Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Scotland: Alba

We're back from Scotland, almost a month now. Scotland was...Scotland is...amazing. To think that our ancestors stomped around on that ground for millennia--that our roots end here some hundred-sixty years ago and go back thousands of years on that little island in the North Atlantic is kind of mind-boggling, to be honest.

I have never seen anything so green as the Borders, or so magnificently awe-inspiring as the Highlands and Islands.

The Island of Skye--an t-Eilean Sgitheanach...oh what shall I say about you--what can I say, that wasn't said so much more eloquently by Sorley Maclean?

"O great Island, Island of my love,

many a night of them I fancied

the great ocean itself restless,

agitated with love of you

as you lay on the sea,

great beautiful bird of Scotland,

your supremely beautiful wings bent

about many-nooked Loch Bracadale,

your beautiful wings prostrate on the sea

from the Wild Stallion to the Aird of Sleat,

your joyous wings spread

about Loch Snizort and the world."

from Sorley MacLean's poem "An t-eilean"

What must our ancestors have felt to have left it for a new world? Did they have a choice? That Luke Weatherston, our great-great-great grandfather who emigrated at the age of twenty-five from that green land to New York, then Iowa...what did he feel, leaving it? What do I feel, home now but not home?

Supremely glad that I got to visit. Unutterably sad that I had to leave it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Parallels...or not.

Montana: 147,046 sq. miles
Scotland: 30,414 sq. miles

Highest point in Montana: Granite Peak, 12,799 ft.
Highest point in Scotland: Beinn Nibheis (Ben Nevis), 4409 ft.

Highest pass in Montana: Beartooth Pass, 10,947 ft.
Highest pass in Scotland: Bealach nam Bo (Pass of the Cattle), 2053 ft.

Population of Montana: 902,195
Population of Scotland: 5,062,011

Gaelic speakers in Montana: Probably very few, if any, although there are a lot of MacDonalds
Gaelic speakers in Scotland: 58,652 (1.2%)

Northernmost latitude of Montana: 49th parallel, bordering Canada
Northernmost latitude of Scotland: Dunnet Head, 58/40 (Scottish mainland)

Average winter/summer temperatures in Montana: 28 degrees F/85 degrees F
Average winter/summer temperatures in Scotland: 32 degrees F/64.4 degrees F

Average annual rainfall in Montana: 11.37"
Average annual rainfall in Scotland: 44"

...Just some interesting statistics about where we're going next Wednesday, and where I came from.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Regarding language acquisition...

Learning a new language as an older adult is daunting. If I had stayed with it some thirty years ago when I began, (and then gave up too soon), I might have been reasonably fluent by now in Scottish Gaelic. Back then I was in Montana, isolated from learning opportunities--not by location, but by ignorance and poverty, depression, lack of resources, and the idea that I was wasting my time anyway.

So here I am again, trying to learn Scottish Gaelic, only now there are so many resources, thanks to the internet, that it's confusing to decide which to use and where to start. So...start at the beginning: Madainn mhath! De an t-ainm a tha oirbh? Is mise Gayle. Ciamar a tha sibh? Tha mi gu math, tapadh leibh. Ciamar a tha sibh fhein? Tha mi gle sgith! A bheil thu gu trang? Tha! Tha mi gle thrang ag obair! Tha mi a'dol dhan Alba!

I couldn't have said any of this a year ago, much less understood it.

When I think of where I was and where I am now, it's amazing how much I've learned, and amazing how far I have yet to climb. But as someone younger, perhaps wiser told me not long ago, it's the journey, not the destination. And I must admit the journey thus far has been incredible. I've met the most wonderful people, listened to astonishingly beautiful music, learned to sing a strathspey, and dance a reel. And now we are going to Scotland, where I hope to find a part of my roots, and hear, perchance, the canan nan Gaidheal.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Today is only yesterday's tomorrow." Uriah Heep

Here I am again, thinking that this blog will eventually be about travel, on a number of roads, physical and metaphysical--or should I say spiritual. We engage in many journeys as human beings: through our lives with all its attendant baggage, as well as to specific places, with a little less baggage. This is a good place for a wanderer, and a wonderer, and a dreamer, and someone who doesn't get much of anything done, certainly never finished.

I got out my old guitar today, "Zaven B. Woodstock" (this dates me, I know). He's in pretty rough shape, never having had a case, but I got everything tuned except the A string. The tuning peg refuses to turn beyond a certain point, so it's temporarily sitting at the low E sound with its big neighbor. Not bad for strings that are forty years old.

Zaven has a sizable dent/crack in his bottom where he landed on a rock while I was jumping over a crick (that's how we say 'creek' in Montana) in Glacier Park, or Flathead lake; I've forgotten. No case, you see.

Zaven, (named ages ago with the help of my friend from Missoula, Paula Johnson) goes way back with me. Purchased as a Christmas present my freshman year, 1968, I have dragged him around all these years--a miracle considering where I've been and what I've let go of!

I think he cost thirteen bucks--a Decca--at some department store in Great Falls. I fell in love, obviously, and Zaven has been with me longer than any of my husbands. Go figure.

So, if I can't get Zaven to cooperate at staying tuned, I'm looking at a black Ibanez if I can hear one first and touch the strings and fall in love again...but I'll not get rid of Zaven. He's still cute, for an old guy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Great Northern", my latest attempt at writing a good story, has just surpassed 215 (some very rough) pages. Being an artist who is accustomed to the idea that what I do by myself is supposed to be finished by myself, it's difficult to realize the extent of editing that occurs in a traditionally published work of prose. It's my baby; I don't want to let it soar (or flop) out of the nest until it's perfect. I don't want anybody to read it until it has the wings I give it. I don't want anybody critiquing or giving advice, because that's not the way I learned to create. Artists, then, must be different than writers. I make what I make while "arting". It is what it is and when it's done it's done. But writing--that's another story entirely. I wonder why I waste my time, writing for hours and days and months and years to create a world that no one will ever see. Because it makes me happy, I suppose.

At bottom, it's what we humans do: we tell stories. And when we're gone, where do they go, and do we need to care?
Well, here I am: blogging. More satisfying and less annoying than FB. I'm trying to figure out how to add photos, but really, it took me five minutes to set this up and I wonder what was keeping me from creating this thing that I'll write on and nobody will ever see. We'll see about who sees it. Talk to me, people!
Hi all. This is my blog, my very own blog, I can blog it short, or I can blog whole hog...