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Thoughts from Scotland

June 19, 2018

I'm writing this as I sit in the window seat of the General Store cafe in Torridon, in the Scottish Highlands. The page on which I write is virtually glowing from the bright white light that glares in through the windows around me and the skylight above me.

 

That is the first thing I would say to describe the Highlands; the characteristic most noticed by me in the brief time I've been here and the thing I suspect will stay with me most after I have left. The light in this place is never basic. More often than not it seems, purple-black storm clouds - the moodiest fluffs you've ever seen - hang heavily in the sky. As they do, deep golden light will somehow (mysteriously, magically) find a spot through which to shine, soaking everything in this utterly other-worldly hue. Dramatic as hell. 

 

Other times - like this one - layers and layers of bright light cloud line up across the sky, like crackers when you spread them out all fancy on platter. The sun is just barely veiled behind the layers, poking its rays through the gaps at opportune moments. 

It's the strangest thing being here, visiting a part of the world I've never been to before in my life, but feeling so struck by the familiarity of it all. I've always been told how uncannily similar the Highlands are to Otago in New Zealand; how the Scots who found themselves rootless after the Highland clearances couldn't believe their eyes when they got off the boats that had carried them halfway around the globe and felt immediately at home.

 

And it's true. Driving through valleys and over mountain ranges that look so incredibly like that place more loved by me than any other, this part of the world doesn't just speak to me... it sings to me in a way no foreign place ever has before. 

 

It is, at least in part, likely due to my chronically overactive imagination. I've always had one. I've always created elaborate stories for myself that I let play out in my own head. Being an excessive internal storyteller in this way - one with a fierce interest in history and the knowledge that my own heritage lies in this part of the world - I can't help but paint a picture in every scene I see, every site I visit, of people not so far removed myself living out their lives here. It's a lovely thing to experience when stepping into a new country for the first time.

 

It feels especially apt for me to feel this way at this particular moment in time; to be struck by the connectivity of people, all people. How meaningless those lines we draw in the sand to separate us really are when you get down to it. Until not very long ago at all, people moved freely from one place to another; the story of humankind can be told as a series of movements and mergings. It's our earliest ancestors leaving Africa for lands new. It's the Romans leaving their small peninsula for the deserts of the Middle East.  It's the Vikings leaving Scandinavia for the British Isles. It's the Scots leaving the Highlands for the South Pacific. And it' the Latin Americans leaving home as they know it to seek a life no longer available to them in the place from which they flee.

 

As I write this, families are being separated at the U.S. Mexico border and people who are seeking to escape a violence and unimaginable danger are being treated as criminals rather than the refugees they are. I cannot, nor have I ever been able to fathom the sense of pure righteousness some people have when it comes to borders, most particularly by those who are the descendants of settlers in a country that was already occupied when their forefathers arrived. How do they find the nerve to complain about people coming in and impacting the way of life they're so comfortable with when they live in a society based on just that. 

 

Where we are born is a chance occurrence... it's a fluke. We may be born equal, but we are not born in equal circumstances, and it is certainly not a fault you can place on anyone's shoulders; point at someone and say "you did this." Every single human on this planet has a right to strive for a better life. Who are we to stop them trying when that means escaping a violence which threatens not merely your lifestyle but your life itself... the life of your children? That anyone could not only deny someone this but condemn them for it is abhorrent. The injustice of it makes me want to scream.

 

I will never forget that unforgettable day in which the vote for Brexit shook London to its core. I will never forget the conversations I had. Borders aren't real. Really stop and think about it. What makes someone on one side of a line different than someone on the other side other than the awareness of the line itself? Nothing. We are all people. We all belong to one home, and if someone's room has a hole in the roof and the rain is coming in, for God's sake open the door and keep them warm. 

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