The Right Place
I can't believe I'm writing this but I suspect I may be allergic to Irn Bru. If you don't know what Irn Bru is, it's a bright orange magical pick-me-up in soda form. It's particularly Scottish and represents childhood parties, recovering from hangovers, and fish and chips suppers.
Anywhere you might have a coke, replace that coke with Irn Bru and it's miles better.
In fact, whenever I hear of a person who drinks too much coke, I shake my head sympathetically and think, “That poor soul has undoubtedly never tasted Irn Bru.”
But it seems I must admire it from a distance.
The seasons are changing here in Scotland and I feel it. In a couple of days time, I'm leaving and heading back to the Valley where Mark and the boys, Arthur and the chickens await.
I am ready to go. I have truly loved my time here in Scotland, but I ache for the space that is mine.
I worked with a guy many many moons ago on some commercial. I can't remember what it was we were advertising, but I remember we spent an inordinate amount of time sipping tea and Irn Bru in the green room waiting for the client to approve the lights/set/director.
Anyway, he was an older actor who was playing an even older man, and hence had the look of some kind of ancient wizard. He hailed from Aberdeen on the North East of Scotland and was very effusive about what a magical place it was. He claimed the dawn light on the grey granite buildings gave the city the air of being built in solid silver.
“But doesn't it get awful cold there? I'd asked.
“Aye,” he’d replied, “But not such a cold that a warm fireside can't lift.”
“And isn’t it windy?” I’d said
“Oh, from time to time,” he’d replied, “But then again, there's nothing like a brisk walk along the Queens Links to blow the cobwebs from a cluttered mind.”
I’d sipped my Irn Bru and considered.
“I do think it's beautiful, but I don't think I could live there.” I’d said.
“And that is the point,” he’d exclaimed, “We are each of us tasked with finding the place we are happy- the place we were destined to be. I am lucky and from a very early age, knew that place to be Aberdeen. But not every traveler has such luck. Many folk will travel years and still not find the place they belong.”
I was pondering this wisdom and was about to reply, when a head popped around the door and we were called to set to advertise whatever it was - electric blankets or potato chips, or radiators.
And the moment had gone.
But his theory stayed with me: Maybe the journey of life is about finding happiness and searching for the place you belong.
Over this past couple of months I have discovered my belonging is not to a geographical place, it is with people. I love Scotland. I always will. I have slipped back into life here like into a favorite pair of slippers.
But my true happiness has been in taking up conversations with people that an ocean, and sometimes decades, have kept apart, with an ease that feels like family. Each of us living different lives, but with similar hopes and often similar challenges, always under the same sky.
If I met with the guy from the advert all those years ago, who I'm guessing is no longer here ( unless he truly is a wizard) I know what I'd ask: “Is it possible that after traveling, you could find happiness in just being? “
I suspect he'd sip his tea, shrug and then reply that the answer to my question would lie solely within myself. Then maybe he'd ask why I wasn't drinking Irn Bru and I'd tell him it didn't agree with me. Then before he added any mystical context to that, I'd bore him with details of my gluten intolerance and my violent reaction to sorghum. Because some things just are.
Love has no distance. Life has no spreadsheet Irn Bru really is better than coke but that doesn't mean you can have it forever. Magic is everywhere. Even in Aberdeen. But belonging comes from the heart, not from Geography.
And so I return to the Valley, to my loud chickens, to a wee dog who believes I've vanished, to my giant growing sons and to a human who is always where I belong.
Till next week
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