“I’ve been walking, walking these shores all my days.
But with you by my side, I am walking on the waves.”
Skipinnish – Walking on the Waves
This past week was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time. The complexity of my emotions are difficult to express, but I will do the best I can.
This weekend, I went to Scotland. I went into the trip with little-to-no knowledge of the country, even with my part-Scottish roots. The experience was nothing short of incredible. When we first arrived in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon, the sun was shining and the air was crisp. Edinburgh is a city unlike any other I’ve been to in that the old and new parts of the city are, by-in-large, divided. It feels as though some of the city really has been frozen in time…like I had entered into a snowglobe preserved for hundreds and hundreds of years. I walked through an old graveyard where some of the names of the Harry Potter characters originated, and felt the fires of the Catholic vs. Protestant feuds. I went up to the Edinburgh castle, and I was astounded by the 360 degree view of the city. The thin, meandering lanes, the brick roads, the Gothic landscape, and the intricate architecture far outweigh the new-age convenience stores, cafes, and chain food places. I drank a coffee in the place that the Harry Potter idea was born (the Elephant House), I sang to the tunes of a folk singer in one of the oldest pubs in the area (the origins came from “half-hangit Maggie”), I danced, I explored, and I met many new friends. I tried Cullen Skink, too!
The next two days, however, were what really made the trip one that I’ll never forget. I went up to the highlands of Scotland – Loch Ness being the furthest point north that I reached – where the air was bone-chilling and the winds were vicious. There are times in our lives where we feel rather insignificant in the most marvelous of ways. For me, I’ve often felt that way learning about astronomy or thinking about religion or in a big city, but never before had I felt as astounded by nature as I did in the highlands. Looking out at hill after hill – mountain after mountain – and seeing wild deer and yaks (“harry coos”) and other wildlife and seeing how it all somehow survives even in areas uninhabited by mankind highlights your place in the world, your obsession with the material world, and the complexities that interrupt life for humans. I also got to see the lands of clan MacKenzie and walk on a battlefield where many of them died. I didn’t expect it to affect me, but I felt a twinge in my heart as I thought about how incredibly old the clan warfare was, and how my own ancestors were the ones who fought in it.
Whooooooaaaaaaaaa, soooooo deep, Hope, right?!
Well, the night before I left with my tour group, we all stayed in a hostel near Loch Ness. There were a total of four places to eat in the small “town” (I’ve seen bigger rest stops, honestly), and two of them weren’t even open. That night, I mustered up the courage to try Haggis, and I must say that I actually enjoyed it! I even had one of the 20+ different kinds of malt whiskeys served in the pub at the hostel for the “when in Rome” factor of it all. Besides my tour group, there happened to be a few other Scottish travelers in the hostel (because, really, who else would be visiting the northern highlands in January….?). Before I knew it, we were all dancing on the wooden tables of that pub, singing to a Scottish song by a band from the highlands that we quickly learned the words to (its the song at the top – give it a listen!). I don’t want to have an “and in that moment, we were infinite” a la Perks of Being a Wallflower moment, but I don’t know what else to say. It seemed that the song lasted for days – that our bodies were somehow suspended in time, all jumping and dancing and stomping together in that small little pub on a freezing night in the highlands. I laughed the whole night through, and I thought of nothing else but being in that room with those people in January in the Highlands.
This has been a long one, and Scotland was the most important part of my week, but I will say that I saw a verryyyyyyyyy odd play last night called Islands and I have a lot of feelings about it, and not all of them are good. But I will say that the show was nothing less than interesting, and I’d much rather be interested in any degree than bored.
Till next week, folks.