May 2012

I stand in grasses thick as uncombed hair and bounded by ridges laced with tiny pink and yellow flowers. There is an overpowering scent of alkaline sea and the rumble-hiss of breaking waves, but I can’t see the water. So I clamber up the embankment that once formed the wall of a 1,200-year-old Pictish fort. An empty bench, the white and cloud-gray paint chipped and peeling, crouches before the Moray Firth’s expanse. Clouds bleed into the distant blue sky, blue sea, blue hills. Black Isle, Easter Ross, the Fearn Peninsula, and Sutherland: All far away places to my eye, but as close as the shirt upon my back compared to what lies beneath my feet. For whom does this Burghead bench wait?

I can almost see a man, years beyond his wisdom…


The Traveling Savage After Surmounting Craigower Hill in Pitlochry

And just like that, I’m back.

I’ve been home in Wisconsin for just over a week now, and the three weeks before my return – those I spent rambling in Scotland – are a pulsing bunch of glittering images and glowing memories. How fast the past recedes from the present.

I’ve now had the opportunity to go on several, long solo trips as well as trips with Sarah and my dad since the inception of Traveling Savage. Along the way I scribble in a Moleskine, write on a private poetry site, and punch insights into my iPhone.

I also write here, of course.


Wind and wan light prance around Rosslyn Chapel in the shadow of the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh. This Midlothian alien reaches toward its seventh century of age. The chapel was born of Roman Catholicism, but it looks like a melange of every known religion worked into stone by a twisted fantasist. Spires and arches and vaulted roofs of aging blonde stone shoulder uncomfortably next to each other. I leave my breath at the door and step into the dreams and night terrors of a mad stonemason. Every surface is carved with angels and demons, biblical scenes, and flora and fauna from worlds that had not yet been discovered. Hidden within the stone opus are more than one hundred faces of a more distant time.



Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland’s Edinburgh is a city of disbelief. There is a castle upon a hill and streets upon streets. There is an old town and a new town, both feeling like they’ve been locked in amber, both many centuries old. There are visible histories, hidden histories, and certainly forgotten histories down in the closes that tumble to where the old lochs used to be.

Edinburgh is a city of vision. I have been along the wind-swept battlements of Edinburgh Castle and marveled at the city. But trip after trip after trip I missed what is arguably Edinburgh’s greatest view: Arthur’s Seat. Read more...


Rain sheets off the drystone croft’s slate roof as my breath fogs the windowpane. The blind world loses itself in hysteric gales and gusts, its reedy voice keening through stone walls and over rooftops like a bow upon a fiddle string. In the dour absence of light we measure the passing day in pints and drams, nestled in our watery holes like shivering voles. I watch birds streak across the sky in reckless parabolas, etching clovers of flight in my sun-starved eyes. The wind does not relent. Seafingers, cold as winter rain, rake across Orkney’s rolling, barren hills, aching to add men and his works to its collection of trees and light.

Then, as the Jura runs low, a line of fire burns across the belly of the sky. My dad and I knife through the elements and skid to a halt on the flagstones in the yard.