There Will Be -No- Miracles Here

After three weeks at Hawthornden, I finally took a day off, at the encouragement of the other writing fellows, and went to the modern art galleries of the Scottish National Museum.

The rain was intermittent-deluge that day as I made my way beyond Edinburgh’s city center to two large villas that hold the modern art collection.

I had a great urge to see large scale canvases with abstract art, preferably something 1960s bold. “Olded-out, are you?” quipped Castle Administrator Hamish Robinson as I set off that morning.

Once there, I discovered that the museum had just taken down two large exhibitions and had not yet mounted their next shows. Because there were fewer pieces to see, there wasn’t the typical museum anxiety about racing through in order to not miss a thing. Thus, the paintings and sculpture I did see, I observed closely (and enjoyed immensely especially Howard Hodgkin and Hamish Fulton & taking my cappuccino opposite Joan Eardly’s Catterline in Winter at a table set between the towering legs of an Eduardo Paolozzi sculpture).

One of the conceptual pieces I was most taken with was an installation (above) by Nathan Coley set up on the lawn. Originally part of a series, erected in and around the town of Stirling, it stands six meters high, with old style theater lighting, proclaiming:

There Will Be

No Miracles


This amusing piece, set deep in the green lawns of the Dean Gallery was inspired by a 17th century royal proclamation made in a French town – the site of frequent miracles. I’ve made my own installations and was drawn to and energized by this simple and evocative piece.

“The more I walk

the more I write”

During my month-long writing fellowship, I sometimes walked (courtesy of lifts from Mr. Robinson) the rib of the Pentland Hills to “see” the spine of the story; to unearth it – as the grazing sheep were exposing the contours of the land.

Mostly, I stayed closer to home and walked the Tyne Esk trail or sat on a stone bench of the Castle Walk with my note book scribbling furiously or in the wing chair set before the window in Milosz, lost in 1920s New Jersey even as I saw a falcon dive through the Esk gorge.

On my last morning at Hawthornden Castle, after my bags were packed and waiting in the front hall, I stood in the doorway of the empty room – the world I had inhabited for a month – staring at the wing chair faced out over the river, pointing toward the Hewan and Maidan Castle.

I was rooted to the spot, even as the hands of the clock swept round and it was nearly time to be whisked to the airport. Something extraordinarily powerful and surprising had taken place.

What was most astonishing is that at the bottom of the tartan staircase, packed in my bags, were 27,000 new words to my next book. Equally astonishing is this feeling of being “in the chute” – that I can hardly write fast enough. There will be miracles here.

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