This was a townscape raised in the teeth of cold winds from the east; a city of winding cobbled streets and haughty pillars; a city of dark nights and candlelight, and intellect
-Alexander McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club
This past Sunday was Burns Night, and the two month mark from my date of departure for Edinburgh. It seems unthinkable that that much time has already passed. I’ve been back in the States for a month, but it’s been a whirlwind of holidays and catching up. Sunday, then, seemed an appropriate day to toast both the beloved bard and Scotland herself, in thanks for a string of days that shone like pearls on a silken thread.
In a previous post (Of Harp Seals and Haggis), I described a bit about Burns Night…it is a celebration of the life and poetry of Rabbie (Robert) Burns, a somewhat tongue in cheek salutation to the haggis, and mostly, an excuse for a ceilidh. It was snowing here in Maine, so getting out to one of the very few “official” Burns Night Dinners was not an option. Instead, I baked some scones, and tried my hand at making a modified version of haggis and tatties…
My tribute to Burns completed (or at least attempted), I now turn to start a series of posts on my experiences of living in Edinburgh for a month.
There is a very large sign that greets anyone arriving at the Edinburgh Airport. It is a towering image of the military Tattoo at the Edinburgh Castle, flanked by three simple words: This is Home. I noticed it for the first time as I left at the end of my very first trip to Scotland. I remember my eyes welling up…even at that point, it already felt as if I were leaving home rather than returning to it. Finally, it felt, as I arrived in November, to be welcoming me to stay awhile.
I think that when we go on holiday or travel any significant distance to a place that we love, that place tends to become a Camelot…we don’t bring the mundane or the cares of our “regular” world there. It’s sacred somehow…a place where nothing can touch us, a place where “everything is right with the world”. Acadia National Park was like that for me for many years…I would often say that “it’s always summer in Acadia”. In my mind, the sun was always shining there, the blue of the ocean was somehow more blue, the green of the leaves more green…
Edinburgh started that way for me. Like the carefully decorated and preserved furniture and relics in Holyrood Palace, or the carved monuments of Calton Hill, the city was frozen in time…the Balmoral’s clock could have stopped at noon on the September afternoon that I first saw it. But now, after returning several times, it is something else.
Have I stayed as long as I would like? No. But while I don’t live there, I have lived there. Now, after multiple trips, and most recently this month experience…I have had days of sun, fog, rain, snow, and ice. I have walked the cobblestone streets alone at night and wove my way like a thread through the patchwork of humanity along Princes Street. I have made lifelong friends and been another face in a nameless crowd on a train out of Waverley Station. I have had successes and failures, laughed and cried, lost my way, and felt that I found myself. I felt the rarest of joys, and yes, heartbreak too. Edinburgh is not a static portrait or a monument of stone to me anymore…it is living, breathing, moving life.
I’ll close with the shots from the first days…Calton Hill and Holyrood Park…both near the neighborhood I was living in…