August, 1989. My wife and I were the grateful recipients of Scottish largesse and enjoying a robust, five-course meal at Edinburgh’s George Hotel. The meal was spectacular. The entertainment? Lounge cheese. Nevertheless, down went venison, roast vegetables, fresh salads of varying kinds, nips ‘n tatties, roast beef and, of course, haggis. We were by far the youngest at our table, mere months after celebrating our first anniversary on Culloden Moor. It was pure magic.
I suppose this added a bit to our sense of naïveté and childlike wonder. We had just completed our time at Granton Baptist Church, Edinburgh as youth ministry “missionaries” and were spending some ramble time in the Highlands and England. We were, as a result, the wrong people to hear the travesty of screw-the-world chest-puffing comments that followed.
Seated across the table from us were two of the most arrogant ass holes the world ever produced. God was in the toilet when these two popped up whole out of the ground somewhere. The husband made the ass-tute observation, “aaah, ya see one cathedral, ya’ve seen ‘em all.” Delightful. She went on to add, “good Lord, what a California developer could do in the Highlands. Glencoe absolutely needs condos.”
As I suspected, your reaction was the same as mine.
I breathed in deeply trying not to portray my disgust, wondering to myself why it’s necessary for some people to reproduce when this is the best we can get. I consoled myself with the fact that they’d die before their time. Okay, so maybe I only thought it. I repented (kinda) and moved on.
In the lifelong pursuit of all that I’d call ‘home’, deep in the stone guts of a thousand-year-old cathedral or castle somewhere in Britain is as close as it gets. Even as a young boy my predilection toward all things old and musty presented itself regularly. This was constantly disappointed growing up in Canada. As deeply Canadian as I am, it was still never old enough to satisfy my longing for anything older still.
As I write I do so in a corner window overlooking the high street in Ambleside, one of many perfect Lake District towns. It is made to order for writers. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine why that has been the case for so many writers (real ones, that is): Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It has inspired countless others since then, Shelley, Keats, and Robert Burns, to name but a few.
My point is, to find the deepest reserves of one’s creative and spiritual taproot, one must be willing to explore and discern what that actually means. The whole point of the spiritual enterprise is to be ‘home’ everywhere. It is to be completely comfortable in all places at all times under all circumstances. Says St. Paul, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.”
My wife and I have come to Britain for a host of reasons. Hers are similar but different to my own. I am here to reconnect with my spiritual DNA. My helix is uniquely interwoven with that of the ancient, storied hills of Scotland. The latter part of our journey allows me some alone time, with the rental car, in the Highlands and then to Skye. I shall suffer this unbearable burden with God’s abiding strength (stupid emoticon here). I shall also offer more pontifications then.
Until then, I pray you never suffer the indignity of meeting the toilet-water-buffoons with whom we shared a table in Edinburgh.