Picture This: North from Cromarty Firth

by Keith Savage

The earth spins and flings North Sea winds into our car like daggers into a hay bale as we cross the bridge over the Cromarty Firth. My dad points out the left side of the car at the unfolding vista, and I hastily park in a pull-out designed for just this moment. Layers of elevation stack one upon the other: pocked water, thin strand of beach, puffy trees, barren foothills, cyclopean snow-bearded peaks, and the misty heavens. Cars and semis scream past our turned backs in stark contrast to this silent and primordial view. We snap a handful of photos and stare.

The beckoning of the northwest highlands grows from the sense of purity in that massive, largely untracked wilderness. It would be a venus fly trap or a poison apple for one such as me, though, bred in a modern world and suckled on technology. I have the desire to return to the basic land, to reacquaint and restart, but there are too many invisible walls surrounding this illusion. There is nothing illusory about how right Scotland’s wildernesses feel. We head back to the car and I think of all the cities of the world. Something primordial and unrequited writhes inside my breast.

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