Sunday, October 28, 2012

La belle Edinburgh

Edinburgh, you have treated me quite well. And I thank you.

On this, the last full day of being in this beautiful European/British combo-city, I can't help but feel happy looking back at what the weekend has brought me.

Friends, new experiences, lovely reminders, physical fitness, confidence, among so many other things.

Today I felt myself focusing quite a bit on all of these things, trying to meld past experience with new ones, taking in all that the city had to offer and restoring myself before my long journey back to the beautiful city of London.

It's strange to think that after such a short time, I've found myself so well-acquainted with this place.

Walking to the Scottish National Gallery this afternoon, it became extra clear to me how much of a "my own backyard" sort of town Edinburgh had turned into. My friend Dana, who lives and studies in Edinburgh this term, was unsure of where to go. But by putting our heads together - her knowledge of the city and my fleeting awareness of it from a past visit - we found the place.

And inside was my favorite painting.

A few years back when I went to Edinburgh for the first time, I didn't see a ton of the city. But what I did explore, I saw in depth. My dad and I went to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and a bit of the New Town section of the city. And in the middle of these things stands the Scottish National Gallery.

We walked in and the rooms were gorgeous, but unassuming. Most of the works on the walls were not from the particular movements of visual art that we enjoy, but we appreciated them just the same.

Then I came upon a painting by François Boucher called "A Pastoral Scene (La Jardinière Endormie). It's a Rococo painting by the artist, depicting a woman sleeping in a forest-esque setting with a cat in her lap and a man beckoning to her with flowers and a longingly watchful eye.

There was something about looking at this painting again today that just made the world collapse in on itself around me.

The first time I saw it, I'd never come close to being in love. I'd never even been incredibly romantically inclined, unless you count celebrity crushes. But in such a short amount of time, I feel I've seen and felt so much. Enough to make it so this particular venture into the world of the painting was like an adventure back into the last few years of my life, as well as perhaps a clairvoyant insight into the future ones.

I don't know if that makes any sense. But after hours of looking at the tableau, I was convinced of the clarity that was held before me. Maybe it was a culmination of the experiences of the day (or the weekend). In such a short amount of time, I've become a much more well-rounded person, friend, traveler, acquaintance, etc.

I've tried so hard to experience new things and yet to hold onto the past in a way that doesn't hinder me, but teaches me the value of things old and new.

When I came to Edinburgh, I was here just to get a little taste of a foreign culture. Being in London no longer feels foreign to me. I know where to get my groceries and my toiletries. I know the best ways to get around the city and I can walk back to my accommodation from quite a few different key locations around the place.

But now I realize that no city needs feel foreign to me.

Even with just a little memory like the feeling of a painting I admired so much a few years ago, I feel like this city belongs to me in some way. It fits into the grand scheme of my life more than so many other places and experiences have. I wish I could feel this strongly for every place I've ever visited.

But in the interim, I just rejoice at being able to hang out in Edinburgh and discover the city on my own terms, in a way that feels glorious and beautiful, if familiar.

So I sojourn back to the city that holds my heart, my studies and most of my belongings while in the UK, not simply with nostalgia for a time visiting Edinburgh. Nor just with excitement at returning to a place I know so well. But with a bit of a combination of the two.

I'm just happy to have had all these experiences. Each and every one of them.

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