round 2: the electric boogaloo

Hello friends in high, low, and medium places. It’s me.

Again.

I’m officially back in Colorado for Round 2 of my service year as a Team Leader with Americorps NCCC. This time around, however, I won’t be deploying to a project in the field but rather be sticking around campus to work as a Support Team Leader! I’ve been given a host of new tasks and will be working as a middle point of contact for teams in the field.

It’s a change of pace for me, but one that I am really excited to take on. Between mountaineering and archaeology, the gaps in my CV are in the office/admin department so I’m glad to be able to fill them with relevant experience. (It’s also nice to know that when the teams do deploy from campus in the next week that I’ll have my own bathroom!) Each of the five units currently working out of the Southwest campus has an office STL, so I will be working alongside them in our shared office. It reminds me a bit of the dig offices at Bamburgh with an array of sentimental and strange mementos, so at least something is familiar!

This also brings me to my second exciting point. I’ve been selected as mentee for Round 8 of Author Mentor Match! AMM is an international writing mentorship program that pairs aspiring authors with seasoned, industry professionals to help revise and ready the manuscript for submission to literary agents. It’s a first step in the many directional puzzle that is publication. Acceptance is selective and contingent on the submission of a polished manuscript, a query, and summary. This year, there were over 1700 applicants with around 20 spaces in the Adult Category. My mentor selected my 95,000-word Adult Fantasy, GALLOWGLASS, out of the pile and I’ve been screaming about it for a week now. Right now I am reading the first of my assigned “homework,” a book on story development as it relates to cognitive development and the desire to escape through thoughtful stories!

I don’t really talk publicly about my writing, but it is something that I’m actually, quite proud of. (And, I guess that pride is where the privacy stems from.) I’ve always wanted to be a writer and see my work on bookshelves, but, I guess, more important than just paying the bills, I want to tell stories that make a difference in someone’s life. Make them question that world around them. Make them realise something new about themselves.

Then, above that, I want to tell stories that bring people joy.

But, I have a lot of people to thank for even being in the position to apply to the program. My parents for supplying me with stories to read. My friends for helping me make my own. My English Teacher aunt who made sure I had all my semicolons and clauses in a row. And also my teachers. I was incredibly lucky to have numerous champions throughout my education who saw a spark in me and made sure that I never let it go out.

I will be, forever, incredibly grateful that I had a desk in your classrooms.

Books, words, worlds apart from the one in front of me have been my haven since I was a child. In the years’ I was too shy to connect with my peers or the days I felt the slums of anxiety around me, stories (and history!) were my tether, my line back to shore. When things sucked, stories made it so they didn’t suck entirely.

Writing GALLOWGLASS was that for me and I hope to one day share the joy I found from it with others. It’s a story that I started, deleted, and started again seven times over the course of five years. I started the first draft my third year of University, but couldn’t find the right path. Then in March of 2020, amidst everything, I started a new document and set to work. It’s a story shrouded in magic but also became a deeply personal exploration into fear and sadness and longing. When I had to defer my return to the city where I buried my heart, GALLOWGLASS was there to transport me back to my beloved cobbled streets and misty skyline. When I set out last September to lend my hands to those who needed them, GALLOWGLASS was there show me the strength I could pool from those around me.

They say write what you know and with GALLOWGLASS magic became metaphor and metaphor became a story about a girl lost without her art, a boy lost to the idea of himself, and some magic stained glass.

That being said, I am excited to revise and edit and rip it apart at the seams if necessary. Writing is rewriting is rewriting. It’s a book out my heart and when it finally hits the shelves you best be sure it’ll be the best version.

Stay tuned boyos.

bye felicia.

Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you

New Years Day, Taylor Swift

Hey it’s 2021.

Like many people, my plans for 2020 got upended, twisted, broken, bent. I was supposed to be back in Edinburgh. I should have been halfway through my MSc in Architectural Conservation. In another life, I might have been writing this while drinking coffee in Roseneath’s yellow kitchen after spending Hogmanay with my dearest friends.

Instead, I had to defer my masters. Stay on this side of the ocean. Add another year to the time I haven’t sat across the table from my dearest friends or walked the cobbled streets of the city where I buried my heart. I had to find another path, another way. Take Anne Shirley’s classic bend in the road. But, like I wrote in July:

Not being able to get back to Edinburgh this September is not a setback.  It is just a slight bend in the road.  We’ve all been there and all we can do is continue to move forward.

So, instead I set out to do something on this side of the ocean. I learned how to work with glass and created dozens of stained glass things… windows, flowers, boxes, sun catchers… I also set time aside to write. For the first time in ten years, I finished a manuscript.

I shaped a magical world filled with glittering stained glass and magic mirrors. I saw a young women deep in her fears and anxiety and wrote her journey as she found herself back. The end product was a 100,000-word thing filled with memories and magic. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll get to hold a copy of it yourself.

Then, I joined AmeriCorps as a Team Leader and spent two months working with the Missouri State Parks Department building fire line and restoring native glade environments. I took out my frustrations by kicking down trees and throwing logs in the Ozarks eight hours a day, five days a week. But, as I hung lights and drank my coffee on the porch swing of our little cottage in the Ozark, I knew I was helping our Earth heal. Then through 1 prescribed burn certification, 2 months sleeping on a cot, 8.2 miles of fire line, 10 humans to feed and coordinate, 31 acres burned, and 700 acres of forests, mountains, and glades enclosed I started to mend myself.

hey, this little place is probably going to inspire a book one day. isn’t it?

me post project completion. bruh, she’s ready for a nap.

I saw what lifting up and reaching back really meant. I realized this was how I could make a difference. Here. Now. In the future, when I look myself in a mirror I could say that I was there. Despite everything I was doing something. Using my skills and helping where I could. Being a part of something greater than myself.

It’s together that we are going to get through this.

It’s together that we can create the world of the future.

The kinder world, the smarter world, the beautiful world.

I realized that maybe things suck. But, not entirely.

Historical precedent would tell us that after the plagues of the 14th century, we had an extreme period of creativity, worldly exploration, rebirth. The Renaissance. Humanity’s fear and loss and frustration overflowed into exploration and celebration and memory.

We aren’t there yet, but I can imagine it.

I imagine the day that I can go to my favorite coffee shop again. I’d sit in window. Taking in the golden afternoon sun with a warm mug in both my hands. Or, when I get to browse in a bookshop again. All the stories of hope and love pouring out from worn, wooden shelves. Who knows, I might even find my own words singing out. Or, when I can finally hug my dearest friends after three years. Sing loudly in the car. Kick stones down cobbled streets. I imagine the day when I can finally plant my own roots and move from boxes scattered around my parents’ house, a locker in Colorado, or an attic in Edinburgh to a quiet place with a green velvet sofa with brass fittings. Ivy growing up trellises. Rolling moorlands and roaring seas out the backdoor.

We aren’t there year, but I can imagine it.

So, I guess on this New Years Day I’m holding onto my memories. And, I guess my memories are holding onto me too.

Anyway, bye 2020. Please shut the door on your way out.

belated thanksgiving on a snow day in the ozarks

hello pals!

It’s me, here again to give you another insight into the life of a liminal-space-living-service-minded-individual-in-the-middle-of-a-global-pandemic. As I joked with a few archaeology pals from Bamburgh, the service coverage is a tad better than Northumbria but definitely worse than wading along the Danube in Romania.

The team is heading into the final week before the Southwest Region departs for Winter Break. It’s a lazy Sunday here. Snow is collecting on the cars and I’ve been reading and drinking copious amounts of coffee. You know the like. Tomorrow, we are back out in the mountains building fireline.

Since October, my team has constructed near on 8.2 miles of protective fire line and enclosed over 700 acres of land for the Missouri State Parks Department at the new, underdevelopment Bryant Creek and Ozark Mountain State Parks. The two parks were acquired in 2016 as part of an environmental land settlement due to corporate pollution into public lands and waters. We also worked to clean native plant seeds for a prairie revitalization project happening in the north-central part of the state. Additionally, the entire team was certified with Level 1 Fire Management through the Missouri State Parks with the Missouri Department of Conservation and just this past week assisted with a prescribed burn of 31 acres at Roaring River State Park. Between carrying 45 lbs of water and using the drip torch to set fires… it was a pretty exciting day. Busy stuff, but I am doing what I can to develop future leaders and help America build back better from a safe distance.

At both locations, we are housed out of two vacant houses located within park boundaries and a good drive from the nearest town of any size. I hung up fairy lights over my Government issued cot and between a plastic folding table, metal chair, and a stack of Young Adult fantasy novels, I’ve set up a cozy little space to drink my morning coffee before setting out to throw logs and jog through the forest and mountains eight hours a day, five days a week.

Things have been going. Some days things move quicker. Other days, the weed eaters run out of cord and the chainsaws are blunt. But, that’s the gig ain’t?

Since you’ve last ~officially~ heard from me, the team celebrated Thanksgiving in our ‘lil house in the Ozarks and being the sentimental piece of shite that I am, I got to thinking. Philosophizing. Using my pretentious Edinburgh degree. You know the like.

Out of the last six Thanksgivings, I spent only one in Kansas with my parents, sister, and grandmother. The other five, I was… somewhere, elsewhere, everywhere, and nowhere. Sometimes, I seemed to be in the place I needed to be, but not maybe the place I wanted to be. Or, if I am in the place I wanted to be, I might not be in the place I needed to be.

Each year, somewhere in the world, someone left an empty chair setting for me. This year I received well wishes from Americans, gal pals in England, some rowdy Scots, my dear Norwegians, a lone Lithuanian in the Emirates, and a beetle-chasing boy in Taiwan. 

Over the past six years, Thanksgiving (and I guess the Holiday Time in general) has become a time to understand the sometimes long but all too often fleeting impact I leave. You might never know what you leave with a person, but legacy, impact, whatever word you want to use is all about planting trees you will never see but trusting that they might actually grow. I’ve never been one to plant small trees and I tend to hold a little too tightly onto hope.  

That is what the gig is about, isn’t it?

A home isn’t always a place. Sometimes it’s a group of friends or a state of mind created with something as simple as fairy lights strung over a Government issued cot deep in the Ozarks.

I do feel sad knowing chairs were left empty for me, but I rejoice in knowing that in some way a single, obnoxious American was able to leave enough of an impact on a bunch of rowdy foreign nationals for them to leave that chair.

So, maybe this time of year has become liminal for me. It didn’t matter if I was in a flat in Edinburgh, a bothy near Skye, a farmhouse in Kansas, or a cabin in the Missouri Ozarks so long as I could still look around the table and understand the significance of those gathered. Nationalities represented. States accounted for. For beliefs, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, and gender.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Putting faces to the unknown. Understanding what we don’t. Lifting up and reaching back. Creating spaces to foster new thinking. Helping to move the world forward, together.

I mean, I did decide to do a year of national service and mentor a group of young people during a global pandemic… what did you expect? 

Like I wrote in 2018 when Roseneath hosted a group of 40 odd humans with me acting as the sole American representative: 

As I looked around at my friends, I said that I was thankful for the hope that I saw around our living room in Edinburgh. I was thankful for the hope I saw for the future. I was thankful for the hope vested in my friends from all over the world. I was thankful we were all able to sit down together for a meal. Looking to each one of them, I know that together my friends and I will overcome the bigotry, hatred, and fear seemingly everywhere these days. Even when things seem the darkest, I hold onto that hope I saw in my friends’ faces.

So. Here’s to the place I find myself next week, month, year and the people sat at that table. I’m sure we’ll find something to chat about. 

Right boyos, the team’s just called out me outside and I need to go win a snowball fight. Catch ya l8tr. XD

tomorrow is now.

*views expressed in this post are solely my own*

In the final year of her life, Eleanor Roosevelt declared, “It is today that we must create the world of the future. Tomorrow is now.”

Yesterday, at 10.25 am, I wept in a gas station parking lot in the Missouri Ozarks. Tears of joy and release and hope for what felt like the first time in four years.

74 million Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. More than any Presidential election in history. Beyond politics, beyond legislature this was a referendum on the America we want to be. Not only the America we see within our borders but also the America we project to the world.

So together, the world watched. From India to Ireland. From Edinburgh to Lawrence. The world held its breath. And finally, with a collective sigh of release, the world wept with joy.

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, I shed a very different type of tears. I remember it vividly from my flat in Edinburgh, Scotland. At just nineteen, the world seemed open, expansive, broad… until it wasn’t. I screamed. I sobbed. I felt lost, alone, abandoned, and set adrift from my country an ocean away.

I wept into my friends’ arms. I still remember how tightly I hugged Ellie as I cried or held Tuva’s hand as I watched Hillary Rodham Clinton tell the world with impeccable composure and grace to, “Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

Four years ago, I had to believe Hillary’s ideas could not die with the 2016 election. If they did, then what did that mean for me? A young, ambitious, American woman seeking the best future for herself. What did that mean for my kid sister? Too young to vote to protect her future. What did that mean for our lands and waters and forests and canyons? What did that mean for the American experiment and the dignity and integrity of those hallowed words sent to page: “We the people.”

I could not allow myself to believe that it was over. If I did, what was the use in still fighting for what was right? What was the point?

I had to stay loud. I had to continue to speak, even if my voice shook. Even if I was terrified. I had to believe in something better. I had to still fight to ensure that “We the people” meant all the people.

The dignity of the individual is too great a cost to lose.

So, I marched. I wrote my representatives, I phonebanked, I donated, I signed petitions. I got into what John Lewis would call “good trouble.” Throughout it all, I never forgot the fear and abandonment of November 2016. Those feelings of helplessness terrified me and I vowed to never see more young Americans go through it.

For four years, I did what I could, wherever I was in the world, to ensure my international friends could see that a light of hope still burned in America. I became the America they needed to see. The tolerant America. The loving America. The America I knew and still believed in.

But, it’s always darkest before the dawn, isn’t it? Before the charge of the light brigade, before the bursting of the dam, before Gandalf arrives on the morning of the third day with the Rohirrim to turn the tide at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Anyway…

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, my kid sister couldn’t vote. Yesterday, I got to see the smile on her face as she knew that she contributed to protecting our American democracy.

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, Kamala Harris was elected as a Senator from California. She was the first female Black senator since 1999. Yesterday, she accepted her role as Vice President-elect. The first woman. The first Black woman. The first South-Asian woman. The first child of an immigrant in a country built by immigrants.

Tomorrow is now.

Dressed in Suffragette white, the Vice President-elect stood on the shoulders of the women who had come before her. On the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, women across the country saw yet another glass ceiling shatter into thousands of shimmering, glimmering pieces.

Then, after her, Joe Biden spoke in full, articulate sentences about the need to heal. To protect one another. To value our differences because they make us strong. To respect human dignity. Like a calming wave, I watched as the camera panned over the crowd. Settling on children, adults, and the elderly. Each spark of life, each voice, that stood up to protect our American democracy.

In 2016, I wrote here on the blog:

We have to remember Hillary’s ideas didn’t die with this election.

We have to get up and keep fighting for change. We might have been defeated here but we only fail if we give up. Defeat is what happens when you stop trying. Failure is just a growing pain of progress.

I am beyond saddened by the result, but I know that we need to keep moving forward. We can allow this to knock us down, but we cannot allow this outcome to keep us from getting back up. We cannot dwell in our sadness and regret. We have to channel those emotions into creating the America I know we can be. We have to keep fighting for tolerance and equality.

If I learned anything from my pretentious university degree it was this: History is alive. History sways and adapts and changes, but like a river it is always moving. It builds on itself, reacting to events days, months, sometimes even years before. But, everything is connected. We are here today because of the responsibility and grace and drive for change of those before us. And lest we forget, our own actions will reverb through the generations long after we are gone.

So, with integrity, imagination, courage, and a high heart…

Tomorrow is now.

We are the government. The basic power still lies in the hands of the citizens. But we must use it. That means that in every small unit of government, each individual citizen must feel his responsibility to do the best with his citizenship that he possibly can achieve.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1962)

round 1 project: fireline and forest management

Hey friends! It’s me your community service minded friend here again to let you know the haps and situs I am currently experiencing.

It’s been a while and there’s a lot of ground to cover (hahaha that’s a joke you’ll get a bit).

As you know, I’m currently working as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC. My team of ten departed from the AmeriCorps Campus a little over a week ago in our black Goverment 15-person van in convoy with our Government issued cargo truck. We drove across Colorado, through Kansas (with an overnight stop in Junction City), before cutting down south to the Ozarks for our Round 1 project. Round 1 covers 6 weeks and we’ve just finished our first full week.

So. What have I been up to? My team is working with the Missouri State Parks department to construct 8.2 miles of protective fireline across two new state parks in the southern Ozarks we are also going to focus on removing invasive cedar trees to clear the land for native plant species. We are going to be receiving Fire Management Level 1 training through the Missouri Conservation Department! Both parks are newly acquired and are vast expanses of predominantly untouched Ozark forest and glades.

Prescribed burns have been used in the area to help protect the natural environment and also prevent wildfires. By scheduling controlled burns, park management can ensure that there isn’t a build of of burnable fuels (leaves, branches, fallen trees, etc) on the forest floors. It also helps to remove invasive species and germinate native plant seeds.

After equipment training and lectures about the science behind prescribed fires, my team set off into the forest. Using backpack leaf blowers, weed eaters, hand saws, and chainsaws we’ve been clearing away previously burnt areas as well as venturing into untouched woodland to connect new lines. This week we constructed roughly 2.2 miles of fireline within the first of the three burn areas.

Firelines are constructed around burn areas to contain flames and also serve as channels for fireteams. To construct one you need to clear a six to eight foot path through the forest, removing all burnable debris until the dry, mineral soil is exposed. Without fuel to burn, the fire will stop at the line. However, this also means that you need to be aware of hanging branches or hazard trees that could collapse or throw embers. That’s were knocking down dead trees or the use of a chain saw comes in.

I spent most of the week with a backpack blower wandering through the forest laying the foundational line or removing debris to widen the line. I also kicked down plenty of dead trees and threw them down a ravine. You know, #justgirliethings.

We’ve been living close to the parks themselves near beautiful areas of untouched nature. Beautiful night skies and quiet, dark forests. It’s been a well received welcome back to the field for me. I’m always happiest outside and surrounded by dirt it seems. Service is limited however, hence the lack of uploaded photos. Soz, babes.

But, it’s all for the greater good.

By helping now to repair and manage these two new parks, my AmeriCorps team will ensure people in the future will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Ozarks. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s about what we can do to help and right now America’s natural environment needs my hands to build it back better.

TLT/CTI & general haps

oh woah.

I’m sorry, my dudes. I have been very negligent about informing you about my existence. Don’t fret. I’m alive. I’m stressed. I’m thriving.

Team Leader Training finished about a week ago with a flourish of Critical Incident training and certifications to drive big, black government vans. I’ve still yet to give my 15 passenger van a name but am actively seeking submissions.

Last weekend the Team Leaders left for Rocky Mountain National Park. We were COVID tested and have been quarantining as a pod for the past two weeks. I got to spend the Saturday in the mountains. There’s just something about throwing my trekking poles into mud and the crisp morning mountain air. We left our lodging around 5.30 am and did a comfy, socially distanced 12 miler up to Timber Lake and back.

It was so nice to be among the rocks and twigs and ~mountains~ again. It reminded me of my friends back in Scotland. But, as much as it made me happy, it also made me a little sad. Due to COVID, I have to face the reality that I won’t see my closest friends for near on two years. Hiking and being outside was what we did. My memories of soggy tents, early morning coffees in the mist, and cloud inversions from summits are some of my most prized possessions.

But, seeing the night stars brought me hope that I will see them again. We will all be together under the clear Highland sky again. It’s just a matter of patience, responsibility, and time.

We returned to campus and prepped for the arrival of the Corps Members for CTI (Corps Training Institute). On Wednesday, I met my team and we started inprocessing and training. I was put in charge of boot fitting. Between my experiences in the field and working in the outdoor industry, I think boot fitting went smoothly. No reported blisters yet.

Training has consisted of a mix of online and in person. Lots of policy and procedures. I’ll be able to talk about projects hopefully in the next week, so stayed tuned.

I’ve received letters from my grandmother and my copy of VE Schwab’s new fantasy novel I ordered from my local bookstore back in Lawrence, the Raven. I also spoke on the phone with my friends. Time zones though make it hard. I spoke with Ben and Alven yesterday. Ben is still in Scotland, Alven is in Taiwan, and I was sitting in my lil dorm room in Colorado. It’s a big world, but being able to speak to my friends makes it a little smaller and that much brighter.

Regardless, I am excited for the year ahead.

The weather is chilling down here in Colorado. I made a coffee this morning and took a short walk outside, the chill in the air reminded me of Scotland. Those little things continually give me hope for the future ahead. For the positive impacts I will leave in communities across my own country and for the visions of a kind, responsible America that I hope my international friends see in me. All I’ve ever wanted to do was leave the spaces around me better. If we all do that, we can make this world a better, safer, and kinder place.

Stay tuned boyos.

AmeriArrival 2020

Hey all! Welcome back to the blog.

Things have shifted speed. I’m not in Scotland but ~Ad Caledonia~ is more of a mist soaked, coffee stained state of mind anyway (insert peace sign emoji here)

I’ve officially arrived in Colorado for three weeks of Team Leader specific training before an additional two weeks of training when Corps Members arrive. I’ll be deploying for my first (of three) project around the end of October.

For those who haven’t been around for a hot second, I’ll rehash the current life situ. After taking a gap year, I was due to begin the Architectural Conservation MSc back at Edinburgh this September. March happened. Global shutdown. Visa closures. I called the University and got my offer deferred until next year. You get the picture.

But, my life motto is just to keep moving. Snap your fingers and move in a new direction. It’ll be fine.

As Olaf said in Frozen 2, “This is called controlling what you can when things feel out of control.”

From March until now, I entered an extreme creative phase at home and made 16 stained glass windows and wrote a 102,000 word fantasy novel about an anxious stained glass maker in a pseudo-Gaelic city inspired by Edinburgh (more on that later… I’m entering it into Pitch Wars tho!) I was basically sheltering in place because I live with my parents and my grandmother. I read dozens of books, watched the news, and listened to a lot of NPR.

I wanted to do something to help. I needed to do something to help.

Which is why I’m currently serving as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC. Loosely based on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930/1940s, I’m currently in training to lead a team of excited young people on various community service projects. I could be trail building, helping with educational programs, fire fighting, or even doing some remote contact tracing. All good stuff that allows me to use my skills to help people. Which is all I’ve ever wanted to do. We have to do what we can and if everyone does something then we all end up in a better place.

Yesterday, I was issued my snazzy green uniform and equipment. Then, I got a swab stuck up my nose for #democracy (jk it was a COVID test). We’re quarantined on campus for 14 days. Today, was the first full day of training and soon I’ll have a first aid course and learn how to drive a fifteen person van. All good skills that will serve me well when I’m back in Edinburgh.

(Maybe next year I’ll be able to drive the Yummick Minibuses and go see all the archaeological sites my lame friends didn’t want to see. lol)

a bend in the road

Hello to friends on both sides of the Atlantic and to a special few afloat in the Pacific!

Here’s a small update about my life in the United States.  It’s been one year since I walked across the stage in McEwan Hall and got wacked on the head by the hat made from John-Knox’s-but-also-not-John-Knox’s-pants-which-did/didn’t-get-sent-into-space (it’s a long story).  I was awarded a Masters of Arts with Honours in History and Archaeology, First Class from the University of Edinburgh…  and a lot has happened since.

In August, I started a masters program and was working part time at a local bike shop.  I enjoyed my time, but ultimately decided what I wanted was in Scotland.  So, I applied back at Edinburgh with the intention of starting the Architectural Conservation MSc this September.

In January and February, I had my first ever break from studying!  I went to San Diego to see one of my dearest friends. I had tickets to four different concerts and was preparing to go back to Scotland in April for a short holiday.

Then in March, the United States was hit by the Global Coronavirus Pandemic.  At the time of writing this, over 130,000 Americans have died.  That’s 15,000 more dead Americans than the United States’ short involvement in the First World War.

Since I live with grandmother, my family has working from home and social distancing since 14 March.  I cancelled my plans to return to Scotland in April to meet with the University and a few individuals to discuss potential research projects.  My twenty-third birthday was celebrated in sunny quarantine and I’ve been drinking a lot of iced coffee on my porch.

During this time, I’ve watched doctors and nurses cry out for more supplies as mass graves are dug in New York. I’ve watched more Black Americans lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement.  I’ve watched protests erupted across my country live on the television.  I’ve watched statues glorifying Confederate slave holders get torn down by the descendants of the people they kidnapped and enslaved.

Which brings me now to, as my dear Anne Shirley would say, my own ‘bend in the road.’  Due to visa complications and travel restrictions I have had to defer my studies back at Edinburgh until next year.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit idle.

Instead, I’ve written to my local paper (here and here).  I am volunteering for a candidate running for Federal office and have been using my time to phonebank.  Soon I’ll be helping with remote voter registration for young people.

*GO NOW TO MAKE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE!! https://www.vote.org/*

Then starting this September, I’ve been selected to serve as Team Leader with AmeriCorps NCCC for the Southwest Region.  AmeriCorps NCCC is a national civil service program supported through the Federal Government.  It’s loosely inspired by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and is the domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps.

I’ll attend a month-long leadership training school in Colorado.  Then, I’ll get my team and work on projects focusing on energy conservation, environmental stewardship, infrastructure improvements, disaster relief, and urban and rural development.  There’s a even a chance that I will be trained as wildlife firefighter!

As I said to my dear friends when I had to break the news of my delayed return to Edinburgh: ‘When shit hits the fan, it’s good people doing good things that make it better.’

If I am in place to do something good, to do something to help, I will do it.  Especially now, when I see so many people in my country hurting.  As we near the Fourth of July, I am reminded of what Thomas Paine wrote in the American Crisis (1776):

‘These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.’ 

Or to echo the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You are going to live in a dangerous world for quite a while I guess, but it’s going to be an interesting and adventurous one.”

“The individual is the spur to public action. We are the government. The basic power still lies in the hands of the citizens. But we must use it. That means that in every small unit of government, each individual citizen must feel his individual responsibility to do the best with his citizenship that he possibly can achieve.”

Not being able to get back to Edinburgh this September is not a setback.  It is just a slight bend in the road.  We’ve all been there and all we can do is continue to move forward.  So, here I am! I am ready to transform Eleanor’s words to action with imagination, integrity, courage, and a high heart.  ~Just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.~

This blog is going to change speed starting in September.  I hope you all stick around to read what I’m doing to make my country better.

 

2020 epilogue

Hello all.

I’ve been a little absent lately.  It’s been busy since I moved back to America in August.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue writing this blog after leaving Scotland in August partially because, well, the blog was about my life in Scotland and, well, I wasn’t in Scotland anymore.

But, I thought I do have a few announcements and whatnots and I did want to do a ‘2019 In Review.’  I concluded my semester at KU in the Museum Studies Masters Program.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time at KU, however, due to changes with UK Immigration and Student Visas, as well as, my own research and job interests I applied to and was accepted into the Architectural Conservation MSc back in Edinburgh.  My dissertation on the Botanic Cottage and a few papers this semester on Architectural Conservation made me realise how much I really loved the subject and wanted to pursue it directly.

And, just the thought of moving back to Scotland with real possibilities of sticking around has filled me with so much hope for the future.  Words cannot express how happy I am to be returning to that life and to the people who made it so extraordinary.  In the meantime, I will be using the first half of this year to decompress and not have academic commitments for the first time in eight years.

But, with that out of the way. Here’s my ~Year in Review~.

January 

I rung in 2019 in Edinburgh.  My parents sent Crosby back with me and we celebrated Hogmanay by watching the fireworks over the Castle from the Bruntsfield Links. The EUMC went to the Cairngorms.  There was a Burns Night Ceilidh.

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✨ hap newt year ✨

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February 

I worked on my dissertation.  My parents called to let me know that Mulan, our 12-year Newfoundland, passed away and I ran off to Shetland with Ben and Alven.

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🌊🌊🌊

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March 

I finished my last semester in my undergraduate degree and submitted my dissertation.  Then I went to the Bothy to celebrate under the pretty stars.  After four years, I finally made it to Camban.

April 

Mom and Dad called to let me know that my cat Rory passed away due to a heart defect. I flew back to America the next day and met up with my family for vacation.  I celebrated my 22nd Birthday back in Edinburgh.

May 

Caitlin, Ellie, Sophie, and I drove from Edinburgh to London and then took the train to Paris for a week.  I saw the prettiest stained glass in my entire life.  The last week of May, I left Edinburgh with the EUMC for the annual road trip to wherever the weather is nicest.

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yesterday’s sleep spot.

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northy north

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June 

Continued traveling about.  Made it to Applecross for the EUMC Dinner Meet.  Said goodbye to a lot of friends for a while.  Went to Lewis and Harris with Alven and Ellie B.  Returned to Edinburgh to pack for excavation season at Bamburgh as the Assistant Finds Supervisor.

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oh deer

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~ritual purposes~

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view of the office.

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July 

Family arrived in Scotland for my graduation.  Graduated from the University of Edinburgh in History and Archaeology with First Class Distinction.  Said goodbye to Gregor, Tuva, and Erling and Roseneath as we knew it.  Returned to Bamburgh to finish excavation season.

August

Returned to Edinburgh.  Waited in a thunderstorm for four hours to get front row spots at the Florence + the Machine Concert in Princes Street Gardens with Ellie B.  The fireworks from the Military Tattoo held at the castle went off during the encore set.  It was magical.  Movers arrived at Roseneath and boxed my room up to be shipped to America.  I left Scotland on 10 August.

September  

Started a new job and spent time with my new puppies.  Read a few books and cleaned out my closet.  Seven kittens randomly appeared on my porch.

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they’re so stupid i love them.

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October

Snuck one of the kittens from outside inside.  I named him Henry.  Worked my job and worked on my novel.  Read some papers and some books.  Shipment of stuff from Edinburgh finally arrived and there was only one casualty.  RIP ‘The Celtic World’ by Miranda Green.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4x7SLLHGJG/

November 

Tuva visited Lawrence!! I took her to a KU basketball game and to the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve.  I was really happy to see because I miss her lots.  I also didn’t post on Instagram for a month???

December 

Finished up semester at KU.  Time at home, worked, and went to visit family.  Spent Christmas at home.  Went to Hays for New Years Eve. Taking time to relax and decompress before returning to Scotland.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6e2mXUpV8x/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6gN-a6p_hc/

And that’s the year.

I could say there’s ‘lots of stuff ahead for me in 2020 !!!!!’ But, in the meantime I’m going to sleep, work, read, write, go to yoga, cycle, and climb.  You’ll hear from me when you do.

❤ kenn

ad caledonia

 

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/44hWudHzcHxsCrnFxUdk5h?si=X3f2CrQoQC6xsV2EKMkXag

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Today I am headed to Scotland to begin University.  The trip has already started off a bit rough with out flight from Kansas City to Newark delayed for nearly two hours!  We already will have to rebook in Newark because our flight to Edinburgh leaves before we will arrive.  Fucking.  International.  Travel.

Just a bit about myself.  My name is Kennedy Younger Dold.  I am eighteen years old.  I was born in Lawrence, Kansas, USA.  Currently I am traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland to start my first year at the University of Edinburgh for History and Archaeology.

I really want to become a medieval archaeologist working mainly in Scotland and England.  I have a special interest in late Rome/Early Middle Ages, also the High Middle Ages (Hundred Years War).  Ideally, I will be working on digs during the summer and have either a professorship or a fellowship at a University.  I know that I will need to have a phD in my field if I ever want to be competitive – and for the type of person that I am, being competitive in my field is a must.

I am not traveling halfway across the world to be mediocre.

Of course, I have been forced to make sacrifices to achieve this.  I am leaving behind a lot of amazing friends.  This summer was honestly so fun and I really got close to a lot of people that I hope to remain in touch with.  Of course, I will hope to make new friends in Scotland… assuming of course that I make the flight in Newark.  We land at 8 and our flight leaves two terminals over at 8.10.  It is nice though to finally be heading to Scotland.

I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time.  I’ve learned as much as I could in Lawrence, and it was time to move on.  You can’t spend your whole in one place and you can’t spend your life in regret.  I’ve learned this all too well.  That is what I hope for Edinburgh – to live there for next plus years without regret.  I know this is probably too much to ask, but fingers crossed.

The movers arrived at Roseneath Friday, 2 August to pack up my life in Edinburgh and move it to Lawrence.  Four years of my life packed and boxed in less than an hour.  It’s taken me nearly a month to write this post.  But, as I have my Masters orientation tomorrow, I figured I’d finally attempt to finish it.

During the packing process, I found an old journal I bought before leaving Lawrence back in 2015.  It fell forgotten between my bed and my bookshelves for the past three years, so I never filled it out except for the first few pages which I transcribed above, faithful to the original.  If I’m going to be honest, ‘eighteen-year-old Kenn’ seems absolutely terrifying.  I can only hope that I’ve chilled out.

But, I’m glad to see that after four years I didn’t fully ‘travel halfway across the world to be mediocre.‘ I did graduate with a First after all and have a Masters program to do.  But, sadly(?), happily(?) I’m still on that ‘unending quest often satisfied but never for long‘ my high school English teacher wished upon me.  It was a quest tucked inside an old copy of Selected Poems by H.D. that I have kept with me these past four years and probably will for the rest of my life.

Once again, in spite of my desire to fulfill that quest – to do what I need to find my place, my home, my heart… I find myself in the same position as I did four years ago, leaving those closest to me and a part of myself an ocean away.

I said goodbye to Caitlin and Ellie and Sophie and Tay at the beginning of the month.  All four of them are off to do great things and I can’t wait to see what they all do next.  On August 8th, Ellie and I went to the Florence + the Machine concert in Princes Street Gardens and managed to elbow our way to the front row.  I stood outside in a thunderstorm for an hour and half to get those spots but considering how much her music means to me … worth. it.

I spent August 9th, my last day in Edinburgh, tidying my room and getting coffee at Black Medicine.  I knitted a scarf.  Then I walked along the Crags to look out across my city one last time.  I owe so much to this city.

I said goodbye to Gregor that night and that was very hard.  Gregor was among the first friends I made at university and I am so grateful he was there to help out a wayward Kansan learn how to climb mountains.  I’ve never had the experience of having an older sibling, but having Gregor is my life is perhaps the closest I’ll get to having an older brother.  He’s supportive but also calls me out on my bullshit.

Regularly.

That sentiment can also be said for my Norwegians, Tuva and Erling.  (I would gust more about you guys but you got a whole three paragraphs last post!)  We became a family in those three years in Roseneath.

Alven went to the airport with me on the morning of August 10th to help me manage the absolute unit of baggage I checked to help me survive the month before the rest of my belongings are shipped.  I said goodbye to him at the security gate to which he replied, ‘I won’t miss you.’

Lies.  Blatant lies.

Over the past four years, I’ve changed my hair colour, swapped my glasses, gotten four tattoos, and cut my fringe back four times before I instructed Erling to hold an intervention if I ever attempted a fifth time.  I’m not going to attempt to discuss everything that happened these four years because you if you want to read that then just read my blog ???

Either way – I do believe I have come closer to finding the person I want to be, the person I need to be.  And, I owe it to Scotland.

I lost her a few times, but she always crept back up on me … eventually.

I have tried to put into words just what Scotland means to me and every time I fall short.  (Which is why this post is so late.)  Sometimes, I think I finally understand.  But, just like the mists wrapping its way through the twisty-wisty stress of Edinburgh, the feeling is there and then it is gone again.  The closest I think I ever came was the jumbled mess of stream of conscious prose I wrote in my private diary last September prior to the beginning of my final year:

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 – 1.30 am

I suppose now is as good of time to start writing in this book.  I received it for Christmas nearly 2 years ago but found it to beautiful for just any mundane story.  So it sat on the bookshelf – until now, I guess.  Because if not now, when?

Just to state for the historical record, my name is Kennedy Younger Dold.  I born April 28 1997 in Lawrence, Kansas, USA.  I attended school in Lawrence until I graduated from Lawrence High in 2015.  That following September I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to attend the University of Edinburgh.  I study History and Archaeology.  This is the beginning of my final year.

I suppose what led me to begin writing at this time was the realisation I had returning to Edinburgh this weekend.

I set out to study the past – history.  To make connections to places and people.  I was never a lonely child but I often found myself amongst the company of books or those much older than myself.  I often understood but found communicating difficult.  I have always been much more at home by myself – until I realised the connections I had so deeply desired had finally manifested themselves in the way of incredible friends and companions, many of whom I dread to see the day we part ways.

I guess then, what the sudden urge to write this morning means then is that I’ve found it.

My peers no longer stare at me as if I’m some sort of Professor’s Frankenstein.  The desire to connect through history was only a mask used to hide my true fears of loneliness…

It’s not that I no longer wish to be an archaeologist – it is more that I am no longer seeking something which I do not possess.  The past has bewitched me – make no mistake – but…

Now, when I see castles and ruins I see both those from the past and my smiling companions in the present.  I see people who genuinely care and understand me.

And, maybe that’s what I’ve always wanted to find?  But only through returning to the past did I discover what laid ahead?

I owe everything to Scotland (~ad caledonia~).  To the degree I earned.  To the books I read.  To the person I became.  To the friends I made along the way.

I am heartbroken, but they are the reason I can return to America.  They are the reason I am beyond excited for my Masters and the future opportunities ahead.  At the moment I have 1) a pretty cool part-time job, 2) two new St Bernard puppies, and 3) an upcoming hog roast where my parents plan to dig a hole and set fire to a whole fucking pig in the front yard, you know, like they do in Hawaii.  In the future?  I want be a part of something bigger than myself, give back, help others, and tell stories.

If you haven’t learned this by now, I’m a bit of a sentimental shite.  I keep every letter ever written to me including one my dad wrote to me when I went to summer camp when I was 11.  It was a pretty basic letter but did include the line, ‘come home with great stories!’    

So, my lovely, lovely, dearest, darling, sweet princess angel, Edinburgh, here’s to you.

To the cobbled closes of Edinburgh and laying in the sunny Meadows.  To the green mists of Glen Coe, the saw-toothed ridges of Liathach, and the pink hued sunset beaches on Skye.  To getting drinking whisky and singing off-key in Kintail.  To ceilidh dancing under the stars or watching the crashing waves in Shetland.  To an underground Parisian jazz bar, cinnamon rolls in Oslo, or meeting Bacchus incarnate in Berlin. To a Neolithic settlement along the Danube, an ancient Roman trade city south of Pompeii, a medieval kirkyard, a towering Northumbrian castle, and a 18th century gardener’s cottage.  And finally, to the towering red sandstone tenement of Roseneath I was so unbelievably lucky to be able to call home.

Thank you for my four years in Faerieland.  Thank you for the lessons and the stories.  Thank you for my international family.  Thank you for me.

With tolerance and love,

Kennedy.