I am back from Scotland and the Writing Retreat. I go into my closet to get something and I look up. In the upper shelf lined in rows are shoeboxes and other boxes of similar size. These contain my neatly boxed memories with the years written on some and not on others.
It has been said repeatedly that once you go to Scotland you feel you were there once and you belong there. For me it was more the unboxing of memories that took place while I was there. I looked at a flower, a teapot or something else mundane and useful and it invoked a memory far back into my childhood. Some were fleeting some I could grasp and savor for the moment, not many that I could write as my hands were full of the memories of now and the load of grief that went with it.
As I walked the woodlands again and again I felt a kinship to the ground that I have never felt anywhere else, not even in Lahore on my grandfathers lands. There I always felt like a visitor or a “ city slicker”.
Here the sage and the heather draw me into Emily Bronte’s descriptions of the moors. The soft wind sighing the leaves, speaking to me of the anguish of Heathcliff.
The melancholy notes of the pipes at the highland games evoking memories of my father leaving for England and I crying to be on the plane with him. The magical belief that my father could do anything, simply just take my hand and take me to England with him. I was three.
The girls I met in Scotland from German background opened up my bank of memories of the long summer hours I spent in my father’s living room that doubled as a library. His revolving bookshelf made of dark wood with chiseled carved posts, full of books from England and post war Germany. Books which were medical and non-medical, about Germans, Jews, romances and then Emile Zola, which I found difficult to follow or understand in my naiveté.
Many years later I went back on his death and squatting in front of his twin book cupboards, I drew out and unrolled the large poster in the bottom shelf. It was an award given to him by the Royal Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Edinburgh, a University that I have never laid eyes on connecting me to my father.
This part of Scotland is at the edge of the landmass, it then fragments and blends into the sea. To get to it, it took 27 hours of flying and waiting, the same as when I flew to Bangkok.
Looking back has mixed results, Prophet Muhammad pbuh said to look back to learn a lesson and then to move forward. To dive into the “what ifs” can be an unending quagmire because one is helpless to change the past.
Thus here I am looking ahead to Scotland and its deep spiritual beauty and yet it takes my finger and points it to my inner most memories.
I look up at the boxed memories and wonder if I need to untie the ribbons and flip the covers one by one, releasing them…..