Wildness and belongings
It’s Saturday morning, about 11am, I’m sitting at my new bureau with my freshly brewed coffee (I sense a piece on coffee snobbery coming up) and Kindness’ Softness as a Weapon is playing in the background. It’s sunny outside and I already did yoga and had a breakfast of boiled egg, smoked salmon and avocado on toast. I’m feeling the stimulating effects of caffeine, sunshine, good food and music. And here I am inaugurating my desk with a tall pile of cards next to me and taking action on the resolution of having this new cycle feature more spontaneous writing, less essays and more meanderings.
I’ve been on the road a lot recently, long train journeys, ferries, car rides. Many hours sitting in a climate controlled cabin while looking out at new landscapes that also felt deeply familiar. Dramatic clouds, melting snowy peaks, heather, lochs and sheep, visions occasionally washed over by gushes of rain and bursts of sunshine.
My affinity with Scotland has always been a given to me. I haven’t paid much attention to it, I’ve just taken it for granted, which upon reflection is both interesting and surprising. When confronted with English pastoral beauty, I pause internally, and I have felt an intense giddiness when I spent a lot of time immersed in Irish landscapes. On my recent trip to Northern California I felt my body relax deeply in the recognition of the Pacific Coast. But in Scotland I have a different experience, I see myself just nodding in recognition, but why?
Last month was my first visit to the Isle of Mull, and I felt magnetised by the beauty and the distinct palette of the landscape. I had the privilege of being driven across the island at 7am on a Sunday morning in total stillness. As I was looking out the window it suddenly hit me: there are parts of Scotland that remind me of the Andes. This goes beyond what we understand as Highlands, there’s something deeper that I can’t quite define, a resonance of ruggedness and unforgiving wild beauty, harsh, and the effects they have on us, how this confronts us with aspects of ourselves, our domesticity, our clinginess to comfort, our distance to our own wildness.
Just as I was having this realisation my driver stopped in the middle of the road. I thought he had forgotten to make a turn and was attempting to correct the route, but he asked me to look to my right: a herd of deer grazing in the morning light, just next to the road. Beautiful.
As I was contemplating the peaceful herd of deer I smiled and thought of llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos. I remembered road-trips through the Patagonia with R, and family convoys riding up towards Huancayo. My memory went far back in time, until I was intruded by a flashback to a magical stag sighting last summer in Cornwall, whose gift was claimed by my companion as singularly meaningful for them. At the time this puzzled me with a discomfort that I was quick to brush away. Sometimes we can only look at painful realities from a distance. Why the need to take that magic away from an us to centre an I, I wonder? Why monopolise the gift from the stag? Alas, no magic can be taken, and in any case, I claim it back, for the us that was and for me.
Retroactive reclaimings is what I’m up to these days. Like taking in the Andes in Scotland and shedding a tear at the beauty of the landscape. Admiring the grace of grazing beasts from ancestral lands and lands yet to be known. All belongings intersecting across space and time, as I take in the magic of past sightings and the interconnectedness of landscapes through their resonance, or perhaps just through the intersection that is my witnessing.
I come to the mash up of wild unknowns for further insight into reclamations across landscapes and timelines. In the knowledge that this deck holds no Andean little beasts, and making a mental note that I need some of these in my divination cupboard.
Well hello little deer, and hello gazelle. Cousins from far off lands perhaps? A vicuña can be another cousin then, another branch in the constellation of the species tree of ruminating herd mammals across continents.
Belonging as a form of interconnectedness.
Reclamation as the acknowledgement that the whirlpool stirred by the primordial sea serpent brings everything into its fold, there’s no helping it.
I reclaim what’s mine and I’m reclaimed by the lands I traverse and the other-than-human beings I converse with.
Belonging as interdependence through movement. An Us. And yet we belong to ourselves first and foremost. We are our own refuge. And from this embodied knowledge all else unfolds.