The grassy backside of Arthur’s Seat swoops to a line of trees hiding a staircase that leads down, through the ages, to the town of Duddingston. Each footfall on the village’s cobbles sends years rushing past me on the breeze. Everywhere I look there are plaques inset in the stone walls with bits of folk wisdom, like the turquoise one about Jock Tamson’s bairns. A light rain falls, and I pop into the green-and-white Sheep Heid Inn for a drink, shake off the cold. Afterward, I’m among the ancient tombstones overflowing the kirkyard’s stone arms, just like a million souls before me, looking at the names.
Names are the cords of our parachutes, the ropes of our anchors, diaphanous fall lines that stretch across the chasms of time. On my return to Edinburgh, I turn around to look over Duddingston Loch. The town’s old, Celtic Brythonic name was Treverlen, and there were crannogs here. What was its name before then? I am pulling up carpeting to reveal linoleum and peeling that back to reveal hardwood. And then nothing; these places have no names. We have simply agreed upon this net we’ve cast over the world and ourselves. It is safer this way, with the truth hidden. Each life, a great migration of forgetfulness, an untethered cartwheel through space.
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