Journeying To The End Of The Earth
A little less than two weeks ago, our little family (Nancy, Bruce, and daughter Kimy) embarked on an overseas voyage to a storied and faraway place for Kimy to start college.
After way too many hours, we found ourselves dirty and jet lagged in front of Edinburgh Airport, awaiting a shuttle from the University of St. Andrews to pick us up.
We proceeded through countless traffic circles, across a soaring bridge, and down a succession of smaller and smaller roads, zooming by hedgerows aflutter with birds and fields with scattered rolls of hay, already the fall harvest in a place of short seasons, only eleven degrees of latitude South of the Arctic Circle.
We pulled up at a rental duplex, piled our considerable baggage into it, and set out to find dinner.
On the way, Bruce was delighted to see the name of the street across from our accommodation.
A succession of backyard pathways led us to a creek crossing a-quack with ducks and up a steep hill into the quiet medieval stone town.
Walking Into St Salvator’s Quadrangle
As we made our way through town, we came upon the storied heart of the University- St. Salvator’s Quadrangle and it was even more magnificent than we had imagined.
A Sea Of Scarlet Robes
St Andrews celebrates the arrival of freshmen (Fresher’s) and other students on Sunday before Fresher’s Week with the annual Pier Walk. This is when students don their red robes, attend St Salvator’s Chapel service or wait in the quad for the procession through the streets of the town to the pier.
Townspeople and lots of parents dotted the sidewalks to witness the tradition.
The stunning contrast of ancient and new, ruined and alive- a sea of scarlet robes and youth, was invigorating and astonishing.
It was a forever moment.
A Taste Of Italy In Scotland
A little Italian restaurant, Little Italy, spilled light out onto the cobblestones, and we followed it in to wine, Gamberoni Barcarello, Pizza Salsiccia e Funghi, and finished off with Tiramisu Piccoli with a shot of Marsala wine and Lemon Sorbetti with Limoncello.
Seafood & Friends
We made friends in St Andrews- especially our friend Mark at Tailend Restaurant, one of the best seafood restaurants in town.
Over the next days, trying to avoid sleeping in past noon due to jet lag, we came to know this beautiful and ancient town. We learned a few of its secrets.
At one time St Andrews was certifiably the end of the earth.
In the 4th century AD, a monk named Regulus (now St. Regulus) in Patras, Greece, heard that Emperor Constantine in Constantinople wanted to get his hands on the remains of St. Andreas, one of the twelve Apostles, and bring them to his namesake city from Patras.
Regulus, having none of this, supposedly had an angel appear to him in a dream, telling him to take the remains of St. Andreas (Andrew) to “the ends of the Earth” and consecrate them there.
So, some way or another (legend is fuzzy here), he fetched up on the Eastern shore of Fife in modern-day Scotland to a Pictish settlement that was to become St. Andrews.
The slightly suspicious part of the story is that he traveled with a retinue of consecrated virgins.
In time, castles and a tremendous cathedral followed, one of the biggest in Christendom. Now only its haunting ruins remain, hinting at its stupendous scale.
Not far from the ruined cathedral is the ruined castle by the North Sea.
Looking back at the ruined castle.
More than a thousand years after St. Regulus arrived, a University was founded in 1413.
Because of St. Andrews being a site of holy pilgrimages, the University at the end of the earth became a meeting place of ideas and cultures.
But after a mere 150 years, John Knox and his Protestant reformers ransacked the cathedral and ran the pilgrims off, after which townspeople disassembled the ruins for building materials.
Calculus In Scotland
The town became a quiet refuge from the world’s turmoil, sinking into a genteel obscurity with occasional flashes of brilliance, like teaching calculus a century before Cambridge University.
Salvation would come from an unlikely source in the 1800s.
Victorian England, awash in the new wealth of empire and technology, was looking for distractions.
The sport of golf turned out to be one of these, which as luck would have it was first played in St. Andrews in the early 1400s, perhaps by students skipping class.
St. Andrews became a site of pilgrimage by duffers with clubs, replacing religious zealots with clubs who had beaten up the place three centuries earlier.
The golf fad brought attention and resources to the town and the University, which emerged from a long slumber and began to spread its wings, in our case all the way to California.
Later, its fame spread all the way to Buckingham Palace and a number of British royals attended the University- most famously, Will and Kate.
Chariots Of Fire
Later, a film brought fame to the West Sands Beach of St Andrews in Chariots of Fire. Bruce and I found ourselves on that “Chariots of Fire” beach, fulfilling a long held dream of running there.
Journeying to the end of the Earth seeking old and new beginnings
Kimy’s new beginning in a seemingly unlikely place was ultimately engendered by a very old beginning seventeen centuries ago- that of St. Regulus landing (or perhaps being shipwrecked) on the stone ramparts of St. Andrews, resolutely defying the open North Sea.
Unlikeliness begets unlikeliness, and stories grow like fecund plants, we have only to let them.
With gratitude from my studio to yours,
Big News since our return: University of St Andrews is No. 1 in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide above Oxford and Cambridge.
No university has been placed higher than the Oxbridge institutions in the guide’s 30-year history, or any other domestic university rankings. Read about it HERE.
P.S. We returned home to this.
The print book arrived! The Adjacent Possible: Evolve Your Art. From Blank Canvas to Prolific Artist.
If you want to experience a sample of the book, I gave a Book Reading of Chapter One. You can listen to it HERE.
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