Here, a cluster of stone red-roofed cottages, and more of those trees with the art nouveau branches.
There’s a rock—huge!— out, away from the shore. It looks like a great fat sleeping bear. The mist hangs above the land in swaths, like smoke suspended in the calm of an afternoon pub.
Some beautiful old stonework houses with white wood trim. Fairy story houses in a patchwork land. A hilly autumn country of greens and golds, rich brown fields that roll and dip.
+ + +
My mind wanders– the slipping of eaves after a great storm; laden and bowed under the burden of water and other insatiable forces.
How I have slipped, in the writing of my dreams; it’s a muscle, and muscles not worked regularly will atrophy.
There are pictures in my head, stories— well, not stories, exactly, but beginnings; threads to be followed. Observations. My biggest challenge, always, is to discern and allow true things to come through. But the most impassable wall there is not the readiness of the stories, but me, the one telling.
Fear causes inaction; that’s the obstacle.
The radiators have awakened for the new season; that moment when the smell of dust, of time, fills the apartment along with the warmth.
The steam-driven, radiant heat of old buildings is so specific— It feels sounds smells different than modern heating solutions; it’s too warm, too cold. It is by its by nature difficult to control; there’s no efficient way to temper it. I love it, and I hate it.
The soft rain has returned. It sounds soothing out the darkened window, and the neighbors have all gone back inside. No one is talking, no cars driving past.
Tired. (still on GMT.)
Very smooth traveling, though– actually a pleasant plane trip and only seven hours to get back. Here’s another drawing, for now, from the trip book. It’s of part of the vast and winding interior of The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston, Edinburgh (we did not play skittles, alas) on the far side of Arthur’s Seat. (Very comfortable and cozy with a good collection of stuff that makes it feel you’re in someone’s house more than a pub.)
Over the next few weeks, time permitting, I plan to cull and edit the many photos from the trip; I will attempt some sort of after-the-fact reportage here. I also shot a great many bits of video this trip, so perhaps eventually I’ll manage an edited cut of some highlights and funny bits.
Amsterdam; the Westerkirk in the background.
Edinburgh; Dean Village along the Water of Leith
Well I thought I might have been better about adding things here whilst traveling, as I brought my laptop, but no, not really. The days are getting short though, and thoughts of the work waiting at home are beginning to creep in (no!). We’ve had unbelievable luck with weather, considering we’ve been in two places famous for rain (we’ve had a combined maybe 4 days of noticeable rain?). Wednesday we trained eastward to North Berwick, where we saw Bass Rock by boat– it’s out in the Firth, and home to the largest colony of gannets in the world. No less than 150,000 birds on this rock!
Okay, Arthur’s Seat beckons. More to come…
Edit Oct 05, 2010 – Look! The streetlights are aligned- from two cities on very different days in very different weeks. I love Art! Composition!– Rules that rule me, not the reverse… the rules that rule everything; the base of harmony that structured both these towns… (yay)
I’m happy that it’s raining today.
I’ve been thinking about cities, about old cities; how they can feel (in some areas, certain streets) more like formations than something man-made. Edinburgh: those massive brown blocks everything is made of– buildings that look as though they sprung from bedrock to show off, make us feel small, and in awe. Buildings whose foundations appear unshakable and indestructible (but nothing is), and as ancient as the dormant volcano just outside the city. Massive structures whose density is palpable as you look upon them, and whose stone turns streaked with dark in the rain. Impenetrable but somehow warm, and makes you want to touch it, that stone. It’s history that stuck around; it’s evidence.
But I’m romanticizing.
Edinburgh has other reasons, too, to be in my thoughts today. One: I was informed that one of my photographs of said city has been shortlisted for inclusion in the Schmap Edinburgh Guide. Not sure how they found my photo, but it was a nice surprise. Two: Today is October 11th, and it has been two years since a rainy night in Edinburgh on which Anders and I met up with fellow Brooklynite, Ben. It was not only a really fun evening, but also the beginning of something totally unexpected, unlooked-for.
I read this line in Oil Notes, by Rick Bass, today: “Falling in love can be a cure sometimes, but it can only be a shot in the arm if you don’t need it.”
(excerpt from trip book)
11 October 2005.
On a high-speed train ride from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh.
The train is traveling close to the coastline now– we are almost there.
There are parts where cliff walls rise up steeply from the sea, and there are parts where the hills gently turn to beaches. It looks cold.
Sometimes the green atop the cliffs is dotted with sheep.
There are trees every so often -out in the fields, in hedgerows- that remind me of the umbrella pines of Rome.
This country is punctuated with sheep like little tufts of wool growing out of the very ground; these rocky, angular hills. The Firth is an estuary; a vast grey-blue stretch that makes this feel like the edge of the world.
The train is slower now, we’re on the scenic part of the route; specifically labeled as such on the map. It drizzles out there.
Up here, the countryside ceases to look familiar; it looks both harsh and lovely. Everything is gold or green or brown, save the steely blue sea which disappears into the fog.
Here there is a great block of a factory, almost the same pale grey as the canopy of clouds- it looks like a grey box on the landscape; no windows. It interrupts the coastline suddenly, and strangely.
Here there are gravel pits.
Here, a cluster of stone red-roofed cottages, and more of those umbrella pine sort of trees. (they have those same Art Nouveau-minded branches.)
There is a great rock -huge!- out, away from the shore. It looks like a great fat sleeping bear. The mist hangs above the land and sea in swaths, like smoke hanging still in the air at a pub.
Some beautiful old stonework houses with white wood trim. Fairytale. Fairy story houses. A patchwork land. A hilly autumn country of greens and golds, rich brown soil-tilled fields that roll and dip.
Monday. Oh, waking after another solid sleep to full breakfast; CNN on the telly in the corner of the room; travelers from the continent in the tables surrounding– the breakfast room really is a pleasant and reassuring aspect of traveling- despite nothing but bad news from the screen (Yes: hurricane Wilma, Avian flu having reached Greece, the dreadful earthquake in Pakistan… the mind reels and the heart sinks-)
BUT! Today is “Return to Edinburgh” day– I swear I’d have cried if Anders hadn’t agreed! (But I knew he would- he missed that city as much as did I) So back on that train! Upon arrival to our fair city, we took advantage of what is known as “Left Luggage”; a spot where one can leave any piece of luggage for as long as one needs- £5 per 24 hours. Brilliant! Anders had thought of it night before, so we packed all we’d need for an overnight into our smaller, more manageable bags.
Up those Waverly Steps into full noon- welcome back. A deeply inhaled breath, eyes closed- sweetness, joy. Along Princes Street we have a bit of a chat with a friendly hippie-clad “nun” (read: Hare Krishna) who told us of the many outposts of the organization to which she belonged throughout the world, and was looking for donations. In return, a cd of music which she described as “Monk Punk.” We bite- pool our pounds of pocket change. She also gives us a hippie Hare Krishna book (this proves useful upon return to London), and wishes us well on our travels.
Continued walk down Princes to Lothian (or, as Anders preferred to call it, Lothlorian) and back to our Guest House ‘hood, where the leaves are changing colors and carpeting the lovely streets. There is a school, by the way, at the end of our street- a middle school I think- and I cannot tell you the name– for whatever it was, the clever kids had taken away all the portions of lettering on the sign, save a few characters, which ended it up as “ALI. G” Hilarious.)
Hello to Adam, again, and drop off the delightfully diminished luggage- then heading back out. Today is for walking the Water of Leith. It is no river; more a stream. It runs through Edinburgh almost hidden, and out to the seaside town of Leith, where the harbour meets the firth. A lovely and agreeable nature walk along what was a mill-spotted and dammed waterway in the city’s more industrial times. At parts it takes you back up to the surface of city streets (we couldn’t resist having lunch at the Bailie once again, even as it was so shortly after we’d set out), and at times takes you through plots of gardens, wooded paths- just brilliant. Along the way are no public loos, so we made a habit of stopping off now and again along the three mile walk to have “half-pints, and pee” Funny.
Arriving at Leith we are hoping to have an actual up-close view of the firth, the harbour; but are foiled. The stretch along the water there is thoroughly clothed in industrial loading docks, buildings, etc, and the water is quite literally out of any possible view. We don’t mind, though. We wander, and come upon a place called Cameo Bar, which our kiwi-transplant hostess had told us of back at the Bailie. A wee respite, time to write a bit, then back to walking. Anders had consulted one of the maps, and found us a quite different route upon which to return to the city. A long, wide boulevard and nearly a straight shot back, with interesting things along the way (I believe it was called Boughton Street?)
We arrive back to the center of Edinburgh as the sky is turning its dusky blue, the lights in the clock towers are glowing gorgeously, and anders finds us a cute Czech pub beneath Waterloo overpass, so we stop in- a ‘full circle’ moment, as this city has reminded us in many ways of Prague. We chat with the bartendress, who is planning a visit to Prague in the winter, and Anders gives her the name of our Holiday Home Pensione, where we stayed while we were there.
We traverse New Town on our way back and realize it is getting late, so have simple fare of some toasties in one of the places along Queens street (or one of those streets north of Princes). Then to Bennet’s. We sit at the bar this time, and the place is crowded. Anders winds up talking to various folks, as I nip outside multiple times to phone Kev, (missing him thrice before connecting) as it’s his birthday. So happy we came back, if only for a day.