If the Stones Could Tell Stories

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The following poem was written at Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye:

How many breaths                                                                       Have been breathed here?                                                       Within these walls,                                                                       Between these stones,                                                               How many voices have spoken                                               That now lie silent                                                                          In gardens of bones?

What love has been born?                                                             What lives lost?                                                                       What summer sun fell?                                                                  What winters of frost?

The ghosts of dreams                                                                Pass through these halls,                                                              Wander these gardens,                                                                 Voices silent that call

I can almost see them                                                                    On the backs of my eyelids                                                           The Ladies, the Lords,                                                                    Brave men with sharp swords

I can almost hear it –                                                                      The echoes of singing,                                                                   The many feet dancing                                                                    With the hope they are bringing

I can almost touch them                                                                But they fade from my grasp                                                         Like hands that are reaching                                                          But have long lost their clasp

If the stones could tell stories,                                                        Would they ever fall quiet?                                                             Or would they keep talking                                                             Of battle and riot,                                                                           Of kings and brave queens,                                                           Godsends and fiends?

Would they ever stop talking                                                           Till their voices were hoarse,                                                         Till their lungs were just whispers                                                  Of greed and remorse?

Would they ever fall silent                                                              With the legends they tell,                                                             With the broken and mended                                                         And those that long fell?

If the stones could tell stories,                                                        What would they say?                                                                   What would they whisper                                                                At the end of the day?                                                                    Of the times they have seen,                                                         Of the things they have been                                                         What would they say,                                                                      At the last sun’s ray?

If the stones could tell stories                                                         Of the visions of time                                                                     Could we hear them, perhaps                                                        At the bell’s last chime?

A Journey to the Top of the World

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It’s hard to spend a day on Skye without ending up on some epic adventure. It was sunny when I awoke on my third day on the Isle, so I jumped out of bed and caught a bus to the start of a trail that winds through the Quaraing mountains. Once again, I was starting the hike from a different place than most people due to my lack of a car. I ended up getting off the bus at Flodigarry. There was no bus stop and the driver advised everyone getting off to simply stand in a visible place on the roadside waving their arms in the air if they wanted to catch the bus back. Hopefully the driver would see and stop. That’s Skye for you; it certainly does have the vibe of a small island and is adorned with small island quirks. I even overheard the bus driver referring to “Skye Time” which made me ridiculously happy because on islands 7000km away I know dozens of people who refer to “island time” very often. It appears that time works differently on small islands everywhere.

I started up the trail and at once became lost in awe at the views. The green yet rocky hills soared upwards before me, their stunning pinnacles sending my imagination into overdrive. I walked along the sides of steep grassy slopes, always making my way higher up into the hills. Above me on the clifftop was a crumbling stone dike, perched precariously on the edge of a sheer wall. The sheep were everywhere and the dike, amazingly, was still fulfilling its purpose of separating them.

The sheep on the Isle of Skye are ridiculous. They look like completely normal farm sheep and there are fences and dikes snaking all over the Isle, even in the most remote places. But these are no normal sheep. These are ninja sheep. Freaking ninja sheep. During my hikes I would make it to some remote ledge on a clifftop and be feeling so goddamn badass for being there – and then I would glance up and there would be a sheep standing ten meters away on a ledge that’s even harder to get to, munching grass nonchalantly.  It got to the point where I definitely expected those things to start doing backflips.

Anyways. Back to the hike. I soon came to the spot where my trail met the larger circuit trail that goes to the carpark. I had to choose which way to go – I could go straight to the main attractions, the gorgeous rock formations called ‘the Table’ and ‘the Needle’, or I could take the long way around and loop back to those later. My mind wanted to check out the Table first, but my heart was being lured in the opposite direction. It wanted to get a closer look at the old dike on the cliff.

So I went the long way and I’m glad I did. That trail was incredible. It climbed steeply on a narrow path, up and up by rocky ways to the top of a ridge. The views from there stretched to the ocean and beyond – the mountains, the plains, the farm houses and, far away across the water, the distant forms of the Outer Hebrides. It was blue-skied and sunny, but to the south I could see the rain clouds drenching the other side of the island.

The trail led along the very edge of the cliff. There was no fence to stop a wayward tourist from death. This is Scotland, where you are allowed to walk wherever you want. If it had been a hiking trail in Canada there would have been a large fence and an actual path – not just a vague imprint in the slippery grass on the side of a massive cliff. On one side of me was the cliff and the view. On the other, a sloping green plateau on top of the world, leading carefully down to the farms below.

The way was hard; slippery and steep in places, with spongy grass and mud. I took my time walking, admiring everything and trying to keep my breath. Eventually I came to a place where my ‘trail’ was actually above the legendary Table and I could look down into it. It is a flat, twenty by thirty meter grassy rock nestled between pillars of the mountain. It seemed to me like a stage with the columns of a cathedral rising up around it. I stopped at this vantage place to eat Denman Island chocolate and play my flute.

Then it was time to head down to the carpark and the other half of the loop, a task that was easier said then done. The trail became pretty much non-existent right around the time when I started heading down a very steep, muddy and slippery hill. With nonchalant sheep everywhere, of course. Being well-versed in the practice of navigating slippery mountains, I made it down just fine and regained the path at the bottom.

It turns out that the way up to the Table and the Needle was rather Dunsmuir-style. Actually, it was rather kill-the-tourist style. There were plenty of panicking people stuck on the side of the virtually pathless shale cliff that it was necessary to climb up in order to see the Table. There were plenty of other people looking at the cliff from the bottom with expressions that read “hell no, I am not going up there.” I’ve definitely done worse, but this was certainly an adventure. I made it to the top in good spirits. Here the path got even more interesting. It snuck up through narrow gaps in rock pinnacles and circled around green mounds and hills. It gave me this incredible feeling of discovering a magical place. When I finally found my way through the maze to the Table, I sat down to eat lunch. I had been holding off on my picnic until I could find a proper table – I had definitely found one.

I was getting up to start my journey back to the non-existent bus stop when I coughed. The sound echoed magnificently. I couldn’t resist. Now that I had found an echo, I had to test the acoustics. I got out my flute again and played a few Lord of the Rings songs, adding in my vocals every now and then. The echoes were wonderful. As I was leaving at last, something happened that made me think I had been transported into a dream. A group of people had climbed up to the Table halfway through my flute practice. As I left, they started singing – and they were incredible. They had all the harmony and melody that a soloist can never have. Their voices echoed and rang through the natural cathedral that I was in.

After listening my fill, I walked the three kilometers back to the “bus stop” on sore feet and with bright eyes. I then proceeded to miss the bus by twenty minutes and I ended up walking four or five more kilometers down the side of the road before another bus came. It was… fun.

An Epic Quest to the Fairy Pools

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The second morning of my stay in Portree the sun finally came out at last. I had been planning to check out the Dunvegan castle that day, but I did not want to waste a day of sunshine by being inside. I was utterly sick of the pouring rain.

One of the places I wanted to go to the most while on Skye was the Fairy Pools. The pools are located on a well-photographed, stunning creek with the deepest blue and green waters. Unfortunately, the Skye transit schedule failed me. The closest the buses get to the famous pools is nearly five kilometers away, and they only go there in the afternoon and don’t return to Portree until the following morning. But there was no way I was going all the way to Skye and not going to the pools. Instead I went up to the woman working reception at my hostel and, somewhat desperately, posed the question of whether it was possible to get to the Fairy Pools without a car. She responded with “it is entirely possible, as you’ve got legs.” This was definitely an answer I liked.

She showed me a map, pointed out the trail that arched over a mountain pass and took a short cut to the pools, and found me the right bus that would take me to the trail head. Delighted, I grabbed my bag and went to head to the bus stop. Halfway there I stopped, reconsidered, and went back to grab my bathing suit. It’s always been on my bucket list to go swimming in the Fairy Pools, and even though there had been a freak hailstorm while I was trying to decide what to do with the day, I hadn’t yet ruled out the possibility of swimming. It was sunny again by this time anyways.

I got off the bus at the side of the road in Sligachan, a tiny, not-quite-big-enough-to-be-a-town sort of place. It took me awhile to locate the right trail, as there were several, but once I did I headed off with great enthusiasm. It was stunning. Gorgeous. The path went upwards beside a river of bounding green water. I was surrounded by golden-green plains that rose up into towering, treeless mountains. The tallest of these gleamed with snow, and the sun played across it, got lost in the river, and set the ground to blaze golden. I soon left behind all other hikers and lost myself in this wild and stunning landscape. My heart bled poetry for it. It seemed to be the place where dreams are born, and where thirsty souls go to drink.

As I walked, clouds began to crowd the sky again. On Skye, you can actually see the rain coming. You can watch the clouds approach and see the tendrils of moisture reaching for the ground. Luckily, the second freak hailstorm of the day only lasted twenty minutes, if that. I ended up spending quite a while making up absurd analogies for the weather as I walked; it was lulling me into a false sense of security; it was playing a game of go-go-stop; it was clearly bipolar. It wasn’t until the walk back that I realized that the weather was actually just Molly Weasley in one of her rages: “I AM ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED IN YOU! Oh an Ginny dear, congratulations on making Gryffindor. Your father and I are so proud.”

I kept heading upwards, marveling at everything. The landscape awoke the urge in me to leave the path and climb up into the mountains and ridges and stay away up there forever. I just wanted to walk until I was tired and then fall asleep under the stars. I fought this impulse off and soon arrived at the place where the river first gathered its waters. It sat in various different pools, clearly very confused about which way it should go to get down. The mountains were all around me now and the path was hard to find among the grass, broken rocks and gleaming pools of snow melt. It was marked with piles of rocks, thankfully, and these also doubled as wind breakers. I decided to take advantage of them and settled down behind one to play my flute. My hands soon became numb and I had to stop, but it was an enchanting place to play. I could see to the other side of the mountain pass, where the trail climbed down to a faraway forest and a road.

Down on the other side of the mountain I could also make out a distant car park, where normal people parked when they wanted to see the Fairy Pools. I headed down in the direction of this, filled with the excitement of almost having reached a place I had always wanted to go. I cut across to the pools by hiking down a steep and slippery grassy slope, and eventually found myself on the main path, which was busy with people coming too and fro from the car park. After a three hour walk over a mountain, it was weird to realize that they had simply hopped out of their cars and strolled up a trail, and that they would just hop back in soon and drive like maniacs to the next photo-taking stop. I had come to the pools by an inspiring, epic quest through one of the most gorgeous landscapes I had ever been in. I was suddenly quite happy that the bus schedule was impossible.

It was dream-like to be in that place. I was somewhere I had always longed to be, and it was ridiculously beautiful. The waters were green and glinting, the pools lined with polished blue stones. There were plenty of waterfalls cascading into carved and polished bowls.

This is where the inner-debate began. Should I go swimming? Should I? I examined the facts: it was early April, the weather was unpredictable, often windy, and prone to freak hailstorms, I had no towel and it was roughly a three hour walk back to the bus. On the other hand… I was currently more than 7000km from home and it had taken me eighteen years to get to Skye for the first time. I had come all this way with the dream of plunging into these crystal waters. Yes, they were said to be freezing on a good day. However, I have swum in an uncountable number of ridiculously frigid waters in my lifetime, including the Pacific Ocean on January 1st. I had come all this way. I was going swimming.

I climbed down the bank to the pools and the famous swimming location. The climb was a good thing, as it meant I didn’t need to worry about leaving my bag on the banks unwatched. I was the only one down there. It was also good because there was a small cave on one side of the pools that was almost completely hidden from the many people up on the path – the perfect place to stealth change.

I stood up and went to the edge of the water, where I promptly attracted the attention of every passing tourist in the vicinity. They all wanted to watch the crazy girl freeze to death.

I didn’t want to simply creep into the water, toe by toe. So I found a ledge about a meter up and climbed on to it. With the cheering of the now-assembled crowd in my ears, I jumped in to that deep, green water; into the magical Fairy Pools, with the black mountains on either side and the golden plains, and the big open sky. I didn’t hesitate as I usually do when about to submerge myself in freezing water, but simply made the plunge. It was gorgeous. Refreshing. Vibrant. Vivid. Alive. I could feel what it meant to be truly living. I ended up leaping in three times, as it was just so perfect.

And then it was time to don my clothes, wander the pools some more and then head back up into the mountains. I had turned a destination I had always wanted to reach into a journey. My desire to see the pools had spawned this beautiful adventure. I sang and thought all the way back to the Sligachan, my voice ringing out clearly above the noise of the river rushing. There was no one else on the path and I took my time, enjoying the landscapes once more. I made it back to the bus stop just in time for the five o’clock bus back to Portree and headed back to my hostel, heart full.

Spontaneous Roadtrips with Strangers

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I’m a pretty introverted person. Usually I’m not comfortable with spending prolonged amounts of time in the company of strangers. But for some reason I never considered declining the offer I got to accompany two other girls around the Isle of Skye for a day. For one, they had a car and would be going to a bunch of places I wanted to go to. And secondly… I had already spent too much time alone on my travels and was feeling fed up with solitude.

One of my companions, the one with the car, was an outgoing Australian who liked to laugh. She laughed at almost everything, in the most merry way. The second girl was from Belgium and was quieter, more of an introvert like me.

We left the hostel in the morning and headed off down the narrow, one-lane roads of Skye. It was foggy and the rain of the day before was still falling, though not as hard. The landscapes emerged at us out of the mist as we made small talk and stared out the windows. Both of my travelling companions had already been on Skye for a few days and were somewhat orientated with their surroundings. My eyes were glued to the glass of the window as I tried to convince my gaze to penetrate the mist. I had wanted to go to the Isle of Skye ever since I first heard about it a few years earlier. Now, after being there, I can easily say that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is beyond stunning.

Our first stop was a small, crowded pull-off next to a waterfall, where we spent a few minutes taking pictures. Then we headed onward to the Old Man Storr. Now, old Storr is a massive pinnacle of rock that can usually be seen from over 10 miles away. We got to the trailhead and could see no trace of it. We climbed up the path, through the pelting rain, which was icy and quickly becoming more and more vicious. The wind rushed around us, the trail was muddy, and the ever-present sheep seemed completely unperturbed by the downpour. They munched grass calmly, glancing up every once in awhile to watch as the hikers on the trail struggled through the weather.

We were less than thirty meters from the base of Storr before we could see him. The mist would only relinquish its hold on the landscapes as we approached them – towering rock formations would suddenly loom out of the fog at us as we climbed higher. When we reached the top of the ridge the wind reached a crashing roar that succeeded in driving most other sounds out of memory. My companions and I looked at each other. We looked at the Old Man, which was still ten meters away and up a small shale cliff. We nodded, laughed a lot, and decided to climb right up to the base of the rock pinnacle.

I’m glad we did. It was always on my bucket list to be nearly blown of a mountaintop. I’ve never been anywhere where the wind was that strong. We had to stay crouched so that it didn’t blow us over and off the surrounding cliffs. We could see almost nothing in the blinding white mist, and our fingers soon became freezing. We laughed like maniacs; three strangers delighting in the power and beauty of a stunning landscape together. I can add that to the top of the list of incredibly things I’ve done. Sometimes I think I’ve lived more in my 18 years than some people live in their whole lives. I am so wonderfully fortunate to have had all of the wonderful adventures and experiences that I have had.

Completely freezing, we clambered numb-fingered back onto the main ridge and down the trail from there. It was a half-an-hour walk back to the car. From there we drove onward around the North-east part of the Isle, stopping to admire Lealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock. Then we drove past the ‘town’ of Staffin and up a tiny, steep road to a viewpoint at the top of a pass in the Quiraing mountains. These mountains look… unreal. There is simply no way to describe them. They look too good to possibly exist. I went exploring through them a few days later, so I’ll say more about them in a further blog post.

We turned the wheels of the car back to the main road and went to Uig, where we spent quite awhile trying to find the Fairy Glens. Much laughter and confusion ensued before we finally found them. It wasn’t that they were particularity hidden – but they weren’t signposted, so it took us awhile to decide whether or not we were in the right place. Wherever we are, it was goddamn gorgeous. It was magical. I would not have been surprised at all to see a fairy flitting through those hills. They were a collection of oddly-shaped, lusciously green domes and hills, curving up off of the fields of Skye as if they were drawn by Dr Seuss himself. On the one hand they seemed to be straight out of Lord of the Rings. On the other, they had clearly been drawn by a children’s author. It was that kind of glorious combination that made them so magical.

The day was clearer now and from the top of the domes you could see across the occasionally stark plains of Skye to two massive waterfalls way in the distance.

The locals of Skye had also gone to some effort to maintain their reputation of being magical. Someone had made a series of huge spirals out of small rocks in the green valleys between domes. At the center of each of these was a dip full of coins from all around the world, each dropped by some traveler from a distant corner of the globe who had come to Skye. I walked one spiral – it would have been cheating to step straight to the middle – and dropped a Canadian quarter into the center, making a wish as the coin left my hand.

After a long time exploring the hidden, glorious hills and streams of the Fairy Glen, we all headed back to the car and drove the rest of the circuit back to Portree, each of us rather quiet. I was drunk on the beauty of it, lost in awe. My eyes had never felt brighter.

And then it came time to say goodbye to my new friends. You know what the depressing thing is? I never got any of their contact details. I’ll never have any way of talking to them and I’ll probably never see them again. It was just one of those things where three souls brushed up against each other for a day and then went their separate ways. Still, I’m glad I got to experience those incredible places alongside other people. I’m glad I got all of the laughter and hilarity of the day.

Serendipity

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My trip to the Isle of Skye began with panic. The story begins with my bank, which I trust just about as far as an armless person could throw it. Because of this, I had been relying on cash only, which I got from Barclays – the only bank my card would accept without adding on large fees. I also don’t have a credit card, because I’m “not old enough” for one. Now the problem with the Isle of Skye is that there aren’t any Barclays on it. I figured I’d just have to get lots of cash before I left and deal with wandering around with it. However, there’s a limit to the amount of cash you can get from an atm before your card refuses you. This is what I discovered, foolishly, too late. The machine denied my card, and I wasn’t sure if it was just grumpy and mad at me, or whether our relationship was broken forever. In plain speak, I wasn’t sure whether the card would work again, or if I’d have to make a rather long distance call to my bank.

Here’s where things stood: I had insufficient cash, a bank card that may or may not have been recently rendered useless, and only a vague idea of where I was going to sleep and what buses to take on the very remote isle. Actually, I was quite sure there weren’t any places to sleep or buses to take anyways. So what did I do in this situation? Did I stay in Glasgow and use my brain and excellent planning skills? Of course not! I got on a train to the Isle of Skye, because my heart refused to hang out in Glasgow trying to be sensible. It was the best feeling in the world to get on that train and go. Everything was new and blissfully exciting. The thrill of going somewhere filled me, even though I was still panicking a bit.

A quote from my journal: “I’m either brave, or foolish. I’ve done something stupid. I may regret it. I currently don’t. Not at all.” The delight of adventure was pounding in my veins.

That train ride was one of the most beautiful parts of all my travels. It was five and a half hours on an old train, one that still made train noises and rumbled, which only added to the atmosphere. It was uncrowded, but there were enough people to provide endless people-watching entertainment. I had a table to myself and a window seat. The train rolled through the beautiful highland landscapes, past old ruins and babbling brooks, farmland and misty mountains. Old stone walls ran down the hills, fed from the melting snow above. The landscape was barren, stunning and lost. It was incredibly dramatic. Every time we pulled into a station I stared out at it, taking in the solitude of the tiny platform which sat in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere.

We also crossed the famous bridge, the arched one from Harry Potter. By that time we were almost to Malliag and had left the sunshine of Glasgow behind. The view was lost in clinging mist and the train crept hesitantly along the tracks, so slowly I was sure that it would stop and the dementors would come on board. Harry Potter lines ran through my head non-stop.

I was beginning to consider once more what I was going to do when I got off the train. I calculated that if my card really was dead, I had less than 20 pounds to spend per day in Skye. Alright. So I’d sleep outside. I was fine with that. I’ve slept outside plenty, often without a tent or tarp. As long as it didn’t rain, I’d be fine.

It was freaking pouring when I stepped off the train in Malliag. The ferry port was in the midst of a ferocious gale. The wind was blowing and the rain was lashing the ground as if the earth had done it great personal harm. I had estimated that I would miss the last ferry of the night and would have to sleep in Mallaig. A family in front of me was heading confidently to the ferry dock, however, so I followed them. I managed to catch the ferry to Skye just fine, though apparently it was almost cancelled because of the wind. It certainly was a bumpy journey, and every time anyone opened the door to the outside deck, it got flung out of their hands and slammed against the wall by the wind. The sea spray mixed with the rain and drenched everything. By this point I really was not sure what I was going to do. There was no hostel in Armadale, the “town” the ferry docked in.

I got off the ferry on the other side still in a good mood. I’m not somebody who freaks out when things don’t go as planned and runs around cursing their lack of control as if the world is ending. I was good with the adventure. Anxious, maybe, but accepting that I had stepped onto a road and would now be following it, wherever it went. I guess I’m just an optimist. My general thought when a journey is going off-kilter is simply that whatever happens will happen. By this time in my travels I also had enough confidence in myself to know that I could get myself out of whatever shit I got myself into.

I was one of the only people walking off that boat. The guy in front of me was being picked up by his mother, who saw me and immediately offered me a ride to Broadford. That town is halfway to Portree, which is where I wanted to go but hadn’t ever believed I’d get to that night.

It was a small, friendly Isle, so there was no way I was turning down an offer of a ride. I took it gratefully and listened to the mother’s running commentary of the rain-drenched places we passed. She dropped me off in Broadford after showing me where the two hostels in the town were. But I hadn’t the resources for hostels.

I went to the bus shelter. The storm was incredible at this point and I got drenched just walking there. I settled to eat a meager meal of wraps and cheese, all of which tasted like black tea, since they had been in the same bag as my escaped tea bags. As I ate, a couple came along. They stood there waiting for a bus. It occurred to me that if people were waiting for a bus, then a bus was clearly coming, contrary to the internet’s previous insistence that there would be no more buses that night.

Let that be a life lesson to you: try to sleep in a bus shelter and you’ll end up getting on a bus. At eight thirty, I arrived in Portree hardly believing where I was. It was still pouring and dismally cold and dark. I walked around trying to find a dry place to sleep but ended up caving to my promise of sleeping outside and going to get a bunk in a hostel. The first one I went to was full. At the second one two Spanish guys told me the place was full and tried to sell me their room. I went to leave, but was stopped just in time by the woman at the desk, who shook her head and explained that the place wasn’t actually full. And even better… my card worked! 10pm found me warm and dry, drinking tea in the common room and quite happily reliving the gorgeous serendipity of the day. I was right where I wanted to be, I hadn’t died, and I had tea. As I sat there, I started talking to the only other person in the room and ended up arranging to come with her and another woman on a roadtrip of the Isle the following day, to a bunch of places I wanted to go but didn’t know how to get to without a car.

It seemed like there were all these big obstacles in my path and I just glided passed them. It was almost like they were illusions and their only strength was trying to scare me off the road. But I kept going, utterly refusing to turn back or change my mind about where I was going. I was able to walk straight through them as if they were simply smoke screens. Serendipity was on my side and it felt wonderful.

Glasgowian Comedy

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After walking all around the city the previous day, I was ready to spend some time relaxing and simply soaking up the atmosphere of West Glasgow, which is certainly the best part of Glasgow. I wandered out of my hostel in the morning and went to check out Glasgow University. It’s resemblance to Hogwarts is striking. Really, if you picked me up out of Canada, blindfolded me for the journey, dragged me half way around the world and dropped me in the courtyard of Glasgow University, I would probably assume you were a wizard and not just someone incredibly talented at kidnap. Actually, I would probably assume that this meant that I was a witch and I’d spend the next few days gaping at the university and wondering why I still couldn’t do magic.

It was raining however, and the visitor center and museum at the university were still closed for the morning. I took myself to a cafe and sat to plan my journey to the Isle of Skye. This proved rather discouraging. ‘Rather’ is a bit of an understatement. The exact words, copied from my journal, are “Boy am I screwed… We shall see. It is going to be an adventure, that’s for sure. I hope I don’t die…”. The internet insisted that it knew nothing about buses on the Isle, and every travel site I looked at told me, unhelpfully, to rent a car. Furthermore, hostels, hotels and B&Bs seemed to be nonexistent in the part of the Isle I was going to start my journey in. I nonetheless formulated a hesitant plan, which may or may not have included sleeping outside, possibly under a rock.

This feeling of impending doom might have been the origins of my previous blog post’s poem, now that I think about it. I wrote that only a little while after I left the shelter of my cafe. I walked to the nearby Kelvingrove Museum and sat on a bench to write and take in the scene. It is a beautiful museum, and a nice place to people watch as well, if you have the time.

I returned to check out Glasgow University’s museum, but that proved rather scarring. The medical section at least. There is absolutely no reason why seeing an ancient, swollen, amputated human hand floating in a jar would benefit me in any way. I cannot think of any good reason that I should look at it. I ended up spending far more time in the newly re-appeared sunshine outside, pretending that I was actually at Hogwarts and trying to erase the image of amputated human body parts from my mind.

I returned again to the Kelvingrove museum, since I had seen a sign for a free organ recital. And it was freaking awesome. Oh. My. God. Kelvingrove museum is dominated by a huge main hall, surrounded by balconies that look down into it. At one end of the room is the massive old organ. I stood on a balcony across from this to watch the recital. The music was beautiful – soaring, epic classical music. And then… and then HE STARTED PLAYING COLDPLAY! It was incredible. There are absolutely no words that can possibly describe how awesome it was. I left that concert thinking that the musician deserved to be worshiped and crowned. He played Viva la Vida on a massive golden organ.

I relaxed/did the laundry for the rest of the afternoon, then went out again in the evening. I was headed, with much uncertainty, to “The Stand”, a comedy place. It was in the basement of another building and was lit almost solely by the florescent lights of the bar. You could tell it was an adult venture, because the more empty bottles found their way onto tables, the funnier people found the comedy. I once again found myself merely observing this strange tendency of humans, half wondering if they had any non-alcoholic soda at the bar that I could have.

Despite feeling a bit out of place at first, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening. The comedy was hilarious, though I lost some of the jokes because of how incredibly strong Glasgowian accents are. The host comedian was the funniest, in my opinion, and he also built up a sense of community with the crowd. We were a part of the show too, and he based his entire act on the audience, which resulted in hilarity at the expense of some members of the crowd. There was a lot of serendipitous comedy among the audience – once the host comedian had found the three Americans in the crowd, he was pretty much good to go, joke wise. Especially since they were from Texas and one was named Austin.

What really made the evening special is that this wasn’t a tourist thing. It really wasn’t. The room was almost entirely full of locals and the jokes were local. It felt like I was really getting a view into the heart of Glasgow, passed the museums and statues and into the true community. It felt like I was a true traveler.

To Brave the World

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The following poem was written in Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. It certainly isn’t my best work, but it shows how I was feeling:

In all this brilliance I lose myself,                                                     I wander far from home                                                                  Tiny on the road that tries                                                              To sweep me from my feet                                                            From Edinburgh to Paris,                                                                London or from Bath                                                                      Where will I go, what shall I find?                                                    What roaming paths shall meet?

Church bells ring and pigeons coo,                                     Bagpipes play, accents call                                                Ceilings arch and sunlight falls,                                                  In rays between the clouds

Among this big, wide world,                                                            I am nothing but a spot                                                                  Marauding footprints on a map                                                   On parchment paper, ink that blots

Nothing more than eyes that see                                                    Feet that wander far                                                                     And with this curious heart of mine                                                What will I find and be?

Am I strong enough to stand it?                                                     Am I brave enough when free?                                                       Can I walk this lonely journey                                                    For the wonders I will see?

Can I make it when the way is lost?                                               Can I change and yet hold fast to me?                                         Can I be all that I need to be?                                                       Am I strong enough when all else flees?

Who am I that dares to brave the world?

I fear that I am far too small                                                           To stand here balanced and not fall                                                I have no hand to hold me steady,                                                 No shoulder yet to lean on                                                             No kindly voice to urge me on                                                        No light to guide me to the dawn

There is no route for me to follow                                                    No path of guarantee                                                                      The road will crumble,                                                                   The shadows fall                                                                            Notes will silence                                                                          And lose their call

I will go on                                                                                     Despite all worry                                                                            Through sun and rain                                                                Through wind and flurry

I dare to brave the world