It’s been two months since I washed ashore in Edinburgh. Eight weeks of letting go and digging in. Discovering both the new outside of me and the things forgotten on the inside. I feel like I’m expanding rapidly– The proverbial glass of spilt milk running across the table in all directions. My life cannot be contained, absorbed. I don’t want to assume a new shape yet. I am liquid.
This is good.
Celebrating Samhuinn with the Beltane Fire Society
I have met every new thing that’s bouned in front of me with the enthusiasm of a golden retriever. I’ve devoured the hours of reading for class, the writing, the critiques, with unabashed nerdy glee. I’ve signed up for every extra workshop I can handle. I’ve told imposter syndrome to kindly fuck off, I’m a writer, what I write has worth, and I’m not here to write in any other way but my own. I’m not here to change who I am, only to become more myself.
I have danced all night, I have crashed on couches, I have climbed Calton Hill to drink cheap beer and wail at the hazy night sky that never seems to go completely dark. Instead, it goes Sepia and the city below becomes a burry daguerreotype, illuminated by points of light from nearby construction cranes.
I have learned a smattering of essential Scottish words: Ceilidh, a raucous dance party with traditional music where grace is secondary to fearlessness; Scran, food; Dreigh, dreary, which seems to be the most common Scottish weather next to windy. I have applied to and been rejected from more part-time jobs than I can keep track of. I have been the elder stateswoman at nearly every social gathering, and have come very, very close to letting go of my insecurity over it.
Having an “I Live Here!” moment in Dean Village.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to have a do-over of the flailing around trying to start a life up period of your early 20s, only knowing what you know now, this is it. In some ways it’s incredibly freeing. I’m less unsure of myself because I made it last time, so it stands to reason that I’ll figure things out this time too. I am so glad I didn’t try to make a go of it as a writer at a younger age because my self-doubt would have left me completely strangled. On the other hand, at close to forty the fall from grace seems much further. That, and oof, people my age bounce far less easily when we hit the ground.
Switzerland still lingers within my consciousness. I turn my nose up at the chaotic bus schedule and the billowing clouds of exhaust that accompany said bus when it arrives. I have a serious moral dilemma about the fact that the recycling bins in my neighborhood are constantly overflowing and completely disorganized. I think in German when I’m in the store and have to stop myself from entschuldigung–ing people when I step onto public transit because to me, German is the language of public discourse. I notice poverty and want around me every day. I miss my friends and co-workers more than I’d care to think about. I wonder what winter will be like this year without an excursion to the sharp glacial glimmer of the alps.
Edinburgh, where even the garbage has got something to say.
Here are some other things I notice though: I see people crouching on the street talking to homeless people, asking them how they are, every day. I’ve never seen anybody do that anywhere else I’ve lived. I notice that people give up their seats on the bus for the elderly and parents with small children, instead of spreading their belongings all over the seats around them and then getting into a huff when anybody asks to sit near them. I notice a refreshing lack of formalness. There simply are not the barriers between people in public that there seemed to be in Switzerland.
I love being able to make small chat with strangers. I love being able to walk into a restaurant without a reserviert, knowing that the staff won’t mind if I sit there all day with a cup of coffee and my journal. I love that I live in a city full of magic and music, where I could see a band play or go to a poetry reading every night of the week.
I love that I live in a city where you might stumble off of the street into an independent bookstore where the proprietor will offer you a cup of tea…Or stumble into an artists’ studio where the artist will give you a tour then send you packing with a free t-shirt…Or into a taxi cab where you’ll strike up a conversation with the driver and he’ll send you away with a free copy of his book. These are all things that have happened to me since I arrived here. These things are not anomalies or little tricks of happenstance that are the universe’s way of telling me she’s happy I’m here. This attitude of warmth, welcome and generosity is just plain Scottish, as far as I can tell.
Local artist Chris Rutterford takes me on an impromptu tour of his Leith Studio.
There are habits, attitudes and longings of the heart that we develop in every new place we live. Some we bring with us deliberately, packing them as delicately as if they were heirlooms, unwrapping them in our new lives with purpose. Others stow away with us and emerge a surprise. It is not as simple as choosing one place over the other. It is not as simple as saying goodbye. Finding my new self in my new place is like waking up and slowly entangling the threads of a particularly heady dream. I am the same yet not the same. And this is a gift. This chance to start anew, knowing what I know.
I am happy. Things are bubbling in my cauldron. I do not have the pieces completely put together yet, but for the first time in my life I am not eager to rush for a finished puzzle. I am having patience while the image slowly develops.
Love to you from Scotland, gentle readers.
What about you? What pieces of places you’ve lived do you take with you when you move? What do you want to leave behind?