POSTCARD 137: The Edinburgh Road: For a moment I’m conscious of the present moment contained inside this moving vehicle following the white line marked in the centre of the tarmac, captivated by the directionality of the journey hurtling through a kind of wormhole in space/time, and plunging towards a vanishing point that never arrives. Pieces of a picture landscape, like a giant jigsaw, fly up and pass through the windscreen of the car, through the transparency of self and a new picture is forming. Left-hand bend approaching, steer around that, attention caught by a constant continuity of looped overhead cables on the right that continually sweep upwards and fall away like waves ebb and flow. Into a right-hand curve… tilt and rising with the camber of the road on the left side then level out and down into the next one. More curves and bends, dizzy and bewildering, winding down these slopes and (ear-popping) altitude drops on the way that leads to the coast.
This must be an old drovers’ road to the markets in the town, it’s foundations laid by the hooves of herds of animals following a path through ancient forests that once were here, and finding a route around swamps and boulders; obstacles long since filled in and cleared away. Now there are just fields of sheep and grass and crops, featureless hillsides – only the road remains, it’s twists and turns carry no meaning. Land owners’ properties claimed on either side have trapped it in its original form, a skeleton from the past, a craggy old branch of a tree, its shape created by historical circumstance.
The outer world becomes neutral, non-intrusive random thought mechanisms that function at the edge of a dream pull me into the gentle whirr and flicker of thinking-about-things, just as we’re coming into Edinburgh. Drop some people here at the train station, then on to drop the rest of us at the airport. Strange to suddenly be in the centre of a town, held by the traffic lights and see people crossing over – reverse culture shock; I’m not used to seeing Europeans, dark-haired, golden, Asian faces with almond shaped eyes fill my world. Memory of a former life, strange familiarity, déjà vu… this pavement, these streetlights, have I been here before? But it’s just somewhere on the way. No, wait… was it here that an event took place, long since forgotten? But no explanation seems to fit – it’s just what’s happening – the world, doing its thing. All that is here is a reflection of me passing through. It appears in present time, and then it’s gone.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” [Heraclitus]
So did you have any problems adjusting to driving on the proper side of the road again? Or did you even have to? I guess in Thailand you mostly tuk-tuk about, secure in the knowledge your life and limbs are safely in the hands of a maniac.
I wouldn’t necessarily assume winding roads in Scotland were surveyed by sheep. Could be the road-layers just had to keep detouring around grouchy old buggers who refused to move until they’d finished smoking their pipes. (‘scuse my stereotyping of Scots. A beloved great uncle was a walking Scottish joke and is sorely missed. Probably only ex-pats like him hold so tightly to their sporrans these days. I could hardly believe it when they voted down independence.)
Whenever I got back from a year in Asia I suffered real culture shock upon seeing all the pasty, bloated people shuffling around Mascot airport. Made me wonder if Australia had been through a zombie apocalypse while I’d been away.
Right, I didn’t have to, I was driven… and trained, and bussed and planed, all according to proper rules and regulations, including all the strikes and disputes and hold-ups and holding patterns. It’s a claustrophobic place at times, stubborn and grouchy, as you say. But historical and cute, also mysterious and mythical. The loss of independence was a calamity, left most people in Scotland reeling in shock…
You created as always a vivid picture. I thought but never really pondered on the roads that line our paths. I wondered why the roads were built where they were and your conclusion is feasible.
Interesting to picture how the very first animal found its way through the forest and the others just followed that path because it was there.
Good to hear from you again…
Glad to have time to visit.
There’s a lilt in this lovely prose T.
I wonder if you picked up a bit of a Scottish accent when you were there. 😉
Interesting, there is the articulation of ‘r’ sounds here and there in the text. The Scottish accent kinda rubs off on you… speaking at length with some local people and they said at one point, ‘Well at least you didn’t lose your accent!’ But I think I did and don’t have it now…
Love that you still are detached from surroundings and visually describe all you see. Looks very much like where we live upstate in New York. Rolling hills and power lines and telephone polls. Husband lived in Scotland for quite some time and he loved it but says I would find the people a bit gruff. Apparently you did, too. Anyhow glad to be reading your posts again!!
Yes, husband is right, they are a bit gruff here, no real place for gentleness in this climate – or maybe I never looked for it? Thanks for pointing that out. Even though, the people I met incidentally in Glasgow, asking directions, were v friendly. Maybe I’ve become detached because of travelling for thirty years. Living in a communicative cocoon and fascination with exotic surroundings – observing this and my reactions to it, means I’m here in the country where I was born but circumstances have made me a stranger to it…
It doesn’t take thirty years, believe me. A few years away from your birth culture and you can never come home.
This is it, I come back and suddenly it all becomes transparent, everything that held me is suddenly released… inexorable movement away from what it was.
The climate and he especially said the long dark nights of winter without good heating systems.
It’s true, if you’re born into these conditions, you never question it. All it takes is just a few years away in different surroundings and things are seen as they are. As cabrogal says, you can never come ‘home’.
So good to see you have returned from your retreat, Tiramit. I kind of read both posts at once, and the whispered prayer– the trespassing and the forgiving– are combining with the lovely image of the wire drawing near and flickering away along the road. Sometimes the day feels like that same type of dance– feeling resistance, then a subtle change in direction, a quick chance of view, and it’s entirely new. And breath comes easily again. The wire dancing– drawing close, pushing away, the road hugging the landscape. Maybe it was the feelings of the people that laid down the roads… 🙂
Hope you are feeling well and rested…
Thanks Michael, nice to hear from you again and yes, I’m feeling well and rested. The whole thing is a journey – so good to have that sense of movement in what you’re saying here – the feeling we’re being pulled towards a destination but never arriving… no memory, either, of how it began. It’s always been like this. A curious kind of stillness too, everything is in sync; ‘that same type of dance’, seeing other cycles of it in new forms and everything transforming…
I’m on holiday in Bali at this moment. I’ve just enjoyed reading your postcard to my partner over breakfast and sharing with him how I love your posts which seem to have a wonderful mixture of reflecting the ordinariness of the world and experience in awareness. As always, thank you. Much love Mx
Hi Melinda, nice to think of you there in Bali and my postcard being read aloud over the breakfast table. For me the ordinariness of the world is enough, that’s because my surroundings in Thailand and India are ordinarily exotic. You must know how it is, being there in Bali – a fellow blogger lives there: http://healingpilgrim.com/ check out her stories and photos. Thanks for your comment and have a good holiday
I leave with my family for a two week trip to Scotland on Saturday. Though I was born and raised in New York, and live in England, Scotland is my soul’s place. My daughter experienced reverse culture shock when she arrived home just last week having been in Uganda for six weeks. It was a bit of a shock seeing so many white people again. Funny how home can be a place where you are different than all the rest. Too bad we’re in Scotland at different times. We could have met up!
Hope the trip to Scotland is rewarding, yes it’s a pity we’re not there at the same time – maybe next year… and a visit there really does depend on the weather – if it should be too hot (unlikely but) be prepared with insect repellant for the midges.
I can sympathise with your daughter’s reverse culture shock, after the best part of 30 years in Asian society, I find it’s a bit creepy being with these pale invisible white folks 🙂 and feel more comfortable being different from all the rest, rather than the same as.
… And then it’s gone.