Four minutes from my new flat in Glasgow is a park, sprawling and green and on my way to school. It’s called Kelvingrove, after the river Kelvin, which is also the origin of the name “William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin,” which is the person who came up with the Kelvin scale of temperature, who had to have been such a nerd to do that.
There are a few playgrounds, a primary school and nursery on the grounds, a skatepark, a long walking path along the river, a large fountain, a larger art museum, and lots of dogs running around. It’s a beautiful place, 85 acres that are quietly encouraging when nearly empty yet somehow more peaceful when full of people. I’ve run there, skateboarded there, read there, walked there. If watching Parks and Recreation all the way through three times didn’t make me love parks (it did), spending so much time in this one sure sealed the deal.
I’ve lived in Scotland for almost two weeks and it has not been easy.
I first started planning to come here two years ago, my first semester of college, watching a video of the Glaswegian band Frightened Rabbit touring the country. I think my enthusiasm, slowly building for so many months, shone so bright as to blind me to many of the issues I’d face. Loneliness especially. There were many people I expected to miss, and do, but missing everyone, craving a familiar face, was unexpected.
I’ve been mostly alone for a long time. At college in Oklahoma, I eat breakfast and make coffee alone, walk to school alone, go to work and put headphones in, come home and usually do homework or watch movies alone, and I enjoy it. It’s not a bad life. I tend to be happier over the summers, working with other people every day at a camp in Montana, or at home, but I don’t mind college, the way I live there.
It seemed reasonable, then, to think that my experience in Scotland, also going to school, would be similar, and it has not been similar. I’ll get there, though.
The most disconcerting part of this kind of homesickness is the way it’s killed my sense of adventure in a really sudden and surprising way. I don’t want to explore new places anymore, I don’t want to travel, I want to go home. All around me online and in my American friends is a spirit of adventure and wanderlust that I gladly participated in for years. These past few weeks, though, I haven’t felt those vibes, and so it’s even been hard to listen to people talk about wanting to go to new places, excited about the future, because I can’t get back to that same place in my mind. Another unexpected challenge.
What helps, though, is Kelvingrove Park. The shadows at dusk, the predawn quiet, great stone statues and bridges, even a ruin of an old mill, these things help me feel wonder and excitement again. The park holds the kind of wrought-iron Victorian Britishness that gave us Peter Pan. Dilapidated stone staircases line its paths, their destinations unclear. Untouched woods surround the river, natural creation in the middle of the city. And there are so many dogs, it’s incredible. Going to the park gives me a sorely needed peace. Makes me wanna climb a tree again.
Originally written September 16, 2016