Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stone, Sea, Sky (and a lot of memories)

My grandfather's grandfather was born in 1830 in Kennthmont, Aberdeenshire, and my grandfather and grandmother returned to Aberdeen for seven years when I was little. When I was seven we lived with them for a year in Old Aberdeen, where the streets were cobblestone, and St Machar's cathedral was only a few houses away.

The feel of ancient stone surrounding, the weight of history, is something I'll never forget, although at the time I claimed Aberdeen was too grey, too cold and too full of daffodils. It takes a child of the antipodes awhile to become accustomed to the light (or lack thereof) of Scotland.

My grandfather was a professor of church history, as well as a minister, so on the weekends when we ventured out on our expeditions to cathedrals and churches he always made it feel so immediate and so alive. I vividly remember him taking my brother and I on the train down from Aberdeen to St Andrews to see the cathedral and castle.

As we explore the hewn stones I see my seven year old self running along side my children, hear my grandfather's gentle voice explaining, the landscape, the history. I remembered where the tunnel under the castle is, where the bottle dungeon is. Thirty years on, my weight thrown by baby and camera I am not so keen to venture into the mine and countermine beneath the castle wall, but I love the kids excitement

Later, my brother went to St Andrews for a year exchange and I see us talking, catching up  as we walk along, just on the cusp of our twenties and so excited and joy filled to be there. My brother started a group called 'the once a week' group and they went swimming every single week of the year. Just looking at the frigid sea makes me smile, remembering him as he was then, and as he is now, the content family man.

Scents, textures, slants of light, softness of light and depth of colour. Richness of sea smoothed rock, of thick moss, of stone that has protected people from elements for centuries. Silvered sea, muted golden sea. We are here for so short a time I want to remember it all… 

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