A Diary of Dundee, Part VII
I’m usually at a loss to confidently and sufficiently explain in conversation why I continue to take photographs, even though they’re mostly below par. Or why I do anything artistic for that matter. It truly stumps me except in moments of clearest revelation by the Holy Spirit. I only know that somehow, stories matter. Stories hit close to the heart of being. Jesus often told stories to get his point across. Perhaps, in the telling, they reveal more about us than they do about the subject matter. And so, I take photographs. If I get lucky enough – and right now it’s all luck, for there’s little skill involved – to translate the beauty of what I see onto this tiny strip of film, and then to put this picture where you’ll see it, I will feel that I’ve done my job. Friday at St. Andrews was hardly my day off. I enjoyed it just like any other day, but it was my day to translate stories.
After getting to a museum too early and walking off alone past the mathematical institute (I am told that Ted’s accustomed response to ‘Where’s Adam?’ was, “Oh, he’s off somewhere”), I returned, and Todd and I broke from the group to make for a second-story coffeehouse, where we found the beauty of lox and lettuce on a bagel. Then we plumbed a couple gift shops on the way to the impressive ruins of an old seaside cathedral.
For a guy who owns a trucking company, Todd constantly struck me as someone who was rather like a pastor. This may come of being the father of three adolescents, but he has all the characteristics of an intelligent listener. A slightly irreverent one (and this was fine and dandy with me). I couldn’t tell you exactly what we talked about that day, but I do remember that we were open with each other. There was no stiff paradigm as to what the conversation would be about, except that it should be honest. He is a good man. He’s also the only other person I know who likes The Blue Nile. We lost ourselves among the cathedral ruins, taking photos and reading the ancient epitaphs of Renaissance-era parishioners. A little kid walked by me, hand in hand with his dad and pointed to me saying, “…a cowboy.” I wandered again out to the sea.
The cloudy light glinted off a tiny oil slick trailing a fishing trawler being pulled in by a tug. I asked a fisherman who had walked out onto the seawall with a boy and two dogs if I could take their picture. So with his permission, I started to snap photographs, praying that they would turn out to be something other than rubbish. The little boy in his raincoat looked at me dubiously while the dogs did not cease to bark, but I felt that something had come through the 35mm lens over which I had little control. Art, if it is about anything, is certainly not about a large sense of control.
I caught up with Todd again and we strolled out to the beach next to the golf course. That’s the original golf course, for those keeping score. St. Andrews is where the Scots invented the game of golf. I’ve never been present for a good shot in golf, not since I would have paid attention to it, anyway. But as we strolled quietly across a greenway, a fellow not ten feet from us drew an iron from his bag, stepped into his stance, and without a practice shot, nimbly lofted the ball about 150 yards to drop it right next to the pin. I won’t lie; it was impressive, and I had to clap.
As we walked out onto the beach, the beach where they filmed Chariots of Fire, I couldn’t help but think of that line, “God also made me fast.” I was also in the middle of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water for the duration of the trip. Perhaps it was a combination of the two and of something else, but I couldn’t keep from feeling that I was being pulled a little closer to knowing what the Lord’s purpose for my life is. If my history of knowing Jesus is in indication though, I’m sure that all my certainties will be as important as Beanie Babies in a very short time.
It began to rain as we arrived at the bus station back in Dundee. Mindy, Chad, and Martin (a Dundonian friend who joked up and down the streets of St. Andrews with my roommate) were supposed to meet us, but they had split up and wandered off. This caused me some due consternation for Chad, as he had depended all week on someone else’s sense of direction, but I consoled myself with the thought that, if all else fails, one can walk to the edge of the firth, and walk the few miles of shoreline to Broughty Ferry. So I wandered off myself, and walked through the Wellgate in search of photogenic scenes (of which there are precious few in a shopping mall). The search led me, not surprisingly, to the back of the Wellgate, nestled cozily up against Hilltown, separated by a river of mad traffic and a main bus stop.
I wondered to hear my name called over the din and the rain, which had taken on a cold turn. Tammy and Nikita stood across the street shouting to me, so I decided that I would wait with them and then take the bus to Broughty Ferry to wash clothes and pack my luggage for the pre-dawn commute to the Edinburgh airport. I felt somewhat strange, standing in the rain amid the crowds with these two sixteen-year-olds, one of whom had been quite wary of me in March. After Tammy left Nikita and me to catch her bus, the odd feeling of having acquired a little sister became more pronounced. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that Nikita has a tendency to crown any consistent men in her life as father figures (which scares me to death). She calls Ted her dad with all assurance. This gets complicated when you cannot understand someone’s accent. Nevertheless, I felt that it was a proper summary of what had happened to me that week. Like it or not, Adam, you’re now tied more closely to these folks than before. I think I like it.
The interesting thing about plans is that they usually get disrupted. I had plans to eat and to do laundry before going to bed. Instead, I ate with Rose and began laundry as Chad got back (after getting considerably lost), and then we got a call that we should go for tea at Simon and Mauri’s house on the other side of town. It was Simon’s mother Gloria. I said I would prefer to sleep before getting up at four in the morning. Gloria said that she would be sorely disappointed. So off we went across town (and bless Rose for having a better attitude about it than I did).
But really, I would have missed out, because, if you’ll remember, Gloria has a tremendous sense of humor. Most of the Christians I know from Dundee do, perhaps out of necessity. After we had filled our mouths with all the hors d’oeuvres possible, Andy ushered us into the lounge and began to explain the “animal game,” in which we would all have an animal sound to communicate, and we would try to become Tarzan at the top of the food chain. All this while our sounds would change and the speed of the game would increase. The best part was seeing Gloria do the alien (with all the enthusiasm of a pro wrestler), in which your ‘sound’ was to put your hand under your shirt and make it look like an alien exploding from your stomach while you made a hideous vomiting noise. People over the age of forty doing this causes nothing short of hysteria.