January 2013

The light stumbles over the hills, falls cold beyond the sward. A river and a road wend through Skye’s Glen Brittle en route to Loch Eynort, where they will stop. The sublime traverse nearly forgotten in its ending. I heard tell that fairy pools hid amongst the glowering hills, but the newly-flushed burns and streamlets thwart my exploration. It’s no bother; everything in this beguiling half-light is of the fairy realm. There is little to draw the eye in this glen, the visual equivalent of silencing the ever-chattering voices of the mind. Meditation.

The name Glen Brittle is an anglicization of the Gaelo-Norse, but it feels right. The hard Black Cuillins soar to the southeast, but this space feels brittle, fragile, thin. It could disappear in a blink or a breath…
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The Kilt Rock Falls, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I haven’t traveled in some time. At least not physically. Mentally, well, if words were miles I’d have circled the world three times by now.

I have been far, far away writing into creation this world in my mind. Every day new characters, motivations, connections, and details find their way on to my virtual page. I don’t know where they come from. Is this the mythical “river” so many artists speak of? Ideas like fish swimming hidden in the depths.

It’s a strange feeling, surprising yourself. I’ve spent hours at night, mulling over “fixes” for certain pieces of my plot, certain boring characters, usually to no avail. And then, some mornings, as cats jam their paws under the door to claw away my focus, I throw on my yoke, type toward my goal, and I notice flowers along the path where it had only been barren before. The feeling is almost like a shiver, like the inpouring of something alien.

I have a lot left to write, but I can feel things long unresolved clicking into place. I’m hopeful that I will reach a kind of tipping point and my momentum will skyrocket.

I can feel that point approaching. Read more...

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The young northern sun claims blinding bodies on the chop and roil of the Pentland Firth. The ferry beneath me churns Thurso into memory as we ply north toward Orkney’s magnetic archipelago. In the air hangs the haze of yestermorrow, like opiate smoke climbing from the sea, bending time into a circle. Our laden vessel scuds toward land in the distance, decks and berths rocking, perceptions unbalanced. Another of those moments of displacement, déjà vu, and dissociation glowing in my consciousness like a light bulb’s wolfram filament. Like I’ve experienced this in some half-remembered age.

A seastack detaches itself from the mass of a deserted island. The Old Man of Hoy is red sandstone and cloud-like in its ability to take on different visages to different viewers…
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Balblair Whisky from Edderton, Ross-shire

It feels appropriate to write about Balblair distillery after tackling Glenmorangie last week because the two distilleries, though near each other geographically, are separated by a wide gulf within the whisky industry. From volume to brand recognition to product experience, the two exist, if not on opposite poles, at least far apart from each other.

Balblair is a small highland distillery perched on the Dornoch Firth in the tiny town of Edderton north of Inverness. The landscape is hilly and forested, slashed by watery inlets and drenched by the frequent rainstorm, and it feels like the perfect place to lay down barrels of whisky to let time and the elements work their magic. Read more...

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The air shimmers between the glimmering rows of copper goliaths lining the walls of Glenmorangie’s stillhouse. There is an incessant roar, the sound of spirits ascending, and a dry heat floods the space: the last exhalations severing the ethereal from the imperfect. I look up and see a window magnifying the wan light of the overcast Scottish day. Fanciful and alien beasts leap, lithe and graceful, through interlaced vines and knots around a central flock of interconnected, swirling triskelions. I recognize the whole as a reproduction from the Hilton of Cadboll, a local Pictish stone somewhere north of 1,000 years old.

Amidst the disorienting noise and warm embrace, these evocative designs strike me as ciphers of a forgotten beyond. I am starting to understand that faith is not an exercise of logic, but an overwhelming feeling that floods the whole and brooks no disbelief…
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