After a long wet summer, dull autumn and weeks of grey winter I have been in desperate need of a few rays of sun. Normal people head south in search of winter sun, to the ski slopes or the Canary Islands. Instead, just as London recovered from a covering of snow, I headed north to the Granite City. After a 7-hour train journey I was met by freezing air, six inches of snow and the broad smile of my younger sister.
Reunited with one of my siblings, I basked in four days of conversation, laughter, fresh air and music. I delighted in childlike wonder and was heartened by little moments of simple wisdom. Here are just a few.
The wonder never grows old
During my journey north I felt like a child… excited to be going on holiday. Once past Newcastle the train started to shadow the coastline and my heart leapt as I spotted first the sea and then the misty ruins of Holy Island. Lighthouses, craggy inlets, estuaries and expansive bridges followed in the fading day light.
On our walk along the Ythan Estuary, my sister and I could have been kids again, chuckling at the jaunty dives of the eider ducks and the bobbing heads of the oyster catchers. As we came over the brow of a wetland dune, we glanced upon a bob of seals, most lazing around on the shore, some frolicking in the water. Following the estuary to the sea, we jumped in puddles in the dunes and admired the pebble carpets deposited by long forgotten pools. And once on the beach, we watched the raw grey swell crash on the rocky outreach of the shoreline. The wind from the east was bracing but hardly dampened our childlike enthusiasm.
Even in winter, a walk through Kingshill Wood was like an adventure in the enchanted forest of our childhood story books. We hunted out burrows and homes of imaginary woodland elves and sprites and tracked deer footprints. We even looked out for snow animals snoozing on the boughs of the trees. High above us we found a powdery white whale, a hippopotamus… and even a duckbill platypus with its young.
The comfort of little wisdoms
Geography, work, study calendars, racing schedules… conspire against regular sisterly visits but in the past two years we have been seeing more of each other. Grief and joy have thrown us together and with it, a longing to catch up more often. We have been good friends for many years but during my short stay in Aberdeen I realised once again that a nomad’s home is not a city, region or country. It is a shared frame of reference. It is not having to explain the subtext. It is being able to intersperse phrases with words from our second language because they are just more apposite, as only my fellow nomad knows. It is like being in the right gear… It is ‘being home’.
As the sun set early in Aberdeen, we settled into the long evenings with cups of tea and our fiddles. My sister, with her advanced skills, and me, a novice, plucked and bowed our way through Scottish folk tunes. Standing at the music stand with her, I was reminded what a gift a good teacher is. With one part knowledge, one part patience and two parts infectious encouragement my younger sister taught me more in four days than I had learnt in two terms. Slipping into our shared language and hybrid frame of reference, she took my disjointed scavenged knowledge of music theory and like an alchemist fused it into a logical useful whole!
And whilst marvelling at the bare trees in Kingshill Wood, I mulled over the course of my and my sister’s life. As the trees creaked in the impending darkness, I was more aware than ever that there is no need to lament the letting go of expired projects, let alone to apologise for shaking off the old. There will always be changing priorities, new pursuits, interests rekindled… Just like the trees in winter, we shed leaves that have had their day to emerge again, full of life and colour!
Four days later, I returned to London: refreshed by childlike wonder, nurtured by my kin, inspired by an amazing teacher, content with my life choices and… refuelled by the gentle winter sun that put in a most welcome appearance!