Signs in the sky

This morning on my way to work I lifted my head out of my book for a few seconds as the bus crossed North Bridge, which spans the valley between the Georgian New Town and the Old Town which descends Castle Ridge. At this time of year, early in the morning the sun is still low in the sky and was behind the tall, old buildings on the ridge. I looked up and saw a Saltire fluttering on a flag pole high atop the old Scotsman building (once the home of the Scotsman paper, now a posh hotel). The breeze was blowing east to west, almost mimicking the arc of the slowly rising sun, making it fly fully out in line with the front of the building against a clear, blue sky. Just then the ascending sun struck the back of the flag making it glow; the light blue of the Saltire’s background was illuminated almost to the same shade of the sky and the white Saint Andrew’s Cross stood out proudly above the city.

Pure chance – for a few seconds the sun was at the right height and angle, the wind blowing in just the right direction and I was in the right place to see it. I pass this daily and don’t usually see this. Little moments like that can make your day. Little moments like that make me think perhaps there is more to the myth of our national flag, how the white clouds in the sky bisected one another like the cross of Saint Andrew against a blue sky before a battle; the battle was won and the sign became the emblem of the land and has remained so for centuries. For a few precious seconds, nature, architecture and symbolism combined perfectly; I was reminded of the poetry of Hugh MacDirmid

It requires great love of it deeply to read
The configuration of a land,
Gradually grow conscious of fine shadings,
Of great meanings in slight symbols,
Hear at last the great voice that speaks softly,
See the swell and fall upon the flank
Of a statue carved out in a whole country’s marble,
Be like Spring, like a hand in a window
Moving New and Old things carefully to and fro,
Moving a fraction of flower here,
Placing an inch of air there,
And without breaking anything.

So I have gathered unto myself
All the loose ends of Scotland,
And by naming them and accepting them,
Loving them and identifying myself with them,
Attempt to express the whole.