A dirt trail brushes the southwest edge of Pencaitland as it runs south into the hinterlands of the Lothians. This is the final leg of my journey from Edinburgh to Glenkinchie Distillery, and the March weather alternates between patchy sun and sleeting gales. An old railroad used to shoot through this bramble tunnel in the Burnt Wood, where my footprints now squelch into the mud. I stalk down the path with my head bowed, cold, slightly lost, and in desperate need of a dram. Then, a man and his two inquisitive dogs shuffle past and there, just audible over the wind, is the slow clop of hooves. I break the reverie and turn around.
The man in blue jeans keeps his pups down at heel while a pair of women ride white and brown horses from the light. There’s a sense of retraction, of our old works disappearing and the ancient, elemental bonds of man and animal reasserting themselves. It’s a beautiful thought to my philosophy, though I’m standing in the middle of the trail with a camera, like a black speck on an otherwise precious photo. The irony that to experience sublime moments in travel is also to compromise them has become something of an albatross. But it is a perfect scene, and perhaps one day I’ll think of it only as such.