This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.
Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do. The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.
Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK. The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites. One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site. If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.
But, anyway. We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations. All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape. But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.
Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week. The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.
I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland. Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs. It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.
Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland. That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.
Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.
A portion of that note reads:
In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:
Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home.
I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.
So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.
If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page. They’ve been there since the beginning.
The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed. The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I have thought of those words often, I’d admit. When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.
Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’ And truthfully, my English teacher was right. It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest. Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.
I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left. Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move. It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.