Going Into The Woods and Over the Garden Wall…

If anyone gets either of those title references, that would be so awesome! If not, I’ll leave links at the end of this post because both are great things that should be loved and cherished – especially during this time of the year!

Fall is my favorite season. I feel like I should start off with that, just so everyone knows why I’m so excited about it. In the 4 languages I study, this is how you say autumn/fall

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Path, taken by Maxx Borges, St. Andrews, Scotland, 22 September 2016

  1. English: Fall, Autumn
  2. Portuguese: O Outono
  3. German: der Herbst
  4. Russian: осень (OH-s-EE-n)

Russian… doesn’t have articles. So, no the, an, or a. Also, they just… sort of leave out the present tense to be. It’s an adjustment. Anyway!

As some may know, I’m a city boy through and through. I have small patches of grass for a backyard (and I’m one of the lucky ones) and the only nature we get are the city parks. This just makes me love the woods even more. At home, if I go by the beach, there are usually woods nearby, and if I visit my family members in the small towns next to my city, they usually have an abundance of woods, rivers, and lakes, all things that I really don’t have in the city. I’ve speculated with my sisters that this may be why I find myself going to school on the west coast in Walla Walla, more a town than a city that’s quiet compared to what I go home to. It also may be why I find myself in the even tinier town – village, really – of St. Andrews, where there are woods, hills, and honest-to-God garden walls.

Yes, garden walls. Which I, of course, tried to climb.

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Apple Tree, taken by Maxx Borges at St. James’ Church, St. Andrews, Scotland, 3 October 2016

This past week, fall has really been settling in at St. Andrews. The few trees that change color here are changing color. The local Catholic church, St. James’ (pictured left) has an apple tree that’s got fruit ripe for the picking and I’m determined to ask the priest if I can have one next week at Sunday mass. But this is not a post about my apple tree obsession. This is a post about how beautiful Scotland is in the fall. It’s been getting colder and colder as the days go by, the wind has been picking up, and I’ve been going on adventures. With some of the friends I’ve met here, we walked to the small, 1/2 foot deep pond that’s just by Andrew Melville, my residence hall. The other night, I was out on a hill over there and I could see the stars and all of the constellations that are out this time of year. It was amazing. At home, I can sort of see Orion’s belt, The Big Dipper, the North Star, and Venus. On a clear night. Maybe. I f I squint and tilt my head to the right. In Walla Walla, the sky is a bit clearer than at home, so I can see more –  which was a lot of fun when I took an astro course last spring. But in Scotland, you can see the faint outline of parts of the Milky Way, that’s how clear it is.

The nature here is amazing. By the lake, there’s a wood bridge leading over a part of it that leads into tall, dry grass and trees that are 100% climbable. So, I climbed them. By them, there are many flowers that bloom in the autumn instead of in the spring, so those were popping up. Daisies grow everywhere and I definitely take advantage and sit around making daisy chains when I can. Among the flowers though, were thistle, forget-me-nots, and, as I sadly discovered, nettles. Nettles sting, friends. And they hurt. At the back of our hall are several blackberry bushes that we can freely pick from. The only catch is: they have nettles near them. A little sacrifice is needed to enjoy the free-range fruit, but honestly, it’s worth it. I never get this at home and if I saw fruit that wasn’t on a farm or in a supermarket, I probably wouldn’t go foraging for it, either. The change is so welcome, and apparently, this happens here all the time? I love that, that you can go outside and pick yarrow for tea (good for joint pain and swelling!) or get blueberries and sloes if they’re growing nearby.

As for the garden wall that I tried to climb? After we climbed trees, those peppered with small bird houses for our local aviary friends that consist mostly of seagulls or ravens, we made it to the end of university owned land. In front of us? A giant wall with more flowers growing at the foot of it. Being Scotland, the wall was stone and old, probably there for at least a century, if not longer. Stones were falling out and I swear, next time I’m posting a picture of it. On the other side, I could hear animal noises and I got excited. Along with one of the guys that was with me, I got a foothold and hoisted myself up, clearing the top with my head just in time to see some sheep before I fell off. No worries, I was only up by half a foot, so I wa s fine. But it was another thing I’ve never had the pleasure of doing. The rest of the evening was spent looking at the bees the university kept back there and then wandering through some more woods until we found a hill, climbed up, and came out in a field that had just been made into hay bales.

It’s a beautiful place they have here. Between the beaches with historical shores and the woods with their many secrets that I can’t wait to discover, I’m going to be plenty entertained and awed when I’m not being buried in my school work! But that’s a tale for another day. Thanks for tuning in to hear about the beauty that is Scotland!

Over The Garden Wall is a mini-series by Cartoon Network. Into The Woods is a Broadway musical by Steven Sondheim.

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