“To be a historian is to be questioning, to have a vivid imagination and an insatiable curiosity.” – Anna Whitelock
I realize this might seem like I am trying to define who I have always been using the benefit of hindsight – you know, the way every autobiography ever written makes some kind of broad statement about how so-and-so has always been a natural leader or something of the sort? However, I believe my parents would back me up in this statement: ever since I was a very small child, I have delighted in learning about the past. I went through many phases: Egyptian Pharaohs, Celtic Druids, English Monarchy, Irish Revolutions, etc… but the bedrock of my interest was always the same – I wanted to learn everything I could about how people lived before I existed. How did they go about their days? What could have occupied their minds as much as their very existence occupied mine? Did they think about the future? Or struggle to make it to another sunrise? The study of recorded and analysed history could only take me so far – my imagination always carried me further.
“But Three Pines itself was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled around and sometimes bumped into it, but never strayed long and never left much of an impression.” – Louise Penny, The Cruellest Month
One of the most incredible things about travelling, in my humble opinion, is arriving in a place that seems completed unhurried and unconcerned b the passage of time. You do not even have to go far to discover such a place – even in a country like Canada where 1000 year old ruins may not exist around every corner. Simply walk into the center of your nearest forest, or down to the banks of a local river outside the city center and take a careful look around.
Chances are that while much has changed in the intervening centuries between when Europeans first inserted themselves on this already lived-in landscape, you are looking up at the same, or at the very least a similar, sight as the First Nations people once did before their world was turned upside-down. Many lives have come and gone but the land was here before and will be here long after mankind meets its fate, whenever that may be.
“The light was a comfort; pitiful as was the sight it revealed, at least it banished the lurking shadows that threatened at any moment to turn into new danger.”
– Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber
When I sit down to write my (albeit infrequent) blog posts, I always start by going through my book of Beautiful Words, in which I have written out quotations from the books I read. Wrenched from their original context, the phrases that make up this notebook are in no way coherent as a whole, but I am usually able to find inspiration in the jumble of wonderful wordsmithing I have collected over the years.
This post’s inspiration comes from the incredibly talented Diana Gabaldon. Though these words as seen in the second book of the Outlander series described the omnipresent danger encountered by her heroine in a much younger and rougher Scotland than the one Kristen and I visited, they struck me as oddly appropriate for how I felt on our first and only night in the bustling city of 21st century Glasgow.
“It was drizzling slightly, and all the joyous spring flowers were lying down, like young soldiers slaughtered on a battlefield.” – Louise Penny, The Cruelest Month
I have always been fascinated by graveyards. Perhaps I have mentioned this before?
A firm believer in the innate goodness of humanity, I have nonetheless often found myself both intrigued and repulsed by the same species’ capacity for extreme violence. Especially today, in the midst of the 24-hour-non-stop news cycle, it can sometimes seem that for every kind act being committed on this earth at any given time, there are simultaneously 2 or 3 acts of cruelty.
“There will be no lovely luxurious time while the fizzing drink cures the head and the coffee sends out soothing noises and smells from the percolator.” – Maeve Binchy, Whitehorn Woods
I am now about halfway through the telling of this particular adventure and I thought I would take this post to pause for a moment – a luxury one does not often have on a backpacking trip, no matter how conscious one attempts to be to the need to rest and recover.
“The tale is the map that is the territory. You must remember this.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods
I’m not sure why I continue to work slowly at this telling of my trip to the UK with my sister so many years ago now. Perhaps it is because a few of my acquaintances like to read it, perhaps it is simply to keep the writing muscles limber as I work on my first novel. Whatever it is, I hope this tale is at the very least entertaining…and at the most an inspiration from which to map out your own adventures.
“It’s possible that a hidden symmetry is often at work as we stumble our way through life.” – Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom
There are so many things about life that never cease to amaze. It feels like only yesterday I was last here, stumbling my way through a maze of past feelings and thoughts to try and convey them intelligibly to those who choose to read my words. And yet, here we are more than a year later and I am finally returning to the written word. What a year it has been.
“Time devours everything, but each mortal believes that his own memory can enshrine immortality.”
– Angela Thirkell
There’s always a certain apprehension when returning to somewhere you previously loved. Sure, the first time you visited, it was beautiful and magical and you promised out loud to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of your companions “I’ll be back” in your worst-possible Schwarzenegger voice.
But then the years pass, life goes on, and that city, town, village or dilapidated old ruin gains this sort of unreal aura. It’s forever perfect. It stands in your mind as the most ideal locale on the planet.
And then, miraculously, you have a chance to go back. Your heart starts to pound at the thought, you feel dizzy. You will be going back to a place that truly makes you feel at peace. How brilliant is that?
But what if that fabulous little pub you and your friends found is now a blaring nightclub? What if that darling little hole-in-the-wall book store has gone the way of so many others and finally shut its doors? What if the ruin you so loved has finally lost its centuries-old battle with gravity?