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4 August 2007

Scotland at 60 - who knew?!

Fairy Glen, Skye
Fairy Glen, Skye
So let's see... when I last checked in, I was about to head off for another visit to Scotland - on a quest to find the elusive Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye. See April entry. I'm happy to report that I found my way through the mists back to Fairy Glen and spent a lovely time there. I'm not sure how I got there - and can't guarantee I could get back... but I did get there in May. In the context of an Isle so saturated of magical energy, this place radiates its own special harmonics. Ooohwee!.

Fairy Pools, Skye
Fairy Pools, Skye
One thing leads to another in Scotland if I can just keep my ears and heart open. So when I mentioned to one of the locals that I'd been to Fairy Glen he told me about the Fairy Pools near Glen Brittle. When the day was done, I had hiked miles and miles across moorland to the base of Sligeachan and the source of a truly unusual series of pools carved out of limestone by runoff from the magnificent Black Cuillins mountain range.. I could almost see the faeries... just outside of my periphery - skittering along the ledges encircling the pools.

Black Cuillins, Skye
Black Cuillins, Skye
What becomes more and more apparent as I spend more time in Scotland is just how much activity seems to take place just outside my peripheral vision. When I am able to stand perfectly still, I can almost see it. It.... Words fail. I can certainly feel the presence of lots of "activity." I don't know how better to express it than that. Here's what I know: there are places which seem to exist simultaneously in more than one reality. In these locations, if I am attentive, wondrous things occur. And for me - who has always been such a solid ground kind of gal - a real empiricist, this is remarkable.

Quiraing
Isle of Lewis View
Each trip to Scotland - six in all since October 2003 - has been transformative for me in one way or another. Though I have always headed for the wild terrain of the west coast and Outer Hebrides, I haven't really done a lot of interacting with the landscape that would really count as "hiking and climbing." I have often felt hindered by the weather. Maybe it's that I travel alone so putting myself in risky physical conditions Also, being a city girl, the idea of slogging along in the mud created by a sudden thunderstorm - which happens all the time - just hasn't appealed to me.

The Quiraing, Skye
The Quiraing, Skye
Really, since I'm not a maven of the outdoors, let alone the Queen of Hiking, I have felt intimidated by the same landscapes I have been drawn to. Morag Campbell of Leabank (my favorite B&B on the Trotternish Ridge) warned me to pay attention to the mist when I hiked the Quiraing mountainside because she had once seen a sheep fall right off the path on a day when the mist dropped quickly down on the range. Huh? However, this trip, I watched the weather carefully and one morning I simply went for it! I can't tell you how thrilling it was to stand at the very top of that notch in the landscape - the very top. It took hours but I can't say that I noticed.

Storr, Skye Views
The Storr, Skye
Another day, the ever-present mist slowly lifted to expose The Old Man of Storr, that tiny little pinnacle at the top of Storr Mountain. Storr Mountain Views here. I have looked at that landscape on postcards and I have driven by the car park at the base of that particular hiking trail for the past three years - always longing to make the climb but not sure enough of my own physical capacity. It may be that I turned 60 years old in February and wanted to reclaim my physical self in some dramatic way, or it may be that my longing to be in the landscape instead of observing it, just took a hold of me. Climbing the Quiraing Ridge and Storr Mountain reminded me of my first scuba diving experiences after years of snorkeling. Being submerged....surrounded and enveloped in the experience physically as well as spiritually and energetically - was deeply satisfying.

Storr Skye Views
Path to The Storr
It's not often I feel "proud of myself" but I felt "proud of myself" for reaching the summits of these two mountains. Of course, as life has a way of doing - just so that I don't lose perspective - as I reached the hardest part of each hike, scrambling over the scree along the escarpment (fabulous climbing words!) I was greeted on both occasions by a young woman HOLDING A BABY IN ONE ARM! as she skipped down the mountainside from the top of the mountain. Jeez. So how long did it take each of them to reach the summit with a baby on their hip? The first time I encountered this lesson in perspective I got a little bit of a resentment, but the second time....I laughed my head off.

What I have just recounted amounts to three days' experiences of my three-week trip in May. I have so many stories to tell about the trip - so many other startling and remarkable adventures to share. Perhaps I'll be able to sit down again some time soon to write a second installment. I can't be sure, though, because the very act of writing about the trip sets off great longing in me to return to Scotland once again. I find that fascinating in and of itself. Hmmmm.


12 April 2007

Fairy Glen Meditation on Fairy Glens

Sweet Friends- Spring is here and I am spending as much time as I can in my garden. The most unexpected arrival in my yard has been the fairy glen. I can't really say I "created" it, let alone "planted" it. It simply seems to have materialized in the past year or so. Who knew a patch of the same landscape I love so deeply in Scotland would make itself at home in the Berkeley Hills.

Across the Trotternish Peninsula from the Quiraing Ridge of Northern Skye is a port town called Uig. It's where I sometimes catch the ferry over to the Outer Hebrides: residence of the captivating Callanish Stones (Click here for a beautiful view of moonlight over the Callanish Stones) on the Isle of Lewis.

Uig But I digress. Down the road from this small seaside village of Uig is a sign that reads: "Fairy Glen." I have turned onto the indicated dirt road four or five times and have reached the glen only once. The other four times I have somehow lost my way and either ended up in a sheep pasture, a muddy deadend or back at the main road.

Uig For someone as practiced at map-reading as I am now after five years exploring remote areas of Scotland and Wales, I must tell you how unnerving it is for me to identify the place on a topographical map, see the signs, and still NOT to be able to actually get to the glen. I have taken photos of the glen, as you can see, and even with all this, it seems to be quite out of my hands, the possibility of visitng there...at least on my terms, anyway.

Fairy Glen I have had this experience of "losing my way and then finding it" before in Scotland, however, so though I am unnerved, I am undaunted. All this to say... I'm returning to the Isle of Skye again in May and will once more attempt to reach the glen. Meanwhile, I am loving my own piece of magic and mystery right outside my front door.


Onward and Outward!
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