Goodbyes

'Goodbye' by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.owlingabout.co.uk).The house is full of boxes. I’m feeling wistful about leaving Scotland. There are many things I will miss but some things I won’t. I won’t miss the wind that inhabits Edinburgh all year round. It stalks the tall streets and mugs you with knives. I won’t miss grey bungalows. Scotland does grey bungalows like no country on earth. I won’t miss midgies –no! Such a mild name for such a hateful creature.

I will miss Scottish light, especially in Autumn. I will miss the people. We’ve known amazing kindness and hospitality here. I’ve loved being part of a society that places such importance on social justice, being real, and contributing. I’ll miss the Scottish capacity for understatement. I’ll miss the space. I imagine the southwest will feel a bit crowded to start off with.

I’ll miss the landscape. Although I’ve come to understand that parts of Scotland that I once thought beautiful are in fact ecological deserts preserved as such for the benefit of a few. Organisations such as the Woodland Trust are doing amazing work to reinstate some of Scotland’s tremendous ‘wild’ resources. I salute them for it.

And I’m looking forward to many things when we move. I’m looking forward to hedgerows and trees. I’m looking forward to deep wooded combes. I’m looking forward to summer. Leaving is always mixed isn’t it? One of the many treasures I will be taking away with me from Scotland is the poetry of Norman MacCaig. One poem of his that has particularly resonated with me recently is Return to Scalpay. MacCaig’s mother was from the island of Scalpay and he spent much time there visiting family. He describes perfectly the oddness of returning to the place you grew up in these lines,

Quote from Return to Scalpay by Norman MacCaig.It’s the sort of feeling that makes you cringe with remembrance when you are young and swear you will never go back. But as you age (well for me at any rate) those feelings are overshadowed by a growing awareness of the graciousness and generosity of the place that gave you the space to do all that growing up. MacCaig says,

Quote from Return to Scalpay by Norman MacCaig.

I know what he means about Edinburgh. Although we have spent so much time in it over our years living here, it never took us to its heart and it is in the rural borderlands that we found home. I’m not sure Edinburgh takes anyone to heart. He is an ancient grey-haired city who can stride a munro and is darkly quick-witted with a twinkle in his eye. No, for me, I could only ever keep step with such a city for a short time; his heart belongs to the rock itself, to the sharp wind that stalks the streets, and to the North Sea. Goodbye Edinburgh, we have loved you as best we could. Goodbye Scotland, we have loved you best of all.

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