It’s late April but January descends on Edinburgh with Baltic east winds whipping the tree blossoms with knives of liquid ice raining down into lank hair and defeated jackets. I exit the bus and stalk down the sidewalk. Students and businessmen and dog walkers sprint and weave around each other. The sun somehow shines behind the rain. I cross an alley, spot this, and stop dead. Edinburgh Castle poses in the gray heavens. The white clouds cast a wan visage, and yet I’m drawn down the cobblestone street toward it.
From nearly every vantage point in the city I can spot its massive red and tan bulk fading toward the black volcanic plug upon which it stands. The castle is above the trash in the gutters of Cowgate, the students thronging down Nicholson Street, the buses and bikers and cabs and dogs cutting at vectors across each others’ erratic paths. It is above the teensy preoccupations and meaningless fears filling our minds as we pass beneath it, through its shadow. Edinburgh Castle is a reminder to shoot higher, to reach past, to stride over the muck and grime clogging our lower selves. I stare at this photo and try. Am I any closer?