The path led us straight east into the rising sun. It was a frigid January morning and although we did not know it at the time, we would encounter all four seasons of weather within the next few hours. This was the second day of our hike on the Fife Coastal Path, a meandering journey along Scotland’s North Sea coastline.
The details of that journey have been previously recounted. In a nutshell, my friend Robert and I had planned a trek of about 25 miles through picturesque fishing villages, over rugged beaches and even through a farmer’s boggy cow pasture. It was a leisurely ramble but one with a deadline. I had to be back to St. Andrews University by three pm on the second day to attend a meeting and we still had miles to go.
The details of our walk are fading in the midst of my memory but one image still stands out clearly. It’s a segment of path, running straight and true toward a new day, the sun just breaking over the horizon. We had slept well the previous night and this new day dawning beckoned to us like an old friend. New days can be be like that, full of hope and promise. On the other side of that same coin is the letting go of things past: the mistakes, the failures, the broken promises and the hard lessons learned. New days bring new opportunities, new possibilities. The future is built on the past, one new day at a time.
Obviously, there is a point to this: tomorrow is America’s new day, the first day of a new year in the life of our nation. I am filled with hope and cautious optimism. At the same time, I am not blind to the enormous challenges that lie in wait along our path: a terrible pandemic, a deep internal divide, centuries of injustice. There they lie, stones in the road to our future. They can bring us a screeching halt or we can work together to heave them out of the way. It’s our choice.
We are on the cusp of greatness or despair. There can be healing or fresh, new wounds. There is either a new day dawning or the continuation of an endless night. No doubt there are some who will choose the darkness but I’m betting that more will embrace the dawn.
The last leg of our journey back to St. Andrews was not easy. I got lost for a while and had to retrace a mile or two of my steps. The cows in farmer Logan’s field were less than hospitable. The time grew short; I feared I would miss my meeting. But then we crested a hill and there below us was St. Andrews Bay and just beyond, the “auld grey toon” itself. We picked up our pace and as I turned down the lane than ran to my house overlooking the North Sea, I knew I had just enough time to put on fresh clothes and hurry over to my meeting.
When I got to the university, I told my host what I had done. He looked at me, thunderstruck. “You even mucked through Logan’s field? Never liked that man or his cows, for that matter.” And that was that. We moved on.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com