I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Last week I decided that it was time for a day away from St Andrews and the computer. So I decided rather impromptu to check another item off of my Scotland bucket list: Aviemore and its surrounding Scottish Highlands in Winter. Aviemore is a village nestled in the western Cairngorm Mountains along the corridor that runs from Perth to Inverness. It is in the Cairngorm National Park, but you wouldn’t know it; there are no Park Entrance stations requiring $20 per car to enter. Imagine that.
Like most places in Scotland, it takes some maneuvering to get there without a car. For me it meant a day of leaving home at 5:45am and returning at 11:00pm, with a bus and two train rides each direction. Nothing beats train travel though, especially on sunny days through beautiful landscapes.
There’s nothing particularly special about Aviemore itself, unless you have an insatiable desire to spend countless hours wandering in and out of stores selling ski and snowboard gear to those largely uninitiated to winter sports. But I wanted to see the
mountains Highlands in their white robes of winter snow at least once while here, and Aviemore is the perfect location to do so. The village is surrounded by the Cairngorms and features a ‘ski resort’ of sorts about ten miles out of town.
Unfortunately for me, the mild winter, combined with the fact that it was the end of March (another reason I can’t bring myself to call them ‘mountains’), meant that the majority of the snow had already melted around the town.
Fortunately for me, though, that meant I could hike along the eastern ridge and take in the views. Here is a view of Aviemore from mid-way up the ridge.
And here’s a shot from 3/4 of the way up the ridge. Across the valley you can see the hills that still wear their wintery robe. If you look along that ridge to about an inch from the right side of the picture you will notice a black line that seems to run from the top of the ridge to the bottom. That line is what they call the vernicular, a rail-tramway that replaced the chair life about ten years back. That hillside was my afternoon destination.
(It was super windy! This was the one selfie of many that didn’t have my curly locks completely shrouding my face.)
Not wanting to be blown off the ridge by the wind, I made my way back to Aviemore. Once there I caught the once-per-hour bus to the ski chalet. The bus ride to the top was quite nice. At one point I even thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is slightly like the Beartooths’. Mostly when I saw this scene through the window at the front of the bus.
And this scene was nice too, but just a wee bit too dense to be Beartooth-like. It does a perfect job being Scottish Highland-like though, does it not?
Once at the ski chalet I jumped off the bus, making sure to ask the driver what time the bus collected people for the downward journey. ‘Four hours from now’ was the reply, and not the most welcome one. Besides riding the vernicular to the top and taking in the view, perhaps with a coffee in-hand from the summit coffee shop, there wasn’t much else for a non-skier to do. I figured I was good at sitting and staring at wide open views, and this would be such an occasion for doing just that. Four hours would probably go by too fast once at the top… (said my puny brain).
I purchased my vernicular ticket and rode it to the top. This was the view I encountered.
And, as I was there for the view, the clouds were not a welcome feature—by me, and I doubt if the clouds were welcomed by the skiers and boarders either. For those on skis and boards, at least, the cloud only enveloped the hill at the summit. They were soon out of the cloud on their downward descent. I, on the other hand, had 3.5 more hours of it.
Thankfully, there was coffee at the top. And I had a book. And every now and then, the fierce Scotland wind would push the clouds away for the briefest of interludes, revealing the distant hills of the Cairngorm National Park. The clouds would lift for no more than 20 seconds, at which point I would race outside with my camera. This would happen once every thirty minutes or so… for 3.5 hours.
But, hey, I got some work done (on holiday… how American of me) and saw the view throughout the afternoon.
Here’s the view from the vernicular on the way back down. It had a very- slow-rollercoaster-feel to it. Many of you will quickly notice the serious lack of snow. The skiers and boarders basically had snow paths they had to follow. In March. And that’s when I knew for sure… these were anything but mountains. They are beautiful High-Lands, but they are not mountains. Not my kind of mountains, anyway.
Back at the chalet I discovered a path leading into the wilds of the Cairngorms. Not wanting to miss the bus (the last bus of the day) I hesitated to wander too far, but wished that I had discovered it sooner.
Oh well. Live and learn.
I caught my bus back down the hill to Aviemore, and then my train to Perth, another train to Dundee, and a bus to St Andrews where my rusty-trusty bike was waiting to take me home at 11pm. It was a great day away, and time well-spent checking-off another item on my Scotland Bucket List. See what you’re missing by not visiting?
as I sit here eating my lentil and kale soup (day 3 of 5), I’ve never related more to a comic than I do to this one.
Also—on a very random note—for anyone interested in the relationship between science and scripture, clear an hour of your day and listen to the lecture Professor Wright gave the other week, titled, ‘Can a Scientist Trust the New Testament?’ It’s a unique title because, in our current (especially American) Church culture, the question is usually posed in the opposite: ‘Can a New Testament believer trust a Scientist (science)?’ I assure you you’ll appreciate his insight, not only into the question itself but how the question relates to our larger post-Enlightenment world of ‘progress’. The lecture is found at:
The last three days here in sunny St Andrews have been sheer bliss. My three days off have coincided amazingly well with the sunniest, warmest, driest, and calmest days of the winter thus far. I enjoyed my coffee and meals outside on the patio (wrapped in a blanket!), listening to the birds, soaking up the sun, and generating some much needed vitamin D. After two months of seemingly endless darkness, sideways rain, and annoying wind, these three days were wonderful, and were made all the more wonderful by me not being in the office from 6:30am-7:30pm Monday through Saturday.
Spring has definitely come with this weekend, to which even the flowers in the garden testify. Aren’t these Hellebores lovely?
I didn’t sit in the garden all day, every day, nor did I dig my digits into the dirt, as I had predicted that I might. Instead, I found myself gallivanting throughout the countryside with Judith, running errands and enjoying the East Neuk of Fife. On Friday I accompanied her to Pittenweem, where her son owns what has to be one of the most beautiful properties in the entire region. The building is formerly the Baptist church of the village which has been transformed into a sleek, contemporary house, and it sits on a terrace overlooking the harbour and the sea. Gorgeous. While there I took Holly for a quick walk along the coast and enjoyed the sunny view. Below is the shoreline of Pittenweem.
And here’s a view of the harbour in Ansthruther, the fishing village just north along the coast.
This is also the season of Snow Drops, beautiful and delicate white flowers which appear throughout wooded areas, sometimes so densely that they form a white carpet covering the landscape. The Cambo Estates just outside of St Andrews is known for their Snow Drops and is a place Judith and I have tried to plan a trip to the last two springs. We finally made that happen yesterday.
Here’s a photo of the wooded walk that leads from the estate house down a quarter mile to the sea. Snow Drops are everywhere.
A burn flows along the meandering path, adding to the natural beauty of the estate grounds.
Once at the seaside, Judith, Holly and I had a wee wander along the coast, taking in the view and the sun. I’m so blessed by these two and am so grateful God has given me a home with them while here in Scotland.
It was a lovely weekend and a welcome break. Tomorrow I’ll return to the books, starting my second to last chapter of the dissertation. This means that there will probably be another month or so of silence from Scotland, but for very good reason. That said, though, personal emails and letters are always very welcome!!! With the sun in the sky, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter daily.
I received a card in the mail today. It was from Wilbur.
He cut me a lock of his hair.
The poor chap must really miss me.
In other news, I hit a relatively major milestone with the dissertation last week. Since returning in January I’ve been working intensively on the chapter that forms the heart of my thesis. The long days and weeks paid off on Friday when I submitted the 25,000 word draft of the chapter. It’s only a draft but a draft is a whole lot easier to revise than a blank page. And 25,000 words is over a quarter of the entire project’s length. With only two small chapters and the introduction and conclusion left, there is a
deceptive sense that it’s all downhill from here. I’m on track to have a draft of the entire dissertation done by the end of June, which is fantastic.
There was no rest for the weary on Friday though, as I immediately dove into preparing a paper for yesterday’s New Testament Seminar. My friend Andrew and I were asked to host the seminar on the topic of Paul’s implicit references to the Roman Empire in Philippians. It was a great seminar with good discussion points all around. I’m thankful for any leadership opportunities I get these days, but especially grateful for ones that involve communicating the issues within biblical and theological studies.
I’m also grateful for the chance to breathe! The second half of this week is blissful as I enjoy reading without having to write. On Monday I’ll launch the next chapter—less than half the length of the last one. And this weekend, if the sun decides to shine (unlikely), I may even dig my digits into Judith’s flower beds. The crocuses are coming!
To those of you who sent birthday cards and letters last month, you are my absolute favourite people on the planet. Thank you!
I indicated in the previous post (many moons ago) that I had a phone interview with a school for a New Testament faculty position beginning this fall. The interview went okay. Most of the questions they asked I didn’t expect, and so my questions were far from articulate and poignant. It was a great learning experience nevertheless. And the results? Well, I didn’t get the job… at least not yet.
The chair of the search committee called me the following week and explained that, to their dismay, the school administration had pulled the funding for the position for the coming year. This means that the candidate search is put on hold for one year, including my application. It seems though that I didn’t completely fail my phone interview, because he asked if I would be keen to remain on the list of top candidates. Their hope is to pick up next year where they left off. So, I didn’t get the job, but it seems I’ve been given a second chance and an additional year to improve my interview skills. Here’s to hope and second chances (not to mention completed PhD’s)!
I’m continuing in my role as the Study Skills Tutor here at the University of St Andrews. The professors keep assigning essays and exams, so the students keep coming to me with questions. Works for me!
Isaiah LXX Commences:
A unique feature of this semester is that myself, Professor Wright, and the other eight students he supervises are spending Thursday nights working our way through the Greek version of Isaiah 40-55. We spend the first hour discussing issues of translation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. before discussing what’s actually going on in the text and how it might have been interpreted by Jews at different times in their history. The preparatory work adds to the already insanely full semester, but it is well worth it.
Chapter Writing Carries On:
Speaking of an insanely full semester, it is so because I’m making my best attempt at cranking out the chapters of this dissertation. The goal (hope) is to have a completed first draft of the whole dissertation by the end of June. It means for days that contain little time for anything but focused attention to the dissertation, but it will be worth it come summer. That said, my apologies to all of you who have emailed and haven’t heard from me. You’re not forgotten!!
In the midst of the craziness that is the start of my third year here, one very significant thing remains the same: God’s mercies are new every morning.
Here’s one reminder of that from the tower just a couple of days ago: