I’m in Scotland.
I’m again confronted with the ever-familiar waves of knowing and not-knowing. I know the fresh, washed scent of rain cleaned air, of chill breezes and the golden honey warmth of sun. I know the hill that holds Stirling Castle, and the Black Isle that peeks through the window from across the Moray Firth. I know this building, but the view out the window has changed, and the flags that hang of St. Andrew’s cross, the lion rampant, the jolly roger, and St. George’s cross seem oddly disparate, though they grace walls which still hold familiar photographs. Lone Tree on Rannoch Moor. Buachaille Etive Mor. Pap of Glen Coe, Eilean Donan. Inchkeith Sunset. Familiar names.
The people here are now alien. No Jordan or Julia or Nicole or Keith. Instead there is Andres, Sandra, Howe. Unfamiliar but kind. As a former hostelite, they welcomed me with warmth and shared food and even tucked me in when I fell asleep on the familiar cushion of one of these black leather sofas, covering me with a fluffy duvet as I slept in a group of strangers.
The maps are well known, from John O’Groats to Skye to Aberdeen. The voices are unfamiliar. No Polish do I hear, but French and English accents. It has been…a long time. The giant gulls call out their thoughts of the town and the surf. Cars rumble across the Firth bridge. The sun hides his face behind an oddly stagnant sky.
A whisper flits through me, a startling revelation. Inverness feels like home no more. Perhaps it is the lack of sleep. Perhaps it is the staggering mix of old and new. It could be either of those things, but I think what it really is goes much deeper than a superficial makeover. I’ve got a home. Not even a physical home; that’s in flux. But there is someone rather than somewhere I need. And he is very far away. He has become my family, and where family is, so home is too.
More than anything, I wish he was here to share this place with. Even shrouded in clouds, she has a glory and a cleanness that surpasses anything I have ever known. There is wisdom in her aged glens, peace in her silver-smooth lochs, strength in her heather-clad mountains, and humility in the rushing of her surrounding sea. I think if she could speak, she would tell me that she will always hold a place for me here. And that the next time I return to her, not to come alone.