Edinburgh is a sizable city, although not large like New York, more like Boston, but smaller. Like Boston, it has had an outsized influence globally, even apart from its world-class research university. I think of the creatives that are from, or spent considerable time there (J. K. Rowling, take a bow) and the many great thinkers who’ve called it home. Our three years there went by too quickly, but money being what it was (and is) and laws dictating how long we could linger, we had to leave it in 1992. If you’d have asked us when we were there we’d have told you we’d’ve stay if we could’ve. We had no money, no car, no television, but we had Edinburgh. Somehow that seemed to be enough.
Places have great significance to people, but it’s not reciprocal. I occasionally find out a famous person was from Edinburgh and say “I didn’t know that.” Having spent three years and the cost of a doctorate there, I was a mere drop in the Firth of Forth. I’m frequently in contact with faculty members at the Divinity School for work. None know that I studied there—I suspect most university folk don’t sit around talking about long-ago post-grads. Indeed, there may be no faculty left from the time I was there. New names, new faces, new research agendas appear. Indeed, you wouldn’t choose Edinburgh as a place to study Ugaritic now, even though there was once an “Edinburgh school” of thought in the discipline (and I can footnote that).
Still, when I hear “Edinburgh” my ears prick up like those of a dog who’s been called. It is a part of me. I’ve only been able to return once since our original stint there. It was a strange sort of homecoming. Familiar and foreign all at the same time. Some shops were right where we’d left them, others now merely ghosts in our memories. Fortunately Edinburgh hasn’t had the building mania that often causes old cities to try to reinvent themselves. It was already great to begin with. More and more I hear about the Edinburgh Festival, and the Fringe. People are starting to notice this jewel in the crown of the United Kingdom. On a molecular level there may still be a little bit of me there. We’re constantly shedding, I suppose. And someday perhaps we’ll be able to return. It may not remember me, but I can’t forget her.