“Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.” – Charlie Brown

I’m leaving Scotland—again. I’m going from this…

…to this.

Of course, life is much more than scenery, and my adopted state has been good to me. It’s given me opportunity to stretch and fly, a job I truly loved, and the company of wonderful people. I’m always glad to come home after a journey, to familiar tastes and people, sights and sounds. To family.

Family is more than those who currently surround me, though. It is years, even centuries of DNA passed down, mixed, and passed on again to my children and their children. It is the future, born from the past.

To Canadians and Americans living on a continent whose recorded history is recent by world standards, family origin takes on new importance because those from whom they descended came here long ago, from places far away that often failed them and forced them to go.

In the case of my ancestors, that place is Scotland.

I’ve been fortunate as a writer to be able to spend months in the Highlands, to soak in the atmosphere and the history. The place and many of the people have become dear to me, even necessary. The Scottish Highlands are the backdrop for my writing, the wellspring of my creativity.

I’m a wordsmith with an imagination so overwhelming sometimes that I can be brought to tears by the simplest sentence, as long as it calls to me. I have difficulty in reading such passages to someone else, because I’ll feel the tears rising to choke me.

Such is my emotion at both arriving to and leaving Scotland. Would I feel the same way if I lived there? I don’t know. Surely my ancestors, looking back at their mountains for the last time as they receded into the mist, felt that grief, that pull that would never leave them. But I need to believe that they then turned their eyes forward finding the courage that had followed them through the centuries, a sense of adventure that would sustain them as they began a new life in a land far away from the villages they’d known.

As they explored their new continent, they found mountains and valleys that reminded them of  their beloved hills and glens back home, and they settled in places not so different from those in which their ancestors had wrestled out a living. Such is the human condition.

I’m going home to South Jersey and a landscape as different from the land of my ancestors as is possible. Flat, sandy, and sometimes swampy, with stunted trees and alien marshes, it also offers the beauty of the great sea that ties us all together.

New Jersey is a good place, a familiar place, but it’s not really home to my heart. It is home to those in my heart, though, and that’s enough for now.

But I’ll go back, and back again, to the mountains and glens. To the history, the pageantry, the mystery of Scotland.

At least for me there is British Airways, instead of an arduous sea journey with sadness at its beginning and the great unknown at its end.  I’m a child of the 21st century, after all. I like my creature comforts, and the whisky trolley is coming by. Slàinte Mhath! See you in New Jersey.

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