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  • Writer's pictureLilly

Tolkien, Burns, and a Wandering American Lass

Loch Loyne overlook
Loch Loyne overlook

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?

How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand,

there is no going back?”

- J. R. R. Tolkien

I sat quietly with this quote after stopping for the night in western Scotland. I felt lost. As my trip was winding down, I had to face the inevitability that it had to end. So I sat on the bed and cried. Tears of leaving a place that had cemented itself deep in my heart as home. How can that be? How can a place 3,000 miles away, across an ocean, where I had never before set foot, feel like home? How can I be a different person now than the one that left America?

The sun is now rising on St Andrew's Day and I'm back in the States. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family and am settling back into a routine. But...something is different. Those who know me know I'm in tune with what runs beneath the surface, and I live by it. If we are quiet enough, we can hear our inner voice guiding us. If we are brave enough to follow it - well, beautiful things can happen. Rewind to September when I felt the stirring to adventure - I followed. And now you find yourself in the midst of my story. Where is it headed from here? I have no idea! But it will be beautiful.

"Hope springs exultant on triumphant wing."

- Robert Burns

I’ve told people before that I have wanted to go to Scotland since before I was born. Long before I knew I had blood lineage there. Before I knew my adoptive family had roots there. Somehow, Scotland has always been a part of me. And now I have seen it, smelled it, walked for miles, breathed the air, felt the weight of tragic history, walked in the footsteps of my ancestors, stood completely alone in abandoned ruins. The ancestral callings found a way to move through the Scottish blood in my veins and guide me back to Caledonia. "You're a MacKenzie," they whisper, "find your way home."

Taking cover from a storm at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
Taking cover from a storm at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

I’ve started this blog as a way to share what Scotland means to me, and how it has changed me. It will be a happy blog - the tears of longing have been replaced with resolve to return. I knew I would love it, but after 5 weeks of exploring, and 3,200 miles in my faithful Ford Focus, I’m completely swept away. This photo of me - I have never known myself so happy. Like the blooming summer heather on the Highland hillsides, my heart and soul felt alive and vibrant. The joy radiates from my smile and the sparkle in my eyes. It was the best day of my life - because I felt pure happiness and freedom. I couldn’t have known I would find it there - all I knew was that I was following my heart.

"And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it;

and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.”

- J. R. R. Tolkien

Where is your joy, your happiness? What makes your heart sing, your feet skip on their own accord? What makes the rest of your cares fall away? When you find it, grab hold of it. Cling to the moment you knew you found it. For guessed it! My heart sings the song of Scotland. My soul overflows with rolling pastures, munros, sheep, stone houses, thistle, "heilan coos," friendly Scottish folk, and bagpipe melodies. I still feel the smile on my face as I excitedly jumped out of the car to explore. The weightlessness in my step as I hurried to see the view. The deafening silence of winter in Glencoe interrupted by the crunch of deer footsteps. My voice as I spoke out loud to the wilderness - "I'm in Scotland!"

Take a moment, if you like, to view the slideshow below - and be sure to have the sound on. I hope that it will stir your soul. I invite you to come along with me as I tell you stories of Scotland, share photos of my journey, paint pictures with my mind’s eye. If you have never been to Scotland, I hope to inspire you to go. If you have been and long to return, I hope to be a kindred spirit to share your longing. And if you're from Scotland, I hope to show you your country through fresh eyes and remind you what an amazing place you call home. I encourage you all to share your feedback and your questions. And I will leave you with the words of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most beloved poet:

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,

My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."

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