Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

10 July 2011

The twisted path of post 5

The prompt for this post called for using video, sound, images, and text to represent Edinburgh. And the multimedia was intended to come from the first three weeks of the class. Well, that didn’t happen. Not that I don’t have multimedia from that time frame, but I didn’t really have a good way to ‘represent Edinburgh.’

My tripping point was most likely more complex that I needed to be, but it stuck in my head, so I had to sojourn on until I got enough of it worked out to create a coherent blog post, as requested. Edinburgh was, for me, a schizophrenic experience. There is the castle, which was never taken by brute force. There is the Royal Mile with more American’s than some towns I have lived in. There are the tacky shops catering to said American’s. There are ancient and magnificent buildings. And let’s not forget the bridge. A bridge so over-engineered I would not be surprised if it out lives humanity.

But none of that is Edinburgh. Sure, it is part of Edinburgh, or part of the experience of going through a location on a map commonly referred to as Edinburgh, but none of it is the place. And in a strange twist, while I was wandering around western Scotland looking for prehistoric stone circles and formations, the proprietor of my hotel summed it all up talking about “cup and ring” marks. I failed to record his exact words, but he explained that he liked to sit next to these stone carvings—some of which are 6000 or more years old—and wonder why that mark in that exact spot was important enough for someone to chisel into the stone. What was its importance to the person that made it? Why was that mark the one they made?

Now this sounds like answering a question with more questions—and it is—but the new questions get at my tripping point, which is the key to me representing Edinburgh. We visited Edinburgh on Armed Forces day. I was in the US Army. Any celebration for service members is an emotional event for me. So, instead of the castle and the buildings and the hordes of American’s, Edinburgh is now connected with service members. The Scottish National War Memorial and the Scottish veterans are now what Edinburgh is to me. Which actually has nothing to do with the exact location or the buildings at all. In fact, it could be an open field and it would still have the same feeling to me, because the stories and the lives connected with those stories is what is important. That is what makes a place a place worth leaving your mark on.

Yes, there are other reasons and other views of Edinburgh. And yes, my view is tempered by many thoughts and concerns rarely shared. But that is the point. A building isn’t really worth anything until a group of people decide it is worth them living in or building or taking care of. A spot of land is only as important as people make it.

So back to that prehistoric person, sitting on the ground, carving an arc into a stone or struggling to align another stone into a circle. That spot was important enough to alter, to change, to spend the time and resources—which were most likely not plentiful—to leave a mark. I bet it had very little to do with confusing other humans thousands of years later (a pleasant side effect) but instead had everything to do with that person having a story, a memory, an experience at that spot that made it a real ‘place.’ A place worth marking.


Patti said...

Sounds like you had fun in Edinburgh. The conversation with the hotel dude sounds especially interesting--it's easy to forget why we monumentalize the things we do, sometimes.

Zachery said...

I almost called him a 'pub philosopher' at one point, but that ended up on the cutting room floor. Not sure I recall why, but there was a reason at the time.