by Jeff Oaks

It’s been a long week. Here are some of the highlights:

Trips to the National Museum of Scotland, to the Museum of Edinburgh, a climb up Arthur’s Seat and a visit to Holyrood Palace. We’ve learned to hop busses, developed a set of landmarks, grown more comfortable in the city. It does take time to make mistakes, try new things, not take one’s self so seriously. I’m finding myself chatting with one of the cashiers at the university cafeteria now. She’s a generous woman, quick to laugh, to put a stranger at ease. 

We’ve had so much to do beside teaching that I’ve let the blog go for a bit. I’ve been learning to use Notability for making comments, working with students on their pieces for our blog at Pittinedinburgh.wordpress.com. After teaching, after the visits to museums and hikes around town, I’ve gone home exhausted. Sometimes after dinner, I have enough strength or willpower to make comments on student work. 

This weekend, we spent in Skye, at a beautiful hostel where we were the sole inhabitants. We saw some castles on Friday on our way to the hostel, toured the island of Skye, with its fairy pools and fairy glens and a variety of sights, most of which we couldn’t see because of clouds. This morning we went out with a fisherman for scallops, tasting fresh ones from the loch, then ones sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Then we headed to Loch Ness for a boat ride on that monstrously dark body of water, then a quick trip to Culloden and the Clava Cairns to appease some of the kids who are addicted to the show Outlander and hoped to touch a standing stone on the Summer Solstice and disappear into the past. Almost every place we’ve gone has had an entrance to the fairy world somewhere nearby. The students and we professors have all looked longingly into the cracks in stones, listened hard for the sound of fairy musics. 

I write this one road home, tired and happy and full of admiration for Scotland, largely because of our guide Nory, who has been driving us around and telling us wonderful stories about Scotland’s history. Cuihlain and (Ska ha? ) , the Old Man of Storr, billy McKrinnon(?), and the whole saga of the Scots from Robert da Bruce to Culloden. He tells the stories with passion and humor, and it’s been really lovely to be a listener. I’d like to really read the Celtic myths, which I haven’t really read since I was a child. Ossian, Seamus McCrae, fairies, kelpies, and the underground kingdoms. I’d forgotten the richness of the stories, how they knit the place together. In the end, although we’ve done some wonderful things, it’s been the stories that have been the country we traveled through. 

Everyone’s ready to get back to their comforts in Edinburgh, but we’ve also been changed by the stories and the histories, the ruins, the beautiful lochs, fishermen, musicians, shaggy cows, sunstars, fairy streams and black lakes. Each monster makes us more interesting. What mountains and forests will we carry back to our comfortable beds, our familiar haunts? Every education requires some space to dream in. We want to dream now. 

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