Dunino is a Scottish village six miles from nowhere. I started out from St. Andrews on foot, believing that because it was beautiful, sunny afternoon it would be a nice walk. I finally got off the road at 2 PM, just in time for the sun to start setting.
Situated on the 59th parallel North, Orkney is as far north as Alaska, Quebec, and Norway. It’s a collection of more than sixty islands, twenty of them inhabited, linked together by ferries. Islanders from Rousay and Hoy come in to do their shopping on the mainland, in Kirkwall or Stromness.
The islands are surrounded by wind and sea and currents. The only trees grow in walled orchards or on carefully protected city streets. In the winter of 1850 a storm ripped the top off of a hill known as Skara Brae on the west coast of the mainland. Hidden underneath, almost perfectly preserved, was a Neolithic village.
At the very beginning of the 12th century two earls, cousins, ruled Orkney. Earl Haakon Paulsson and Earl Magnus Erlendsson did not share power well, and finally their friends forced them to call a peace conference and hash out their differences for once and for all.
The day: Easter Monday.
The place: Egilsay
The terms: two ships of unarmed men.
I forbid you, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.
True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;
A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee;
And there he saw a lady bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.
Last week I went to Melrose with the other USAC students and we visited the famed Melrose Abbey. The Abbey was founded in 1136 and was attacked multiple times during the stormy history of Scotland vs. England. It fell into ruin and disrepair after the Protestant Reformation when the monks were ordered to disband and abandoned the site. Alexander II is the only Scottish king to be buried at the abbey, although Robert the Bruce’s heart is also located there (the rest of him being interred at Dumferline Abbey). Only after returning to St. Andrews did I find out that Melrose Abbey is also the legendary resting place of the wizard Michael Scot.
After ten years of patiently insisting that I deal only in words, not visual arts, I am learning the visual art of photography. It turns out that you learn to take pictures the same way that you learn to write–by doing it consistently; photo after photo, event after event, failure after failure.
You want to go to Scotland. You know you do. You want to spend four months wandering through abandoned castles, subterranean cities; picking heather and possibly meeting Nessie. You want to talk to the ghost who haunts the fourth hole of the oldest golf course in the world, and spend 7.5 credit hours studying the language and lore of the oldest story in the English language.
But you can’t. You have to go to work every day, feed your cat, pay your mortgage. You have to look after your mum, or have kids who depend on you. If you left now you’d miss your favorite music festival. You don’t like to fly. You don’t know what clothes you would wear. And if you did find the money and time to go abroad you’d choose to go to Egypt instead and see the pyramids. The world is a big place. You can’t see all of it.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. This is the future. You don’t have to do everything yourself; there are robots for that. And in this instance, you have the magic of crowdsourcing. And you have me.
That’s right! I’m going to Scotland for you! I’ll do all the hiking, swimming, sailing, and golfing so that you don’t have to. I’ll take pictures, videos, and write meticulous field reports so that you can enjoy the trip vicariously from the comfort of your home. I will write songs and tell stories and make hilarious commentary on Scottish culture contrasted to US culture. All you have to do is print and sign the following agreement: