March 2012

The west highlands of Scotland are a snapshot of the earth’s slow riot. Brutal crags rip into the sky alongside wide verdigris valleys slashed with ice-white streams. The turf is a thin layer of skin over a stark and statuesque skeleton. I stare at the barren slopes of the Three Sisters of Glen Coe, close to perceiving the memory of trees that hangs like mist around the peaks. Folklore names this place the Glen of Weeping not for the waters springing from the hilltops but for the 17th-century massacre that saw 38 MacDonalds hunted to death in the snows. Some trick of the valley’s acoustics makes the shivering wind into a Fomorian death rattle.

Sorrow’s bloated memory chokes the glen.


Traveling Savage at the Lochranza Ferry Terminal on the Isle of Arran, Scotland

You’re probably wondering if I’ve used up my allotment of freaky self-portraits for these State of the Savage posts yet. I’m getting there, not to worry. Luckily (for me, not you), I’ll be back in Scotland shortly where I’m sure to replenish this stock.

It’s been an interesting six months at home between trips. Sure, I’ve had mini-vacations to Florida and excursions to San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Chicago, but generally I’ve been waking up at home and lurching into my office with coffee. It’s a nice life. It’d be even nicer if I was making a livable income.

There have been frequent periods of thrashing for new ideas during these home-bound months. Read more...


Hand-waves of Scotland

Off in Scotland’s hinterland, among the rural villages and close-knit islands, there is a sign language common to all travelers of the road. Native Scots deliver these signs from behind the wheels of moving vehicles with some combination of hand, arm, and head movement, and to the average visitor unschooled in such speech the meaning is always reduced to a simple salutation. Some would simply say that a person is “waving.”

But then, much is lost in translation even between English-speaking cultures.

In fact, the different hand-waves of Scotland are nuanced with myriad meanings depending on the circumstances. Read more...


Black air stands behind me as I look west. A band of hard orange light slides behind the dark hills of Perthshire. The chill of night descends from the stars though the sun’s heat still radiates from the stones of Telford’s bridge like the embrace of a lover just before sleep. This moment, when Dunkeld fades into darkness and the sinuous Tay whispers, is a tether to bygone ages before cathedrals and bridges, before motorways and railroads. The cone-shaped tops of pines and the skeletal branches of March oaks stand alien and wondrous in the gloaming.

My breath becomes a ghost as the sun dies. These vespers will climb the thick smells of young rivers and patient, snow-crusted shoots into the empyrean. This is no lament, merely an impulse from the thin times…


Craigendarroch Hill Viewpoint

All the beer and whisky writing I’ve been doing lately has inclined me to write another post about my outdoorsy pursuits in Scotland. I’m not always in the pub draining pints of ale and sipping drams of whisky – before that happens I’m usually out in Scotland’s beautiful landscapes taking in the scenery and working up a sweat.

The Cairngorms National Park is full of such opportunities, and Craigendarroch Hill is the perfect half-day jaunt. The hill forms the northern edge of town and it’s surprisingly tall. The River Dee gives its name to this area of Scotland and the river hugs the pretty little town of Ballater against Craigendarroch Hill, which makes a gorgeous setting ripe for excellent views. Read more...