Bitter and beautiful

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I’ve been meditating on the juxtaposition of two words in my mind today: bitter and beautiful.

Bitter – because this afternoon’s cold recognises no barrier in five layers of clothing and a felt hat. I am chilled right through to my very bones.

Beautiful – because this is Holyrood, Edinburgh, a place where both natural and humanly-fabricated elements of the city appear to revel in their own illuminated loveliness. A bit like the light in some of Rembrandt’s glorious portraits, one witnesses something of a warm glow, from the inside out. Soul-shining.

It’s an odd and delightful sort of thing, isn’t it, that the two can co-exist in the same moment? – the extreme discomfort of bitter cold, coloured and warmed by awestruck appreciation of the bared beautiful. It’s only a little while since these trees were dressed in all their best finery, peaceably overlooking the delights of garden parties in the great Palace of Holyroodhouse. Today the bitter cold has nipped the last of the leaves at their stems. Fallen and blown, they will now nourish the ground of future’s green glory. Limbs are bared as they face the months of winter, just as our human frame and spirit is bared – and ultimately nourished and grown – by assorted forms of all that we describe and experience as bitter.

All life has deep roots – temporal and eternal. We, with cities and trees, learn that bitter and beautiful work together. And those of us who have learned, and are learning this well, will wait quietly for Spring. Patient, and shining, from the inside out.

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