I arrived home this morning at 2 am from our weekend trip to the Highands. No internet, no cell (well, I just chose not to use my cell), no manic city/uni/life in general events constantly overwhelming me. Just great food, great friends, AMAZING scenery, and a change of pace that was severely needed.
Adam's house is in Lochcarron, on the west coast of Scotland right next to the Isle of Skye. The landscape is so beautiful there, it's easy to see where all the great Scottish authors have found inspiration. The mountains are much lower than the ones I'm used to in California, they remind me more of the hills around Simi Valley and the Santa Monica mountains...not too tall, and not too sharp. this part of Scotland wasn't glaciated, and the landscape feels slightly less intimidating compared to the sheer rock faces found in other parts of the island (although none of the British mountains have anything on the Sierra Nevada). There is a melange of complementary life across the mountains-gorse, heather, some evergreens, some deciduous trees, a lot of exposed rock cut through with thousands of streams rushing from the peaks into the loch (lake) below. And a lot of sheep.
While hiking the Culags :-)
There are lochs everywhere. Loch Carron is a sea loch, connecting to the Atlantic/Arctic Oceans, and the Gulf Stream on the west coast of Scotland ensures a temperate environment. It was a little damp, but not overly cold or rainy while we were there. The topography reminded me a lot of the hills around Simi Valley, actually. The deep browns, the exposed rock faces, the sparse tree covering (there has been some deforestation, apparently). The view from Adam's place is amazing. Straight out over the loch to the opposite mountains, the water constantly moving with the breeze, the clouds covering the sky giving a sense of both oppression and safety (depending on you're mood at the time, I guess). The water mirrors the grey sky, but the grey/blue of the water and the sky both magnify the smooth velvet tones of the hills, making you want to reach out and touch them, caress them like the familiar face of a loved one. When random chunks of pure sunlight cut through the clouds, exposing the pure, sapphire hue of the water you receive a small jolt of warmth that cuts straight to your heart. Those small, teasing hints at the potential color the loch hides kept me staring, staring at the scene before me for countless minutes yesterday morning. watching the small changes and the overall strong stability that the Highlands does so well. You literally feel steeped in and awed by the weighty sense of history-both of humanity and nature-that the rugged, soft, safe, sweet, challenging mountains, lochs, and valleys present.
I feel I could wander those mountains, lochs, and valleys for weeks at a time, lost in my own primordial human nature and relying on my sense of wonder and desire to explore and find my own identity reflected back from a loch's depths, hear my laughter welling up from a mountain stream, my strength emanating from the deeply rooted mountains.
The highlands are a magical place, if you open yourself to the possibility of centuries of interactions and contradictions between man and nature. those contradictions and interactions have left faint paths, stirrings of old ideas and new chances to take, if you care enough to stop for a minute and feel for them. I now understand why they are still regarded by so many as such a magical place. I can't wait to go back.