago, would never know how touching and evocative his words would seem to a complete stranger many years later. 


  1. Dear Haworth.
    your post had me reading it twice. When all is still and sitting quietly and listning to the sea. Ohh..how wonderful. Even more exciting to find an old letter form someone who loved "The Hill". It sounds a lovely place.
    You say it was posted from Oxford.. Oxford england Uk.! that is strange for you just to have come back from Oxford.
    Happy Friday

  2. It was indeed a very strange, but lovely, experience, Val! Have a happy weekend!