I’m typing this blog from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. As I’m looking at my computer screen, it’s 2:23a.m. back home, and undoubtedly fifteen to twenty degrees warmer. Right now, I’m not missing that heat at all.
The first bit—and the last bit—of my time here has been and will be spent on the mainland; a curious phrase for what is itself an island, but the people here have a different definition of Isle than Webster or American Heritage.
The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are phenomenal. Definitely worth a trip in their own right. Edinburgh—sister city to Chicago—is my favorite city so far. The museums are free. The pub life has an energy all its own. The visible history everywhere reminds me of our common need to congregate, celebrate, defend ourselves, nurture our culture…and yes, it’s a great place just to sit and have a pint, or two. All of that without mentioning the monolithic 1300 year old castle reaching for the sky from an imposing volcanic rock hillside. The thing that first tugged at my heartstrings and solidified my life-long love of this place stems from my first visit when I was fifteen years old: The Cemetery for Soldier Dogs. Such a small thing in retrospect, but there you have it. A teenager falls in love and can’t stop voyaging (north of a dozen times) to see what she holds dear.
Glasgow is a vibrant city filled with art and a distinctly urban vibe. It’s the happening place if you’re young and energetic and making a name for yourself in the world. Glasgow used to be viewed as an industrial city, dirty, filled with factory workers and the businesses that support them, with just enough danger lurking around its edges to make those seeking adventure salivate. Arguably it’s still all of that, sans the dirty, and so much more. It’s still filled with industry, but the art and culture and diversity here make it a growing and special place all its own.
I spend days in cities.
I spend weeks in the Isles.
There’s something about Islanders, their fiercely independent natures, pragmatic approach to everyday life, and their unlimited joy of the land and their tie to it, that moves me and rekindles my appreciation for hard work, hard play and gratitude for everything wonderful.
Orkney is my favorite of the Isles I’ve visited so far, although I’ve yet to see Lewis and Harris. My plan is to visit the Outer Hebrides this weekend. I love Orkney’s neolithic sites the way I love black licorice, it’s a strong flavor that appeals to the few and I can eat it daily—sometimes in copious amounts. My daughter has been working on the archeological dig on the Ness of Brodgar this summer so we got to see more than we otherwise would have. I’ll be blogging about Orkney in general and the dig in particular in greater detail in the upcoming months. I will say, that I’ve been looking for a small cottage or a piece of property on Orkney rather diligently. I’m liking Skye, I liked Iona and Mull, but for me, Orkney is where it’s at.
It’s said that on any of the Scottish Isles you can experience all four seasons in one day. I’ve found that to be partially true. Most days here—and it’s supposed to be summer here—we’ve experienced what would be late spring and early autumn in Wisconsin as well as a smattering of Wisconsin in early June. It’s been cool, wet, pleasant and downright gorgeous here, all in the space of a day.
That’s one reason why I love the Islanders. They prepare for anything, brace against the worst of it, and by the time the sun comes out again, they’ve let the bad go and embrace the light.
Not a bad way to live, I’m think’n.
Certainly not a bad way to write romance.