Mysterious Gifts

I’ve been thinking about “gifts” lately, and the different kinds of gifts we can give one another. There are of course the tangible gifts we give each other on birthdays and other holidays. It can be fun to select a present for someone special in our lives.  But, I’ve also been thinking about intangible gifts that can mean so much, like these gifts I receive often from two of my favorite companions, William and Natalie:

Patience (even when I am sharing a worry for the 20th time)


Time (even when they are busy)


Stories (I love hearing their stories!)

This post is about some awe-inspiring gifts and our friend Andy, who lives in Scotland. Not only is Andy a very fun friend, but he tells us wonderful stories about his “quests,” which include all sorts of explorations into ideas and history and art and architecture and food and people. Here then is a story, which includes some scintillating clues and details about Andy’s latest quest. I wish we lived closer to each other; we would want to join him on some of his quests.

In March 2011, on a day like any other, a staff person at the Scottish Poetry Library was walking by a table when she stopped, backtracked a few steps, and found herself staring in amazement at what had once clearly been a book.

Carved from paper and with a tag addressed to @byleaveswelive – the library’s Twitter account – the “gifter” had written:

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree…. We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)

In June 2011, the National Library of Scotland found their own intricate creation, a gramophone, in a display case near their front door. The Filmhouse soon found a cinematic diorama. Then, the Scottish Storytelling Centre received a dragon.

In August 2011, yet another gift appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival atop one of the signing tables in the Bookshop. This paper sculpture included a teabag filled, not with tea leaves, but cut-out letters that spell out: “by leaves we live.”

Most recently, during Scottish Book Week, the anonymous “gifter” delivered five new gifts, which were placed in various places around Scotland.  The Scottish Book Trust ran a competition — a treasure hunt — on their website, and announced that “finders” of the five sculptures would receive a small sculpture of their own.

Thus, Andy found himself on what he described as a “quest” to follow the clues to the second sculpture.

“The clues for each day’s location were posted on the website of The Scottish Book Trust. The first clue at 10:00, the second at 11:30, the third at 12:30. The answer to the 3rd clue confirmed the location where each sculpture was hidden but participants had to then go to the location at 14:30 and await the final clue which would lead the lucky one to the sculpture. Each sculpture is based on a piece of Scottish literature and the clues themselves were related to those but sometimes cryptically. For example, the first clue asked for the first letter for each of 12 Scotch malt whiskies (12 separate hints): those 12 letters were an anagram of Whisky Galore.  Simple, huh? The first clue in each case, requiring multiple answers, was always the toughest.”

Finally, the clues directed Andy all of the way from Glasgow to Ayr:

“to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum to await the final clue. This involved driving 45 miles at very short notice but I did it, arriving just at the stated time. Unfortunately, so did a girl who just beat me to the desk to answer the final question and win. Surprisingly, she had travelled almost as far as I – from Glasgow – and was literally just feet in front of me in getting to the desk. I wasn’t too disappointed: it had been good fun, a bit of an adventure and, in any case, she was much more photogenic than I so will look much better in the publicity photos. As a bonus, it was a lovely bright day, so the drive through the countryside was most enjoyable.”

Just like the mysterious sculptures, Andy’s story of his quest turned out to be a gift!

You can read about the sculptures and see wonderful photographs by going to this link:



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