One year ago today I moved to Edinburgh. The standard 365 days ago – this year wasn’t a leap year. It was a Saturday and there was no snow. In fact, as I drove into Edinburgh in the gloaming and up parked on the main thoroughfare to unload my full-to-the-brim Mini Clubman, my memory is that it was dry and mild. T. drove across from Ireland with me, keeping me company on the ferry crossing, keeping my spirits afloat. She talked to me positively about the change. Like a neatly built turf stack, she piled reason upon reason as to why the move was right: a beautiful city; a home from home; a space of your own; proximity to family; a life amongst Celtic cousins; culture in abundance; adjacent to the sea and nature; a fresh start; choices; options… It is all of that and more, but she left out that it was scary too.
E. met us by car on the city limits and guided us in. So new was I to it all, I didn’t know the way. And A. was already at the flat with her team of two box carriers; the enthusiasm that goes with a 9 year old and a 12 year old makes up for any lack of brawn. With the moving boxes all decanted to the second floor and piled in the kitchen, we stopped to rest and shared a takeaway curry. I explored the flat that I had seen years ago but barely remembered. This felt exciting: I was supported, buoyed up with positivity, the evenings were stretching, and this was one enormous stretch for me. A huge parcel, wrapped in old-fashioned brown paper packaging – the type the butcher used to wrap your sausages in – was presented to me. Inside was a quilt with two cushions to match: the gift was touching, moving, meaningful and so very timely. I cannot imagine how many hours A. must have worked on the tweed patchwork that will always be a reminder of my past in the present. T., in her artistic cursive handwriting, had transcribed a poem by John O’Donohue that she gave to me. Maybe it is better described as a blessing. Entitled, ‘For A New Beginning’, it sits now on my Edinburgh Press with its perfect words shared at the perfect time. The opening two verses read:
“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.”
In twelve months of living here, this flat has been filled with activity, friends, laughter and quiet. There have been shared breakfasts and dinners and endless cups of tea. There have been helpers to hold ladders, hang curtains, hammer nails, drill, paint and lift carpets. There has been Irish dancing in the front room, noisy games of charades, irreverent reminiscing. There has been a collapsing kitchen ceiling, an epileptic alarm system and an exploding shower. There have been visits to the Usher Hall, sightseeing bus tours, many climbs up Arthur’s Seat in sunshine and high winds. There has been comedy, theatre, dance and music at the Edinburgh Festivals. And as I learn the twists and turns of this city, I too twist and turn, feeling the normal ups and downs of life: elated, daunted, jubilant, overwhelmed.
The germination period is longer for some plants than for others. Parsnips, for instance, take four times longer to germinate than lettuce. So too is it with moving to a new place: Twelve months on and I know I am still germinating. John O’Donohue sums it up perfectly in his last two verses:
“Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”