Traveling can be frustrating, what with so many exciting places in the world and neither time nor money enough to visit them all. Even so, before seeing new places I hope to return to Scotland. I’d like to find where it has hidden my heart and see if I can’t steal it back.
In this mutable collage of a country, past and present, myth and history, magic and the mundane constantly bump into each other. Like after an interminable debate, I’m left feeling that from the mist-laden time of the Picts onward, these distinctions have been muted and all are part of the Scottish weave. A meta tartan.
The Standing Stones of Callanish (pictured) on the Isle of Lewis predate Stonehenge by a thousand years and the great pyramid of Giza by 500. This windswept sacred site is older than we can grasp, yet we cannot help but bow to its spirit. Approaching these mysteriously aligned giants, visitors fall into silence, or mere camera clicks and whispers.
As alive and welcoming as any of the B&B owners that served me breakfast, I understood why legends abound, from tales of giants who were turned to stone, to the pregnant woman of the mountains behind them when the ‘moon walks on the land.’
The “Highland Clearances”— ethnic cleansing of the Highlands and islands — has determined their current social and economic character and is achingly visible in innumerable scattered ruins. Meanwhile, the astounding beauty of the Highlands and isles – green hills dotted with flowers, waterfalls and steams, trees, sprawling lochs, changing skies, tales of faerie folk and heroes, cast a spell that ignites imagination, awakens body and mind, and flows into a waiting soul.
Scotland’s ancient myths overflow into present history, just as we in our time create myths that will become history and legend to our future descendants — through movies we make and books we write, shared exploits told around a table or campfire, and texts messaged on social networks.
Perhaps 5,000 years in the future, inhabitants will be moved by our exploits, try to unravel the primitive nature of our beliefs, or tap into some universal, timeless part of the myths we created.