State of the Savage: May 2015

by Keith Savage · 5 comments

Hiking through Glen Coe, Lochaber, Scotland

I returned from three weeks in Europe this past Monday. It was mostly a vacation, a gluttonous couple of weeks staggering through searing southern Spain on dirt-cheap wine and free tapas followed by a lush, wet week in the highlands of Scotland with friends from the other side of the world.

The trip was also the perfect milestone to force me to finish the first draft of my novel (I did) and forget about it (I mostly did) so I could return to it with analytical, editor eyes in place of creative, writer eyes. Interesting fact: I have two sets of eyes.

In between the gallons of wine, horns of whisky, crates of olives, and platters of black pudding occurred a surprising number of deep conversations. You know the kind — the ones we work so hard to avoid in the crush of our automated lives. The nature of death and our preferred passage to it, the desire (or lack thereof) for children and the selfishness of wanting and not wanting them, the shocking randomness of privilege and our births into it, and travel. This is a travel blog after all.

Why do we do it? What do we get out of it?

As with any royal “we” there is no single answer, and even if there was, such is the nature of philosophical ramblings over whisky and wine that in no iteration of the infinite possible universes would we ever come to it.

There we sat, Me, Sarah, and our friends Michael and Katherine, on our last night in Scotland. We chomped on vegetarian haggis bon-bons and quaffed pints in between snippets of conversation at The Devil’s Advocate in Edinburgh. Some people travel to get away from their “normal” life, others travel to experience something new, to crank open their bear-trap minds and let something novel fall into them. Others travel because they think it’s what they should do. It was cacophonous in the subterrene darkness there off the Royal Mile, but that wasn’t why he had only half-formed answers to the questions above.

We simply struggled to get at deeper truths.

Our thoughts collectively turned to a hike we made through Glen Creran, a little-known but beautiful glen in northern Argyll on the backside of Glen Coe. Scotland’s Forestry Commission does a fine job of sign-posting walks through the woods (though many of them are plantations that could be felled at any time), and we followed one of these until we found a muddy little track leading into denser woodland. Slogging through the morass and flicking ticks off our legs and hands, we passed into open glades rife with bluebells and the white flowers of wild garlic sharp against the vibrant green of undergrowth and moss. A waterfall rushed ahead as we stepped over fallen logs and bearded rocks. Then, a vision.

The Faerie Bridge.

It looks fae, small as it is with its tight arch. Upthrust stones mimic the tines of a woodland spirit’s crown and warned against our intrusion. By Puck’s own hand was it built.

I must have taken a hundred photos, but to my dismay none turned out all that well. We didn’t want to leave this place. It had that sanctified feeling, like no other human had passed this way before. That’s all rubbish, of course, for even as we tucked our heads and continued on I couldn’t help but notice more than a few bluebells crushed by our passage.

One and all, this was our favorite moment of the week. Finding this place. It validated the trip. It validated our suspicions that we were a pack of misanthropes, too, for it felt like we’d found something raw, primeval even, untouched by our own kind and we loved that feeling.

Now that is a conundrum.

I’m back at the aptly named Devil’s Advocate, silently chewing cold-smoked salmon with a pint of Schiehallion, wondering if the lot of us travel to escape ourselves.

We don’t have *the* answer for why we travel or what, exactly, we get out of it. What we have is a host of insufficient ideas. Not one of them hits the nail square on the head, and it’s frustrating. Frustrating enough to keep me traveling, to keep searching for that feeling of finding another Faerie Bridge, and to cross it.

Perhaps finding the answers takes the edge off life. Maybe we just need a reminder that we don’t know everything, that there’s wonder left in the world, that we just have to search for it. And sometimes, when we’re lucky, we find it.

And I wonder, now, if that’s not the answer.

CHIPNo Gravatar May 28, 2015 at 9:19 AM


Great post. Always good to see the unexpected and our reactions to it. As for your selfishness, understanding the conundrum is important. But now, with three young granddaughters, I am excited to see the world through their eyes. It may be a bit in the future for you, but it is well worth the wait. And they can travel…

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 28, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Alas (maybe), Chip, kids are not in the cards for me.

maggieNo Gravatar May 28, 2015 at 8:41 AM

Just love this post! Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. Scotland is enchanting. I am heading over Tuesday and hope to find this very spot. Thank you! xx

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 28, 2015 at 10:02 AM

Best of luck!

DeborahNo Gravatar May 27, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Truly a wonderful posting.

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