I WENT for a wander on Sunday, along Musselburgh beach to the very edge of East Lothian.

It was a rare moment of solitude for me, as the rest of the family were busy doing other things, so I had a couple of hours to myself.

I was lucky: the wind had died down and a warming sun stayed in a blue sky.

But I had to fight the feelings of guilt that I was stealing time for just me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our rather crazy, constantly noisy and often-hectic home life.

Our small, overcrowded house is full of energy, and I often imagine how happy my earlier self would be if he could see his future.

I’d always wanted the family life I have now. I’m blessed with five amazing kids – two grown-up, three still living under my roof – a loving wife and a dog who loves walks as much as I do!

But therein lies the origin of the guilt. While I love my life and those in it, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by it, lost in it, even. I think many parents feel this way, the constant nature of it leaves little space for any other part of you.

My friends, and my wonderful wife Kate, are good at reminding me that ‘me time’ is essential, and I know they are right. But emotions are not always rational and I’m sure some people reading will recognise that inner conflict which happens when you’re having the luxury of ‘me time’.

So, there I was, two hours for myself on the beach with our dog and trying not to miss my family or feel guilty about not being with them. After all, they were all doing fun stuff elsewhere, and it was just a couple of hours, I’d be with them soon.

I arrived at the Brunstane Burn. The tide was out so, as the burn reached the beach, it seemed to sense freedom.

No longer confined by its banks, there was space for it to spread out into a mini delta and go crazy before reaching the sea. The heavy rain of previous days had swollen its volume and now it literally cascaded over the rocks and pebbles with a joyous sound.

I stood listening to and watching the water as it made its final journey to the sea. It seemed the burn was also having some well-earned ‘me time’.

Rivers can be a metaphor for life, I thought to myself.

Brunstane Burn begins in the foothills of the Pentlands, by Hillend ski slope. But here, in its early stages, it’s called Lothian Burn.

Then it flows underneath the City Bypass and becomes Burdiehouse Burn.

Its course has been affected by human development but it has overcome these challenges and, although at times it seems to vanish underground, it emerges with yet another identity: Niddrie Burn.

Then, in its final incarnation, as it heads for the sea, it becomes Brunstane Burn.

Many people know this burn but most only know part of it.

It’s had a journey, met challenges along the way, met different people, even had different identities and names.

Often it’s unnoticed even by those who cross over it. For example, how many people notice or realise they are crossing a burn which marks the boundary of the county as they enter East Lothian along the coast road into Musselburgh?

I know, some may say, “so what?”, and fair enough.

With modern roads and bridges, it’s easy to not even notice rivers and burns these days.

But they were once the arteries of human settlement and travel. They were even places of religious and spiritual devotion.

And if we take the time to notice them, and be with them, they can help bring us back to ourselves. It’s no coincidence that some of our best childhood memories are playing in, or by, rivers.

My phone rang and my meandering thoughts came to an end. The time had evaporated and I needed to head home.

But as I did, I paused for a few last moments and honoured the burn, and thanked it for allowing me to share its joy in the final stage of its journey.

On the way back, I paused at the Mussel sculpture just off Edinburgh Road. It’s absolutely wonderful, with references to Musselburgh’s history and imprints of the ideas from the children involved in its creation. It provoked my thoughts too.

But that’s another story.