City of Lights

By Hilary Jocelyn

Every now and again it just hits me out of the blue. The last time it happened I was returning home to the Hills after a brief visit to Montreal.  I climbed on board the Greyhound bus to Ottawa and found a nice quiet spot to sit. I put my seat back to a comfortable lean, took off my shoes and curled up, eager to listen to some of my favourite tunes.

“I love the best in you, you love the best in me and its not always easy, lovely , lonely,” sang good old KD Lang. My heart started to deepen a bit, and my eyes slightly to moisten as the words flowed, tin-like through the tangled wires of my earphones. I took a sip of tea from my travelling mug and then, as the bus left the bumpy potholes of the Montreal city streets, picked up speed along the 417 and moved out onto the open road, it happened.

Intense yearning. Unbidden and uninvited. Familiar, yet still surprisingly profound.  After all these years you’d have thought it would have passed.  But it still lurks inside ready to jump out and clobber me at a moment’s notice.

You see, I suddenly and urgently want to be somewhere else. Not here on the bus drinking tea, travelling towards Wakefield passing through open fields and farmland and watching the geese fly low over the river.  Instead, I want to be in Scotland – my homeland. I want savagely, unexpectedly, to feel the damp air of my childhood on my face, and the wind of my adolescence in my hair. I want to smell earth and to hear the waves from my young adulthood ringing in my ears. I want to breathe sights and hear sounds, to feel wet pavement, and to shuffle along the melancholy laneways of my birthplace.  

Runrig is playing now.  My favourite Scottish band bursting forth from the blue wires in my ears. They sing a song called the “City of Lights “ that could be about my hometown. The words seem to fuel the feelings, or maybe they initiate them.

”There’s a sadness. There’s a joy, There’s a place. There’s a song that will never die. Forever. “ 

They seem to hit my hotspot right on target and to reflect my irresistible heartfelt longing for a place that knew me before I even really knew myself.

“I arrived in the City of Lights “  they continue to sing. 

Immersed in the music, I imagine myself walking over the bridge into the centre of the City of Edinburgh where I come from, as I have done many, many times before.  I start to smile at the vividness of memory and my heart swarms as I think of small running streams flowing down mountain sides. I think of sea places, of islands, and of misty mountain tops.

I lift my face in a broad grin to look at the back of the seat in front of me. The music starts to swell.

  “Old Emotions still burn inside” they sing on. 

My feet start to tap out the beat on the floor of the bus.  The music gets louder. My body starts to move in harmony with the sound, completely absorbed and immersed in this place I come from.  I’m not on the Greyhound bus anymore, but instead am dancing in the Scottish hills that remain somewhere within me.

Now, I’m almost out of my seat and my socked feet are pounding down heavily as the song reaches its climax . 

“A tower of hope, A joyful sound”

I’m brimming with delight now, feeling life and its powerful energy running though me.  I know I’ll go back to Scotland soon, when the time is right. It’s all still there.  It’s all waiting for me. I will walk across that bridge and climb those hills again.  

“Bang Bang Bang”   go my heels  in vibrant unison with the final chords.

Suddenly, I feel a hand tapping impatiently on my shoulder.  Pulled out of my daze, I turn around to see a face staring down at me from somewhere behind. 

“Excuse me” she  whines disapprovingly ,  “You’re making the whole bus shake.” 

I jolt back to earth and sheepishly mumble a garbled apology for my behaviour and then manage to sit calmly in my seat for the remainder of the ride. The journey soon ends at the Ottawa bus station and I get off clutching my cold tea. I am back in a bustling place I know well, and I notice light in the faces of the people around me as they enjoy the spring air. My step bounces slightly on the sidewalk. 

I still have more journeying to do and I get into my car and travel on to my home in the Hills a bit  north of Wakefield. As I drive on, my gaze moves aside to really see the beauty of the landscape. I admire the beginnings of the forest and notice the slow greening of the trees all around me. Further on I watch geese again as they fly low over the river. I recognize the shapes of the hills as they slowly rise up on each side of me and I lean into their familiar curves as I make my way up the 105. 

Almost at my journey’s end, I pass a neighbour’s car negotiating the crevices and holes in the dirt road ahead and we call out to each other through our open windows and exchange a friendly wave. Suddenly I am overwhelmed with the deepest gratitude to be living here in this beautiful place with all the spectacular wonders of  people, places and community.

I am now very eager to arrive Home.