Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walking in Edinburgh...

This will probably be a fairly scattered collection of thoughts; a kind of mental potpourri, so to speak, so there won't be much structure...

The last time I was here, I was seventeen years old and not nearly as streetwise or as confident as I am now.  I wasn't quite a nervous wreck, but I did tend to stay close to my mother, and I spent most of our day in Edinburgh trying to assure her that, contrary to all expectation, we actually would be OK and we wouldn't be completely lost in a strange city without finding anyone else from our group ever again, or having a way to get back to where we were staying in Glasgow.  With that kind of memory to deal with, I'm not surprised that my experience with Edinburgh so far has been much more positive this time around.

I did a lot of walking yesterday.  So much, in fact, that when I traced the route I'd taken on Google Earth when I got back to the hotel, it told me that I'd very nearly walked ten kilometres.  I'd had a definite destination in mind, but my walk took me to some unexpected places (including Calton Hill, which I'd intended to see anyway), and I started thinking about how much had changed in my life since I'd last seen a number of the places that I saw yesterday.

When I was seventeen, I hadn't yet come to terms with the idea that one could be both Pagan and Christian; I was still very much an either/or type of person, and I'd chosen Paganism, even looking down on what I thought of as my Christian past, even as it still existed in my present.  I had self-defence skills, thanks to my years of judo class, but not the observation skills that are so valuable when you're in a big place with a lot of other people.

I was silly enough to forget my umbrella yesterday.  Naturally, the rain was absolutely pouring down.  A total stranger offered to lend me her umbrella for a few minutes; I declined, because there was no point in pretending that I wasn't already completely soaked, but I appreciated the gesture anyway.  We had a nice little chat, though, before we each went our separate ways.

This is my fourth trip to the UK, and my third trip here to sing Evensong, though it's my first with my church choir (the other two were with my community choir, which is directed by the same person as my church choir), and the first time we've sung in Scotland.  I know that it might seem that I should feel more casual about it; after all, I've done similar things before.  I've even been here, in Edinburgh, before, though it was only for a few hours and I didn't get to see much more of it than a tiny bit of Princes Street and the Royal Mile.  But every day I've been here so far has been full of new experiences and things to wonder at; in such a short time, I've come to know at least this small-ish section of the city very well, and I love it.  It's such a different type of big city than what we have at home; I have yet to see a single skyscraper, and there are trees everywhere.  I can't ignore the existence of poverty and inequality here, of course; as much as I've loved being here in Edinburgh, I have not deceived myself into thinking that this is some magical faerie city where nothing ever goes wrong and where nothing bad ever happens to anybody.  (I'm pretty sure that even a real magical faerie city probably wouldn't be like that, anyway.)  Even I'm not that na├»ve.  But I am very glad to be here, and the past few days have been wonderful.  I fully expect that when we return home after our time in Dublin next week, we'll be jet-lagged but mentally and spiritually refreshed, and we'll be better musicians for having spent so much time singing in unfamiliar spaces.

You know, I absolutely love Evensong.  There's very little preaching and a lot of singing.  But Evensong last night was particularly wonderful; there's a lot of room for enthusiastic and powerful singing in the Sumsion Mag and Nunc* in A, and our choirmaster was evidently having a lot of fun with it, signalling a lot of crescendos (crescendi?) and sudden bursts of high volume by mouthing "Come on!" at us. :D  I'm not sure about some of the other singers, but the Gloria from that particular Mag and Nunc (Sumsion used the same one for both, but many Mags and Nuncs have two different settings for the Gloria) was so much fun to sing that I almost felt like dancing for joy...which would not have been appropriate behaviour for a singer in an Anglican choir, alas.

And that's where my thoughts have been leading me today.  It's only a little after 10:00 AM over here, though, so there's plenty of time for more unusual lines of thought. :)

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*Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.  In brief, the "Magnificat" is that "My soul doth magnify the Lord" bit that Mary is supposed to have said after Gabriel told her that she was going to have God's baby, and the "Nunc Dimittis" is a prayer that starts with "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word."  They're both followed by the Gloria: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost..." etc.

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