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 of the imperfect as it falls from the ethereal. 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, a flood that brooks no disbelief. I stand here long after the tour has moved on, shooting photo after photo, vainly hoping each shot might peel back another layer of ignorance, just as I now dig. In the still next to me, spirits float past its small window. Perhaps what the Picts hid in these symbols is less important than their simple invitation to us, to rise.