Over the past two days I’ve had three different conversations about my life in Scotland. By the time I got in my car to drive home, I was deeply homesick for it, mostly the friends and coworkers I miss, but also mundane bits like Christmas Eve in Waitrose, random herds of curious horses, learning how to ride the bus in a foreign land, and frost-covered moss. I was thinking of that moss when I encountered the frost-dusted leaf in this photo.
Homesickness is generally expressed as a one person, one place phenomenon, but I have experienced waves of homesickness for every place I’ve ever lived. I even yearn for Alabama from time to time, especially the late afternoon summer thunderstorms that shake the magnolia trees, all slick green and heavy cream. Does it make me feel fickle sometimes? Sure. Someone once excoriated my use of the word “favorite” because, in his words, “They can’t all be favorites.”
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Trains” by Poppy Ackroyd.
The weather today has been blustery in between light bouts of rain, and I am missing Scotland something fierce.
I wanted to say more on the topic, but I’ve just used my last articulate impulse on mustering my rudimentary Italian to help a new Second Life resident who I discovered crouched on my sofa, dressed like a swashbuckling vampire. I think we may have had a discourse on gender and avatar appearance … but I am likely overestimating my linguistic ability.
Still, when there’s a vampire pirate crouching on your sofa, it’s only polite to try to talk to them. Non è vero?
Writing from: my study in Portland. Or is it Scotland? Listening to: bits and pieces of NFL commentary coming from FunkyPlaid’s study.
The heatwave dissipated quickly, leaving behind the merest hint of autumn in the air. A few rainy days in a row were enough to wrangle me into heartier outerwear, and as I attempted to shove a wee bag of blueberries into one of my jacket pockets, my fingers caught on a couple of pieces of paper.
I drew them out and smiled. Two tickets from Lothian Buses, dated last December.
In this endless and perhaps ill-conceived push to move ever forward, I had not allowed myself anything more than the briefest of glimpses in the rear-view mirror at the landscape — that stark, lush, unforgiving and breathtaking landscape — that had just been left behind.
This is home, and that was home too. The heart bounces between the two like a pinball made of feathers. Things fracture and spin off. That’s okay too.
Writing from: my study in Portland, sort of. Listening to: “Low Hymnal” by Told Slant.
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A few weeks after moving here, I kept asking FunkyPlaid what that big group of buildings looming over the city was.
Half a year after moving here, I had finally figured out what it was.
A couple of years later, befuddled tourists started asking me how to get to the castle. Me! I could hardly believe it. I must have looked like I knew where I was going, but the truth is that the only place I knew how to get to without thinking and without checking on the blue dot on my phone was home.
This is home to me. This has been my home for four years. This will not be my home tomorrow. All of these facts take their turns flitting into and out of the “inconceivable” box in my brain.
I am ready to leave, and I am not ready too. That’s the best time to go.
Writing from: a home, my home, in Edinburgh. Listening to: all of the subtle noises that I won’t hear again.
Pictured is not Dark Tower, the awesome electronic board game I loved as a child, but rather The Black Tower, the delicious dessert at local Thai place Passorn.
But now that Dark Tower was mentioned at dinner, I cannot get it out of my head.
Nostalgia is dangerous. It can seduce us with claims of an unblemished past, suggesting that a portal to this past is within our grasp. But I know — as we discussed over dinner — that the experience of playing Dark Tower now is not the same as the memory of playing it thirty-five years ago. Still, I enjoyed peeping into the portal with this commercial.
I wonder which memories of my time in Scotland will trigger that nostalgic impulse. There will be plenty lurking about my subconscious, I’m sure. Certainly one of them has to be skirting the Links, chatting away with Gav about a story I’m struggling to write.
Writing from: a chilly kitchen, now that the lounge is devoid of furniture. Listening to: that clock that never keeps the right time, still ticking away.
When I eat, I am present. Thoughts do not intrude in this space, reverent as they are in the church of Savour. Tonight’s service was Highland venison loin, shredded beef cheek, smoked celeriac, and parsnips.
I wonder if someday I’ll have the resolve to try a vegetarian diet. Then I have dishes like this one and put it off for another day.
There are particular foods (sushi) I miss from the States, and I look forward to having some of them (burritos) soon. But I’ve had some stellar meals in Scotland, and this one at 63 Tay Street was high up there. If you are near or passing through Perth, go there. They’ll take care of you. What a joy it is to be handed a menu and told, “Whatever you choose, we’ll adjust it to be gluten-free for you.” The vegetarian in our party did not lack for mouth-watering options, either.
The dining companions, not pictured, are also highly recommended, but probably wouldn’t appreciate me offering their conversational services. Your meal at 63 Tay Street will be BYOFOIE (Bring Your Own Friends Or Intriguing Enemies).
We won’t call this a goodbye meal, either. Thinking is for later, maybe for the plane ride, or even later. Just look at the food. Focus on the food. It was delicious.
Writing from: a cold and mostly-dark lounge in Edinburgh. Listening to: “Awake” by Tycho from Spotify.
Choosing today’s photo was more difficult than usual but I settled on one of an ancient yew tree that John Knox purportedly preached under because … well … that. Knox is not pictured, but I did leave in a human and a wee dachshund for scale.
This is the magical Ormiston Yew Tree. It is difficult to find, so I am glad that I had a local guide in the aforementioned human, my friend Juliana. Accompanied by her two darling dachshunds, Juliana and I have gone on a number of East Lothian adventures over the past few years, always followed by delicious home-cooked meals. While tromping through the sopping undergrowth today, my heart ached to think that this outing would be our last one for a while. Saying goodbye to dear friends is part of this whole moving-away process, but I still haven’t gotten used to it.
Shortly after moving to Edinburgh, I met an extraordinary woman named Laura. She is extraordinary because she somehow picked up the pieces of her life after her son Joshua took his own life at only twenty-two years old. And after she picked up those pieces, she forged ahead to found the Joshua Nolan Foundation the very next year.
Tomorrow will be my last 5k race around Arthur’s Seat, at least for now, and I’m running to raise awareness for the Joshua Nolan Foundation. The Joshua Nolan Foundation works with their partner counsellors to fund counselling sessions for people who have been identified as ‘at risk’ of suicide. If you or someone you know has been impacted by not having access to this kind of support, please consider donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation.
And please think fleet-footed thoughts for me around 10:00 GMT tomorrow! I’m a bit creaky but I want to finish strong for such an important cause.
In my haste to submit a story for critique by my writing group, I almost forgot all about Project 365. That means you get a hastily-snapped “here is something on my desk” photo.
While my friend Sharks was visiting last month, we spent some memorable days tooling around Edinburgh, chatting and poking our noses into various places. That whole week was charmed: the weather was good, we got on well, and there were plenty of magical moments like finding this wee black swan. She was in a type of shop neither of us normally ventures into, one with a cutesy name and frilly brassy shabby-chic knick-knacks. But there she was, and now here she is, and fond memories will come to mind every time I see her.
I would need a whole tiny menagerie to remind me of all of the wonderful things I’ve experienced in Scotland. I’ve been so lucky.
Intrepid as the bee, indifferent to an indifferent world.
There is more writing news on the way, but today I am just thinking about bees.