Every August for the past 24 years, I fly across the Atlantic Ocean and lose myself in the surreal, intoxicating world of Edinburgh, Scotland, where some men wear skirts, others high heels and glitter and still others nothing at all. Performers carry flamboyant banners down the street and singers shout their melodies in alleys for fun. I am besieged with clowns and magicians urging me to let them amaze me in a bar or the basement of a church and I am transformed. I am not the ordinary rational me I usually am eleven months of the year. I am a Cinderella captivated by a magic world of pomp, outrageous exaggeration and fascinating tales of mankind on unexpected journeys.

August is festival time in Edinburgh and the city becomes an enormous theater where with every kind of art form is performed, displayed and pushed to its limit. The streets are bursting with wild entertainment but the real thrill is the aftereffect. Each unique moment becomes part of an exciting and challenging fabric to take home and ponder for the next eleven months.

The kaleidoscope of activity that unfolds before our eyes is the very stuff that makes up our world. The entertainers in the street and on the stages at festival time reflect the temper, the terror and the fondest hopes of the universe. Here, thousands of performers present hundreds of plays, skits, songs and dance from every country in the world. They all are determined to flaunt their message whatever it is because to them it is their everything.

I walk down Princes Street elbow to elbow with the celebrities of the future, with housewives aching for something different, and teenagers hoping to find nirvana. The miracle of Edinburgh is that somehow through its muddle of sensation, the cacophony and the shimmer, we come away enriched, encouraged and stimulated, ready to return to our ordinary lives to rest up for the next Edinburgh infusion.

Through the years I have migrated from the conventional programs of the International Festival, charming and intellectually exciting as they always are, to the avante guarde fare of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. At first, I was only a punter and I can still remember my amazement at the innovative drama at The Traverse and the Church Hill Theatre, the surprise of discovering a high school musical in a church basement that left me speechless. The multitude of talent packed into performances at this festival carried by the enthusiasm of the cast alone convinced me that indeed our finest talent is undiscovered. It erupts from the clerk in the grocery store, the teacher when she leaves the classroom and the mechanic when he closes his shop.

Seven years ago, the bug bit me, and I decided it was time for me to take to the stage. I started with comedy, drifted into stories, then burlesque. Each year, I met performers who, like me, needed to discover their inner souls and become the very dream they always thought out of reach. I marvel at the creative velocity of the shows I see and those I am in. I realize that Edinburgh at Festival time is heady fare that inspires all who visit to reach beyond their grasp, to become something more than they were when they arrived.

This year I have seen the story of Enrico Caruso accused of pinching a lady’s bottom in New York, and a 50 minute poem about the way we diminish the very people we should encourage: those who dare to be unique. I have watched sketch comedy and improvisation, seen a human tuning fork that still makes me laugh at the image of her upside down emitting the key of A. I lost my heart to a cabaret whore who does not need to sell her body. Her songs are that glorious. I have seen two versions of Charles Dodson’s life and a women who is having her first wedding on stage. That is only the beginning of the variety of performance I will absorb as the days melt away.

Whether on the stage or in the audience, on the street or looking from a window the world unfolds before your eyes with all it has to offer and everything it aspires to become in Edinburgh in August. In what seems but a moment, it is all over and I need to pack my bags and get ready to put all these slices of the lives I’ve seen into some kind of perspective. Edinburgh in August! The one month in twelve when I can step away from the routines that imprison me and have the courage to pursue a new vision for my world.