While I have not a shred of scientific data to back this, I feel that perhaps the welcoming hospitality of Virginia and much of the south is a trait inherited from our Scottish ancestors. What I experience here is so much like the sense of community I felt when I was growing up in Virginia in the 1960s. Such sharing and fellowship. I feel so much joy in seeing so many smiles and acts of kindness.
At the fair this past Saturday, held at Ledgowan Lodge Hotel, it was both a surprise and pleasure to discover that the gentleman at the table next to us was more than just a neighbour at the event, but a neighbour here in Milton, as well. Mark and his wife Elaine (who wasn't with him on Saturday) live around the corner from the mill and we hope we will get to see Mark again and meet Elaine. More wonderful than that, though, is the affirmation Mark gave me about my feelings living here in the Highlands. I told him the way I feel here, the immense joy I feel, the emotional reaction I so often have to places in Scotland. He informed me that we all have what are called genetic markers. Some people feel them more strongly than others. These are the same sort of markers than cause animals to migrate, sometimes over thousands of miles and against incredible odds, to be in the one place they know they ought to and have to be. I told Mark that my first visit to Glencoe brought sobs from the very depth of my soul and that I was overwhelmed with a need to lie down on the ground there. His eyes twinkled as he told me that this was a marker that I had tuned into. For no doubt, when I discovered from a distant cousin, that two of my ancestors had escaped the massacre in 1692, this marker must have somehow told me that my ancestors may have laid down and feigned death in order to escape, first to Ireland and then to Boston. This may be why my uncle loved Ireland so and has written to me that he wants to come visit, "an old man coming home." I hope he does. For I am without doubt that he will feel the same agonisingly joyful waves of familiarity and home that I do. Even as I write the words here, my eyes fill with tears. I love it here, but more than that, I belong here.
What should not surprise me is that everyone I speak to who lives here but is not from here has felt the same pull I feel. One customer on Saturday was a woman who lives in Switzerland but is originally from Germany. We spoke about our love for Scotland and the sense of needing desperately to be here. I, of course, can trace my heritage back to Scotland without any real difficulty. This woman was unaware of her possible genetic connection. But she comes from Hamburg, a port that has always been a port. Who can say that her ancestors didn't once sail from Hamburg across the sea to Scotland and settle here? Germanic and Scandinavian tribes filled much of the present-day UK hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It may be that the Scottish homing instinct was passed down to her from some distant ancestor who came over the water to the land of heather and hills.
After many busy days, Chris and I are having a week of rest. A final Christmas fair will take us to Gairloch on the western coast, just north of the Ledgowan Lodge Hotel in Achnasheen. An early start means we will spend the night before at a B&B. We have booked into the Solas B&B; the description is lovely - with views toward Skye and Torridon. We are so looking forward to it. We loved the Ledgowan Lodge Hotel so much, we are going to take advantage of their mid-week break prices and stay there sometime before the 22nd. Our Christmas present to ourselves.
I am looking forward to our first Christmas in the Highlands. I've been informed we can expect snow. I shall have to buy some mulled wine for the day, snuggle up with Chris and watch some Christmas movies. It is going to be wonderful.