July 22, 2011

Today marked a significant event in this trip: Driving on the left side of the road.

Yes, way back when this trip was first being planned, renting (hiring) a car for at least part of then trip was a must. How could an American with the opportunity to do so, resist the chance!

We picked up the car ( a hot looking, black Vauxhall) in downtown Glasgow then did a couple of loops trying to figure out how to get on the motorway. Once we got headed in the right direction , it was fun.

I felt like James Bond. Mr. Bean occasionally.

After  30 minutes or so we found ourselves on a two lane (dual carriage-way) highway, gently climbing into the highlands. Really beautiful. . . I mean really. It is so familiar, so much like home, but still inexplicably different.

Green, so many shades of green, something my father spoke about frequently. The flora is very similar too: Lupine, Foxglove, Sword Fern, Bracken Fern, Alder, Hemlock, Fir, even Red Cedar. The soil is black, musty and saturated. It has a smell that says life will come bursting out of it no matter what you do.

We made a couple of stops before arriving at our home for the next few days, Inveraray; home of the Duke of Argyll, Chieftain of Clan Campbell, my mother’s family. I’ll not bore you with the history, or elaborate descriptions of the town. . . You can look it up on the inter webs If you have a mind.

Were staying in a B&B called Ruhda Na Craige, built in 1860 something for the Procurator of Argyll. Howard and Susan run it. Really nice people.

I had two of those special moments of contentment today.

The first was saying morning office in the middle of Glasgow Central Station. I discovered that if you cannot find true solitude, complete anonymity is a workable substitute. The moment came as I prayed for those around me. Such a familiarity with these people, like looking into the faces in a faded photograph of your grandparents and recognizing yourself.

The second came as I stood at the head of an enormous valley on a roadside pull-off called Pause and beThankful. There’s some kind of grave there, but just as significant is the vantage point, looking back down a long steady climb that you have just completed over green hills, small waterfalls on each side of the valley feeding a winding creek at the bottom.

I’ve seen almost this exact view many times before . . . In the Washington Cascades. But again . . . This just a touch different.

Interesting that one moment comes from a connection with a familiar people, and the other from a connection with familiar land. A feeling of home, finding a thread that connects you to the new, to the novel, to the recently discovered.

Why is there such a thrill in that? To discover a common bond with someone you just met, you know the same person, or lived in the same town, you’re reading the same book . . . Whatever it is. It creates a thrill when it happens.

I think we were made for connection. I think we were created with the mechanism to tune into the familiar where ever we find it, (like one of those radio tracking antennas they use on nature shows to follow the migration of the recently tagged and released Blue Bellied Nob Gobbler) and when we DO pick up the signal, we have the opportunity to embrace the truth of God’s immensity, our special place in an amazing creation, and its wonder.

. . . We can blow it off too. Or chalk it up to only  it’s various natural causes. Thats a different subject.

I’ve been feeling that thread of familiarity as I read my oldest daughter’s blog about the trip. It’s compelling to read that she sees or experiences the same things (or very similar things).

Brenda and Robyn (my youngest daughter) experience things differently, but the familiarity is still there, and still a thrill to “recognize” them as people, but in a different setting.

It’s all connected, friends. Most of the boundaries that keep us separate and suspicious are imaginary. We are all part of something bigger than even the best, most ruggedly constructed doctrine can ever fully explain.

Christian friends: Relax a little. Remember that as true as your doctrine is, as well put together as it may be, it serves only as a road sign pointing to a God who cannot be contained in a road sign! John 5:39

Non-Christian friends: Truth exists. You respond to it every moment of your life. Don’t suppose that because you can’t hold it all at once that you should not pick up the pieces that present themselves to you.

We are surrounded by the glory of God.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

9 thoughts on “July 22, 2011

  1. “Most of the boundaries that keep us separate and suspicious are imaginary.”
    -False Polarities….I am learning something of this in my theology class. It’s my new favorite thought. I love you all so!

  2. Dan, I’m so glad you decided to blog your trip, I’m enjoying reading Kellie as well. Since I moved to the Northwest I’ve had many odd moments of feeling familiarity and longing all at once when in certain places, like the Cascades, or Skagit Valley. Reading this reminded me of the time I was nine, living in Saudi Arabia and I came upon this huge poster of Scotland in the library. The image was of this green farmland right on the edge of a lake, hills in the background. I was enthralled and instantly homesick, which didn’t make sense, of course, since “home” was southern California…desert. That’s where we went every year on home leave. Still, I get the same feeling nowadays. I’m already planning a trip for our 20th wedding anniversary but I’m thinking 15 might be easier to wait for!

  3. Beautifully said. What you are describing, I call resonance – that recognition that something in this place is part of you. I get it in the north of UK as well. But living at the junction of the Cascades and the Coastal mountains, one has to make do with what one has – sigh!

    I am enjoying recognizing also, that phenomenon of stepping outside the comfort zone and finding you see things with freshness and newness. You’ve got it. I’m also enjoying the same thing down here – but I am getting to the point of yearning for home.

    Diane

  4. I go up the rest and be thankful twice a year and still love it every time.
    I have a challenge to myself to cycle up it.
    (maybe that’s because I am watching the Tour de France at the moment.)
    I guess I am so lucky living only an hour’s drive from the border of Scotland.
    I am really loving what you are writing here, I think you are a gifted writer and a deep thinker.
    I am enjoying very much someone else’s view of the British Isles.
    A bit like Bill Bryson
    Carry on blogging.
    Good journeyings.
    Di

      1. Hey, steady on now, what I dream and what I achieve maybe two different things.
        For a start I would have to lose 6 stone in weight to achieve it.
        Have kayaked round a lot of West coast of Scotland, but there again I am sat down doing it.
        When are you getting into Northumberland.?
        When are you stopping at Jeff and Jill’s.?
        Give them my regards.

  5. Dan,
    You certainly have a way with words – in other words, you write beautifully! Alan and I are hanging on every one and check in frequently to make sure we haven’t missed anything. You bring us with you and I feel like I am in the car (on the wrong side). Just one word of caution – if you travel through Glen Coe, do NOT admit you belong to the Clan Campbell… very bad blood there – a betrayal and massacre way back but people’s memories are loooong.

    1. Thanks, Sarah.

      Yes, I was roughly familar with the Glen Coe incident, and have beeen warned THREE times now not to adverise our clan indenity. Howard, who operates the B&B here said that there is still an inscription over the entryway to a pub in the village that rewads: “No Campbells Allowed.” At the same time, I have heard tell of a tradition of reconcilliation that grew out of that tragedy. As soon as I find some reliablesources about that, I will share.

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