December 2011

The wooden door to the chapel slams shut behind me: A silent dimness opens up as the tempest battering Iona is closed off. Hard, simple chairs march toward a divine arched window all aglow, worn hymnals resting in the seat backs. Great pavers, damp from the Scottish autumn, jigsaw together on the floor. A cash register dings and chimes in a gift shop somewhere. Fifteen centuries ago, a building stood here that was Columba’s golem of faith. He launched sortie after sortie upon the native Picts and Scots from this scrap of land, determined to pave over their beliefs with his own: Christianity.

Into ruin and rebuilt, again and again, Iona Abbey was reborn and resurrected over the centuries. Each time an element of the original structure was ignored or forgotten until now, when what we’re left with is little more than 80 years old. Would Columba recognize today’s abbey? So I wonder about many things of antiquity that have lasted into our modern times.
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My Reflection in a Puddle in Glasgow, Scotland

The end of every year seems to alternate between an explosive bang and an expectant breath. Two years ago, as 2009 ended, I was one month into my decision to quit my job and launch a bootstrapping career as a travel writer. Sarah and I were focused, a little anxious, but prepared to follow through.

Last year at this time I’d quit my job of more than seven years and just returned from a dizzying five weeks in Argentina. My spirit was high – I was executing my vision and preparing for a year full of trips to Scotland. Fireworks!

Today, just four days from 2012, I’m a picture of uncertainty. Read more...

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Trackpacking: Fennesz

by Keith Savage · 2 comments

Christian Fennesz

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

I still have all of the equipment: The acoustic guitar, the Novation Remote and M-Audio Trigger Finger MIDI controllers, Ableton Live and Logic software, the purpose-bought MacBook Pro that I now use to blog. There was a time not long ago when I threw myself into making music without a lick of musical training. If my Trackpacking choices are any indication, you’ll know what kind of music I sought to create – glitchy, ambient, electronic pieces suffused with emotion. I hacked together a couple dozen tracks over the span of five years. Read more...

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The boat churns a silent, parabolic wake as it leaves. Couples shoulder their packs and seek solace from each other, eat apples and crack open thermoses, and puzzle over their homely lives. Like some stoic horse abiding the flies clambering about its eyes, Staffa withstands the boatload of tourists tromping around its loamy plateau. Sunlight shatters on wind-frayed surf. There is a scent that makes me think of the absence of humans, and it unnerves me that it smells so right and pure. I know that beneath the opaque sea there are hidden worlds blossoming, but we cannot see them.

Time has nothing to latch on to out here, and so it ceases to matter, like our other creations. For centuries people have left their cities to visit Staffa…
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The Brahan Seer Plaque in Fortrose

I’m happy to bring you today’s post from David McNicoll of Highland Experience USA. David is something of a sage on Scottish history (and really, all things Scottish), and today he shares one of the spookier tales from Scotland’s past. Enjoy and happy holidays!

It had certainly been a rough week since the Scarlet Fever had taken hold in the school, and recently many of the boys had taken a turn for the worse, but for now all seemed quiet in the makeshift ward. Feeling the need for a stretch of her legs the duty nurse decided on a five-minute break and headed out the door for some fresh air. As the door shut, Francis Mackenzie, Lord Seaforth, awoke. Seaforth, a twelve-year-old lad found himself alone in the gloom, scanning the room… Read more...

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