In the spirit of John Green’s book of the same title, our theme for the month of October is “the Anthropocene reviewed.” Writers were asked to review and rate some facet of human experience on a five-star scale.
Jack all but promises that we are going the right way. And my phone is all but dead, so I cannot peer-review his assertions.
We’re on a path that is dwindling to a track, a slender ribbon of dirt gilded with fallen leaves. The underbrush is thick and busy on either side.
Our supposed destination, Arthur’s Seat, is a basalt rise that juts out above the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. A lower rise behind us, plinth-shaped, holds Edinburgh Castle like a rough gem presented to the light.
Within the castle sits another throne, a funny parallel to the Seat. The “Stone of Destiny,” the coronation seat for centuries of Scottish and British royalty, is a grizzled cousin to the pearl-encrusted crown and fragile silver sword that lie beside it on a bed of velvet. The comparative age and wildness of the Stone, an artifact of a deeper, older rule, makes the pretty things seem silly.
The two thrones sit across from each other, overlooking Edinburgh, each composed of legend and rough stone in equal parts.
Jack and I emerge from beneath tree-branch tracery and meet a paved road. The Seat stands before us, a rising tide of sunset light lapping up its height. The path appears to continue on the other side of the road, skirting the slightly lower of two heather-flocked rises. Further on, the dirt trail becomes a winding staircase of uneven stones.
I decide that I do believe that King Arthur sat here. It will make the climb worth it. Significance is in the prerogative of humanity to dispense and dispose; we are its liege-lords.
The path is, of course, steeper and longer than Jack has led me to believe. Jack himself is attempting it in flip-flops, long stride squelch-snapping ahead. I am a child of mountains, I tell myself. And though travel-worn and foot-sore, I will not be outdone by a Texas transplant in flip-flops.
We start up the taller, steeper of the rises. The whole park is called Arthur’s Seat on the map, but we suspect that the taller rise is the true seat of the mythical king.
Then we give up. If we are being generous with ourselves, we made it halfway. The light is draining into the lower hills of farmland beyond the city.
“The view will be as good if not better from the lower hill,” Jack says.
I am perfectly willing to accept this reasoning. The lower hill is better. Significance is ours to grant.
We scramble down the hundred or so steps we’ve climbed and begin the trek up the other hill, through the grey-lavender shadow that is settling in the valley between. The ground is spongy but not slick. The grass here is not a tangled mane of heather, but a tender tufted lawn. Jack comments on it, saying this side of the hill might be more sheltered.
When we crest the hill, it is kingly indeed.
Pale gold light shafts through a faint haze of mist, making scattered clouds blush and burnishing windows and steeples in the town. The hills where we stand, teased by sea-bound wind, are peridot green, draped here and there in cool robe-like shadows.
Jack kicks off his flip-flops and wiggles his toes in the grass.
“That’s exactly as good as I thought it was going to be,” he says. “That is top-quality grass.”
I’m tempted to join him. But I am wearing nylon stockings and the thoughts of removing them on top of this hill or walking back to town with wet feet in rubber boots are equally unappealing.
“What makes it good grass?” I ask instead.
There are four main attributes of excellent grass, according to Jack.
Color: various versions of bright green are equally preferable.
Temperature: cool but not cold.
Texture: more soft than coarse.
Wetness: a little water is refreshing; swampy is gross.
The grass on King Arthur’s Seat (or an equally grand but slightly lower hill very nearby), according to Jack, is a top-notch grass experience and a top-tier overall foot experience. (And Jack should know; I do not recall ever seeing him in a proper pair of shoes.)
“It’s the cashmere of grass,” he says, referencing the countless scarves we pet on our way through the shops down the high street.
I laugh, and we walk on. Then stop and kick off my rubber boots.
“No,” Jack says, “this isn’t as good, you have to go back up.”
So on cold, aching tip-toes I sprint up the wet ground in my stockings and plant myself on a tiny cushion of soft grass. The first shock of cold and wet is followed by a pleasant almost-numb feeling that soothes my sore feet. I throw my head back into the wind and feel the embrace of the sun.
Two more notable qualities of good grass: the effort it takes to reach it and the general mythos brewed into the soil. Perhaps those characteristics boil down to significance, which is, again, wholly mine to give.
On all counts, I give the grass on Arthur’s Seat five stars.
Emily Stroble is a writer of bits and pieces and is distractedly pursuing lots of novel ideas and nonfiction projects as inspiration strikes. As an editorial assistant at Zondervan, she helps put the pieces of children’s books and Bibles together. A lover of the ridiculous, inexplicable, and wondrous as well as stories of all kinds, Emily enjoys getting lost in museums, movies old and new, making art, the mountains of Colorado, and the unsalted oceans near Grand Rapids. Her movie reviews also appear in the Mixed Media section of The Banner and her strange little stories of the fantastic are on the Calvin alumni fiction blog Presticogitation. Her big dream is to dig her hands deep into the soil of making children’s books as an editor…and to finally finish her children’s novel.