How?

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How did this city so completely win my heart?

Now here’s a paradox – I sort of know, in hundreds of ways, why. Alongside a kind of not knowing! I only really know, Edinburgh, as I wander home in the course of these long summer evenings, that you did – and that you have opened my heart to the possibilities in a host of other such life-giving paradoxes.

Thank you!

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Oasis in the city

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Dunbar’s Close Garden, off Edinburgh’s Canongate, was designed ‘to give an idea of what gardens in this area might have been like in the seventeenth century. The garden is divided into 8 distinct areas or garden rooms, see A-H on map’ (and further information) here (pdf). In 1978, the Mushroom Trust donated the garden to the City of Edinburgh Council. The City’s Parks Department look after the space today.

Many enjoy the gardens in all four seasons. Some sit on the benches in quiet conversation, some bring their workday lunch, others read, while others, like me, contemplate the processions of people who have come here down the centuries: their dress, their work, their conversations and their leisure. And I celebrate the visionary provision of such a place of beauty and of peace.

Speaking of benches: Edinburgh is aware of its place in the annals of greatness. It’s a city that knows there are aeons of history, together with a rich present to be encountered here – and a slowing down to take stock is encouraged and welcomed. Featuring in almost all lists of fine places in the UK that are offering ‘best quality of life’ the unspoken invitation, all around the city, to ‘sit and stay awhile’ is something – among so many things – that I appreciate here deeply.

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Memento Mori ~ New Calton

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I’m one among many ‘regulars’ at New Calton Burial Ground (link) – the steep central footpath of which is frequently my route on foot to St Andrew’s House bus stop, Edinburgh Station and to shopping, Princes Street Gardens and the many other delights of Edinburgh City Centre. And today I want to observe that this cemetery is a place full of life!

The oft-seen tombstone inscription Memento Mori – a call to remember the inevitability of death – succinctly encourages wonderers and wanderers to live life fully and well in the meantime. Locus iste – ‘this place,’ this well-lived life, hic domus Dei est et porta caeli – is surely ‘the home of God and the gate of heaven.’

Here lie the mortal remains of architects, authors, builders, clerics, craftsmen and engineers, medics, masons, statesmen, surgeons, tanners, ‘writers to the signet’ (later evolving into what we know as lawyers), parents, children, ‘high and low;’ and many of the tombs look like little roofless houses with lockable iron gates, originally overseen by watchmen of the tower – to curb the enthusiasms of grave robbers intent on supplying the nearby medical school, ‘without whom’ …

And all who come here are treated to a view of fabulously ever-changing sky, the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of the city’s first gas lamps, the modern Scottish Parliament buildings, and the remains of an extinct volcano that last erupted around 350 million years ago – which is to say, they encounter a living history lesson of huge proportions, supporting the growth of well-kempt lawns and flowers, together with literally thousands of opportunities to delve into history and research, all the while contemplating bustling modern life in Edinburgh today – on the way to buy groceries.

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James Spence, Writer to the Signet, 1818

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Memento Mori and a representation of human skull and bones in (unusual) naive art: ‘The Burrying Place of Jas. Strachan, Tanner’

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The tomb of Alexander Henderson, Merchant – with a now open gate

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The Palace of Holyroodhouse (left), Arthur’s Seat, the Scottish Parliament Buildings, and Salisbury Crags (right)

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And then ‘home by another way’ for me today. Walking past the Scottish Poetry Library there’s another invitation to pause, in pavement chalk:

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Living in tomorrow or perhaps yesterday
Or perhaps not in time, but not today
Here there were only three days in the week
And twenty minutes were a full hour

John Cornford

What is so full of life about this city, ancient and modern, is her perpetual invitation to remember, to dig deeper, to know a bit about the root and origins of many things, to stand on the shoulders of giants, to prick up one’s ears to the sound of distant bagpipes on the wind, and to thrive.

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What’s to be done …?

What’s to be done on a misty, rainy day in Edinburgh?

Have you finished your housework and combed your hair?

Yep!

Then I’d settle for warm and dry if I were you. Letters and some catch-up emails, perhaps. And how about coffee, biscuits and a lovely long read near your window – so you can watch the mist and rain too?

You know, you’re an inspiration. Thank you. Warm. Dry. Watching the haar. Several books on the go on my Kindle. That’s exactly what I’m going to do …

Holyrood Jewel Of A Day

Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend holidaymakers have been basking (and paddling) in sunshine here in Holyrood – a ‘crown jewel’ of an Edinburgh day! This evening I’m watching tv coverage of the Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace – whilst also watching evening sunshine and seagulls on Holyrood’s Salisbury Crags from my window …

Warm and wilder

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Music is SO evocative! A grey start gave way to a fabulous afternoon here in Edinburgh. Ambling in The Meadows, on this sunny afternoon, the phrase ‘warm and wilder’ came to mind as a spaniel, ears flying, cavorted across the sunlit green – and the world around me, and Edinburgh in particular, seemed to be smiling. Love comes in many forms and to many times and places. And as for ‘It’s getting better’ – well, we all have to keep hoping, singing in the sunshine, and doing our bit, wherever we are, for peace and goodwill. Thanks Mama Cass – you’re still speaking / singing to us …

One Year Ago

Sometimes, when reflecting on ‘One Year Ago,’ we can see a gentle pointing, back then, to a way to go. This gifts a degree of confidence that we’ll all be shown what we need to know, when we need to know it.

And if, as the years roll by, we observe that time and place and circumstance are our quiet guides, we might become the more willing learners – confident, steadied and quiet enough, often enough, to hear our teachers’ best love and wise counsel. So the colours in Worlds of Wonder continue to reveal themselves, beckoning us to continue our becoming.

Ordinary?

Packing my bags today for return to the Lakes tomorrow. I’m struck by the thought that it’s usually Edinburgh’s ‘ordinary’ scenes that remain in my mind’s eye while I’m away, if any Edinburgh scene could ever be called such a thing. Summer should be in the air when I return here in June …