Queen of the Skies is written by Bernardo Esteves and describes his arrival into Edinburgh and the creative inspiration he found in the city. Bernardo grew up in the Portuguese countryside and is a Neuroscience researcher and a musician.
This 1000 Better Stories blog post has been funded through one of SCCAN’s Mini Grants.
My much anticipated visit to Scotland was finally happening. The plane was landing and not even an acute tonsillitis was going to stop me. Three hours is not a lot when you wait so much time to visit your best friend, but my aching throat was my last enemy.
The majestic greenery of Edinburgh hit me like a pastoral painting. The buildings were darker than I anticipated and the air felt fresh on my face. All the way from the airport to my cousin’s house I mumbled a little song I have never had before. I was tired, but my mind felt lighter, in peace. With my backpack secure, and my ‘soon to discover not big enough’ luggage, I crossed the Meadows, with Arthur’s Seat in the background guarding the city as a real King or Queen.
It was the beginning of my Sabbatical year. And in less than ten minutes I was going to see my beloved cousin. Just like her I wanted to be in awe, fall in love with the city, the streets, the University, the people and experience the walks, touch the grass, write and sing.
There we were. I was there. She was there. My cousin, sister. Definitely not a screen.
We both shouted and hugged like a little nest of love and friendship.
The song appeared to me, over and over again, like a blanket of sadness and hope. A lullaby casting away the pain. I didn’t have lyrics for that dreamy melody but inspiration was closer than I thought.
On that day, we went to the National Museum of Scotland. The panels with flowers and birds were remarkable and fuelled our much needed stream of creativity. We were both struggling on what and how to write our stories so we jumped to our to-do list. We had two Writer’s dates (assignments, really). Between lunch at the Museum and visiting Arthur’s Seat we wandered around the streets writing from an animal’s point of view. We were a mouse, a gecko and a little boy that can talk with nature. And the perspective of the city was drastically changed. The doors were higher, the car fumes couldn’t harm us and we walked on the walls seeing everyone’s hair and hats from above. Quite challenging and refreshing but we were still missing true nature, real involvement, being away from people chatting and horns buzzing.
Out of the concrete the ground was wet, almost soaked. The air was cold and damp, and I was afraid of not having a proper umbrella. Despite the breeze my throat was better. I inhaled deeply and smelled life.
On the way up, we chatted, we laughed and we were silent. Chirps and trills were exactly what we had been waiting for. I remember that the city was so much bigger than it seemed. I could see the buildings and roads stretching along and across the river and, in one second, the city was embracing nature and not the other way around. All the grass and mountain looked smaller, almost trapped in a way.
At the top, the wind was the instrumentation for the very few but amazing singer companions we had left. I looked up and the song came back to me.
“Is that an Eagle?” I asked.
But we couldn’t decide.
I remembered on the plane trip looking for what species of eagles existed in Scotland. There were two – the Golden eagle, which seemed the more likely one, big and brown, and the White-tailed Eagle. The White-tailed had been extinct for almost 100 years until they were reintroduced back in 1975. And here it was, that memory, that fact was not far from the city embracing nature, humans casting animals away, taking and polluting their land, driving them to extinction.
We couldn’t make sense out of the distant winged soldier. I didn’t know… maybe eagles only existed in the Highlands. I shared my feelings of anguish and anxiety with her. We talked a little bit and then naturally went back to our stories.
In the story my cousin was writing at the time, one of the main characters is a menacing but protective eagle. The saviour of the protagonists that are on a quest to understand why their world is disappearing. It felt like no coincidence. Although it was not a surprise, that moment sure felt like one. Edinburgh was her favourite place in the world, her new home, and surely inspired most of the story but that was almost a literal scene from the book!
Everything made sense. It had to be! I knew she was the queen of the skies, she had a white mantle and her feathers were sprinkling drops. It felt like rain but it was nature’s healing magic. The song was more present than ever. It was bigger, fuller and was not naked of lyrics anymore.
Image credit: Lesley Anne Rose