In the “Old Country”

About to land in Scotland, I realize that a part of me is expecting the Scotland of the 17thcentury. A tempestuous and romantic place, with wild-haired men on horseback raging through the countryside brandishing swords and scalps…

The plane touches down at Glasgow airport, and I’m back in the 21stcentury. Now I picture a scene from an Ian Rankin novel with tough blokes speaking unintelligible street patois and brandishing switchblades.

Are there side effects from reading too many novels? Or from writing one? I’ve been immersed in the world of the 1660s Highlands for the past few years, and now that I am actually going there, I need to work on unscrambling my realities.

But first, Glasgow. No switchblades evident, and the people look just like the people in Vermont. I’m staying in the West End, a vibrant area full of international restaurants, free museums, and picturesque old buildings.

After an overnight flight, on my first night in Glasgow I sleep for almost twelve hours, and today I feel better than I have in years. The power of sleep – definitely underrated. Wandering around the city, I have brunch in a café called Little Italy, with delicious coffee latté,and visit the Kelvingrove Art Museum, the Glasgow Cathedral, and the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art – which says nothing about my famous witch, Isobel Gowdie. But the cathedral does commemorate her persecutors, the Covenanters, who, after the witch hunts, became martyrs for their own brand of zealous Presbyterianism.

I’m reflecting on the ways we know reality, the things we know in our hearts to be the truth, and how we shape our world view around that. How very different those constructions can be between people and across time. Sometimes we move from one reality to another, like flying into a different time zone, and then the mind and body need to shift and reorient. Like Margaret in my novel, BITTER MAGIC, a young girl who is a Covenanter but entranced by magic and folk healing.

Tomorrow off to Nairn, the scene of the crime.

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