November 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Few place names evoke such strong feelings in me as Scotland. I am not sure why this is the case, however. I am not Scottish, although my father was from Galicia, that region of northwest Spain with deep Celtic roots, complete with bagpipes and curly haired ruddy people. Perhaps there is a very distant blood connection with Scotland. I was educated at a British school in Argentina, where I had an unforgettable succession of Scottish headmasters. So maybe there is some connection there too. But I am an ardent Anglophile, and I have always been ambivalent about my feelings towards England vis-a-vis Scotland, or for that matter vis-a-vis France, a nation that I also love and with which I have very close blood ties through my mother.
Scottish history is sometimes seen as violent, even by the standards of the European middle ages. Macbeth was my introduction to Shakespeare, in my early teens, and may have tinted my understanding of Scotland ever since that impressionable age. But was Macbeth's world real? In a similar vein, do the peaceful Norwegians and Icelanders of today really descend from ruthless and murderous Vikings? Or is that image of the Vikings, together with that of ferocious Scots, little more than a myth of the Dark Ages? After all, Scotland is the birthplace of geology and the seat of world-changing eighteenth century enlightenment currents and ideas. The scientific understanding of the age and history of the Earth was only one of them. It is, without a doubt, a land of enormous human contrasts.
Yet when I think of Scotland, as when I think of any other place, it is not the human history what moves me, so much as the geography. The landscape, the weather patterns, the plants and animals. And Scotland is a powerful land. In absolute terms nothing in Scotland is truly large. The Munros are no taller than the Appalachian hills of the Southeastern US, the lochs do not come close to Icelands' or Norway's fjords or the glacial lakes of the Patagonian Andes, the glens are subdued versions of the Austrian thals. But for some reason Scotland is an imposing, beautiful and deeply moving land. It may be the contrast between the deep greens and the quickly changing leaden skies. The cold and windy summer rain. Or perhaps simply the wonderfully horrible Scottish roads, that make all distances appear longer by virtue of how long it takes to get from here to there. Whatever it is, I will always love Scotland and when I leave I always long to return.
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Photos, commentary and opinions by Alberto Patiño Douce