University of Wisconsin–Madison

Wee Scotland

One night in Edinburgh this weekend, a drunk but wise Scottish man in an old Scottish pub told us we were young, we should decide what we want and just do it. No hesitation, no fear. I want to continue to see things that make me smile, and startle me, and show me there is so much more than the small clearing and water pump in the forest preserve by my house growing up, where we used to give my dog water and learn to love the forest, although the farther I go from there and the more I see, the greater the space in my heart it takes up.

This is going to be a little poetic and sensitive and mushy, but I feel like my heart has infinite space for all that has and will be. Eating in the Chinese restaurant for the high school Chinese club field trip holds a place. Waking up with the sunrise camping in the Tetons and hearing the mountain bird song. Walking around an empty ancient college in the middle of Tennessee rolling hills and seeing light stream through the stained glass in the empty cathedral there. Running more and more here and realizing I’m not completely hopeless on the fitness front. Eating ice cream on the pier of lake Mendota. Seeing one of my best friends out of the blue on the street.

I can feel my heart growing at home, in England, and on my first trip out of London, Scotland and its people and its Highlands took up another space in a big way.

Out of life and its circumstances, sprung a wee little Scotland trip, with a deep highland trip hopefully later to come.

Highlands

My last day, my favorite day. I start with the trip to the Highlands because seeing vast beauty is a feeling unlike anything else. No monument or building will ever compare. I grew up deeply loving the prairie land of Illinois, so maybe I’m easily impressed, but I loved this day with everything I have.

The first stop was at an ancient castle where the staircases were worn down stone spirals. The sun was shining, mist was rolling off the morning dew of the countryside surrounding, and a winding stream led to mountains in the distance. Hannah and I mildly trespassed onto the roof but there we stood, on top of a castle built in the 1200s, looking at all that around us, feeling true warmth of sun for one of the first times since the fall. It sounds unbelievable. It felt unbelievable.

Driving through the Highlands we heard about the history of the clans, and the battles, and the royal past and tension with England. Men riding horseback through the mountains instead of driving. Every loch (lake) held by mountains surrounding was deep and vast and shining. I didn’t expect the grandness of it all. I spent the day starry eyed and smiling, thinking of all the people back home who would love it.

Further up into the mountains, fog rolled in, misting through the mountains on the winding roads. We stopped at a small loch, and as the fog rolled away, ruins of another ancient castle appeared in the middle of the loch. Moss covered the rocks and trees and pebbles on the shore. The castle stood strong and ancient in the distance. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Magical is such a corny word but it was unreal magic. I wish everybody I loved could see this place, and feel what I felt. What’s exciting is there are so many things in the huge world just like that. So much to see, so much to fill my heart with.

More driving, more mountains, more sheep, more winding roads. Tiny villages on the water. More history. In choir, we sang the song Loch Lomond every year. It was always my favorite. It’s about lost love and Scotland, and was an anthem. We drove past it, and the guy played a folk band version of it, and I was laughing really hard but sent videos to my choir friends and the reaction was priceless. If only Mrs. Tobison could have been there.

We drove back in the dark in pure bliss. A greater Highland trip is still in the cards, because I have to go back, see more, share it with Stevie who wanted it the most in the first place, and deserves it more than anyone. Sing the soprano II/tenor harmonies on Loch Lomond. I loved it dearly, as you can probably tell by my really frilly adjectives like “magical” and talking about that heartwarming/misty eyed feeling I get when I’m really really happy, but the rest of what I saw of Scotland was special as well.

Glasgow

I will say that Glasgow has a very, very small space in my heart. It is very industrial and as Jack said, it’s “actively not trying” to be anything touristy. It’s a bit gritty, but that is how the Glasgow people like it. There were however some bright spots, and it gave a huge contrast to the end of my trip. Glasgow was also a strong introduction into how incredibly friendly the Scots are. I had some really incredible food and drink, and found an ancient, huge cathedral at the top of one hill. Glasgow was a hysterical day of trying to figure out what that strange city was. (We didn’t realize until we got there that we walked 3 miles and 1.5 hours to get to a restaurant for dinner. We didn’t end up eating there.)

Edinburgh

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Edinburgh. Old, beautiful city filled with tourists but for good reason. The winding streets led up to the castle on top of the hill, and the sea and mountains in the distance floored us. To go from Glasgow to Edinburgh amplified Edinburgh’s old worldliness that much more. We had early mornings so we could do activities and that was almost my favorite time there. The streets were empty, the tourist shops weren’t open yet, and the light sunrise fog on the cobblestone and old buildings was like a different world, a different time. We had some really, really good pub food and drink and every person we encountered treated us with the greatest kindness and left me with the greatest lasting impression. While I made a list of the things I ate and saw for both places, my last day in the Highlands was all I could think about on the bus, plane, train, and finally tube ride home.

Scotland was my first trip out of London, and London is my first time living outside of the Midwest. When I think about the places yet to see and the opportunity I have, an assuring comfort washes over me that helps the stresses, the anxiousness. I’m currently trying to plan as much as I can, find a summer internship, figure out what I want with my life, still be a good student, and breathe and enjoy. When I think about the joy here and especially back home too, I’m just so happy. My heart is growing and so full.