place and time

It takes time:  falling in love with a place.

It is not as simple as finding it beautiful or liking the rhythms of it.

And for me, place is important.  In ways that I cannot explain, I become more myself in certain places.  Of course that is about learned association, relationships, memories; but it is also in the stones.

When I was first ordained, I thought that the dream of the church would suffice.  I had a view of priesthood that was no doubt rooted in my (Roman) Catholic childhood:  you go where you’re sent.  You go where you’re needed.  Having chosen the wider geography (Scotland) the details didn’t matter.

But I was wrong.  Dunoon taught me that.  I had interesting, creative, growing congregations but I just could not live there.  And the fact that I knew that many people found it beautiful, that I could objectively say that it was, made no difference.  I was never at home.

So, there has always been the question:  can I fall in love with Dunblane?

It has potential, you see: places to walk that don’t involve mud or ticks or hiking boots; a splendid little cafe where I can sit and write or read; open skies and grassy places; grand old trees and (crucially) the river.

Last year at this time, I was too busy to see past the obvious.  Yes, I would walk to the river — but it was July (and the arrival of godchildren) before I went as far as the play park.  I found a sort of jetty by the river where I could sit and look and pray.  I stood on the bridge plotting sermons.  Key places, but a bit too public.  Falling in love with a place takes time, and quiet, and a space where I can be with reasonable hope that I won’t be interrupted.

Today, all the usual places were full.  A happy sort of fullness:  a bit of splashing, a bit of laughter, some quiet conversations, contented woofs — but it was hot enough that it was all quite subdued.  Still, I needed spaciousness.

A few weeks ago I found the bluebells, up and over the hills, a haze of purple.

So I set out, with the vague memory of a bench that looked down on a dark corridor of the river.  But this is the exploring time:  I’m making a point of going left where I normally go right; down where I usually go up, just to see what I find.  And that meant I found a lower path, right along the river, beneath the blue bells,  shady and cool.

May is the month of blue and white and gold, and the path was perfect:

the hill rose up to the right,  a carpet of blue scattered with dancing bright yellow broom.  White blossomed hawthorns dotted the hillside, fragrant in the sun.  To the left, the river:  cool and dark, then flashing bright; slow curls of peridot and amber stillness.  The path itself bending between shade and sun.

I thought I found a prayer place — a bend in the river, with a suitable stone seat.  I watched the fish for a while, amazed at how fast they fled if my shadow moved.  In the end, I had to leave too soon, chased off by the couple who bizarrely chose the bench closest to me for their … (hmm)… intertwining.

only to settle down again on a less comfortable rock in a less shady spot, hoping to recapture what was beginning before they came.

It’s too soon to say, but Dunblane has potential.

It would be good if I could learn to live here.  Indeed, essential, that I learn to live well here.

It’s harder than you think.

Meanwhile, as I courted the river, Molly befriended a squirrel.  It’s not nearly as much fun as indoor mice, but it does add excitement to sunny quiet day.

6 thoughts on “place and time

  1. This is wonderful – both the description and the photo with the squirrel peeking around. Almost missed it at first glance, but then…

    Glad you have found bluebells and flowing water. It does make a difference.

  2. Agree – wonderful description, not only of place, but of feeling about place.

    It’s the crucial difference between living in a place, and being at home there.

  3. I did not like Dunblane when I first went there – I saw the station from the Tesco side and it lacked charm. Then I lived there and walked and talked. There is a humanity of scale in the city. There is a reserve amongst the people there but they need work. And yes the river – dippers fishing from the rocks in spring, brown trout visible near the bridges. Is it a place to be alone? No – Sherrifmuir is there for that. It is a place for people. And it is people that make a place.

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