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Landmarks of our lives

December 2, 2009



Image of Buccleuch Place from Edinburgh Day by Day, by BondBloke


I enjoy a number of blogs — about history, architecture, photography, arts, crafts, and those of people I’ve come to know and love.  (Some of these cover more than one category.)  

A recent post from photographer (and writer and film producer) Alessandre de Souza at Gypsy Girl’s Guide reflected on a time and place that changed her life (landmark moment, with a landmark, get it?).   Oh, go on, you can read her landmark post (and admire her stunning photograph of a golden and glittery Big Ben) and then come back.  

She asks the question

Can you think of any time or landmarks in your life that can teach you something about yourself that you’ve forgotten? We hold so many stories within the gaps… Find something heart warming and worth honoring about your life today.

I’m passing the same question on to you — what do you recall about an important passage in your life, and what built landmark do you associate with that time? 

It’s an intriguing thought, this idea of a significant moment in one life bound up in a building.  Your historic connection is of life-changing significance, yet will never be part of the site’s written record.  It boggles the mind to think of all the unwritten “moments in personal history” that could exist on a single block.

Are you thinking of your life landmark?

As for me….

In terms of transformation, the year I spent in Edinburgh was probably my chrysalis year.  While the dark, brooding castle on the Royal Mile overlooking the entire city is a more obvious and iconic landmark, there’s a story about a building on Buccleuch Place.  (Pictured above is Buccleuch Place, near the University of Edinburgh.)

College-era.  (Pre-computer)  That year I packed a suitcase, hugged my folks, and headed off to a foreign country without a place to live.  I got to London, got a train to Edinburgh and arrived there at dawn.  

I looked at a map in the train station, checked the address on a piece of paper in my bag and made my way to the student housing office on Buccleuch Place as the sun came up.  Of course, nothing was open at that hour of the morning, so I sat on the doorstep wondering where I’d find myself at the end of the day.  

This building — that doorstep was a leap of faith for me.  It represented my ability to be independent and to find my way in the world.  (Literally, the world as I was in a foreign country and would spend the rest of the year meeting new people and using holidays to travel through Europe alone.)

After the office opened, and I met with someone on staff who made some calls, I had a new piece of paper with an address scribbled on it.  I hailed a cab, loaded in my HUGE oversized suitcase (do they even make them that large anymore?) and headed to the other side of town.  The cab pulled up at 35 Drumsheugh Gardens (pictured below).   Living there that year changed my life, but it all started on the cold pavement outside that university office as the sun came up.

35 Drumsheugh Gardens

I lived on the top floor, overlooking Drumsheugh Gardens. The building now houses The 4-star Bonham Hotel.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2009 2:05 am

    Excellent post, Sabra. I’ll think about this for a bit and write an answer! =) I see you have snow on your blog – me too. So much fun! Believe it or not, it has not snowed yet in Burlington, VT.

  2. December 4, 2009 11:09 pm

    This has prompted some serious thinking and I realised that I really don’t have physical landmarks associated with any events in my life (not sure what that means, really). Rather, there are two landmarks that I associate with the most important PLACES in my life. Both are first seen at the outer reaches of their respective kingdoms, serving as heralds of what will be, always, a wonderful time.
    The first is seen off Escape Road in Galilee, RI, where the kitschy Dutch Inn (a holdout from the ’50s) waits for tourists and visitors. Part of its typical low-slung, motel architecture is a blue and white replica of a small windmill. Across the street from the fishermen’s commercial wharfs and the local fish store, it is unbelievably incongruous and ridiculously charming. As soon as we drove by the windmill on our way to my grandparent’s cottage in Sand Hill Cove, we knew we our “beach time” had started.
    The other is Brant Point Lighthouse in Nantucket Harbor. The ferry (the regular slow one) from the Cape is a two-and-a-half hour trip of seeing nothing much but ocean and the occasional sailboat. But then, finally, the engines slow and you can see the lighthouse on its little spit of land inside the harbor, and a few lucky people already there on the beach, and you are home.

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      December 4, 2009 11:47 pm

      Well, if I’ve prompted serious thinking this time, I promise to come up with something sillier for next time.

      I love where your serious thinking went — made me flash back to a few of the wonderful landmarks that my sister and I would always use to mark time traveling the highway from Maine down into Boston for one of my mother’s shopping spree days. There was the Alfalfa Farm, the giant bull outside the steak restaurant, and the pagoda-inspired Chinese restaurant. Looking for landmarks was the way we passed time in the car in olden times; now kids have internalized trips where the focus is all on the dvd player inside the car…. Wonder what that will do for roadside nostalgia in the future; maybe there won’t be any.


  1. Landmarks Shaping Me « Preservation in Pink

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