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A photo a day, #7



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I now have Ken’s photos — almost 4 gigabytes’ worth. So I can now start to put together a proper photo essay on exploring the Scottish isles. Above: On the slopes of Ben Buie on the isle of Mull.

A photo a day, #6



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The Scottish isles are a land of water, rock, and sky. Though, if you look down at your feet, you’ll probably find that you’re standing in moor, or bog. To explore the Scottish isles, plan on getting your feet wet. This photo was taken from the ferry landing on Ulva, looking back toward Mull.

A photo a day, #5



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Rural areas in the United Kingdom seem to have kept most of their old phone booths. Many of them appear to still work, and some have signs offering Internet connections. This one is near Lochbuie on the isle of Mull.

A photo a day, #4



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I’m saving my better photos for a long mega-post. But here’s another daily photo until I can pull the mega-post together. Much of this trip was spent hiking, hiking, and more hiking, across moor, moor, and more moor.

A photo a day, #3



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The abbey on Iona is a heavily visited tourist destination. It was, easily, the least interesting place on the four Scottish islands that Ken and I visited — Mull, Ulva, Gometra, and Iona. The isle of Iona itself, though small, is fertile and beautiful. But, to me, the abbey is just another outpost of the ugly Roman religion, which as it metastasized over the centuries destroyed superior cultures on earth as effectively and mercilessly as a mile-wide asteroid.

The abbey on Iona was founded by Saint Columba, who was from Ireland, in 563. Some archeological remnants of the early settlement remain, but the current building dates from the 13th Century. The building has been heavily restored and is now packed with tourists, many of whom seem to consider visiting Iona a kind of New Age pilgrimage. I always get a bad vibe from evangelicals. I felt that bad vibe very strongly on Iona, particularly inside the church, which has a loft fitted out with all the electronics that is used these days for “praise” music in evangelical churches. It’s an odd mixture — such an old church with such hip (and probably made in America) music. But they’re definitely raking in the dough, just as Saint Columba did by catering to rich clan chieftains.

According to Wikipedia, Saint Columba was the great-great grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the 5th Century Irish king who is said to have brought Patrick to Ireland. Though King Niall, technically, is prehistoric, there is all sorts of evidence, including genetic evidence, that he was a real person and that he left a great many descendants. In fact, DNA testing shows that I have the genetic marker of Niall’s descendants (the marker is common in Ireland, especially in the north). However, if I am descended from Niall, the greater-by-far odds are that I’m of bastard descent, whereas Columba was legitimate. Though the interpretation of the Y-chromosome marker for Niall’s descendants has been questioned, nevertheless I interpret the DNA evidence as a pretty reliable indicator that my own pagan ancestors were in Ireland during the 5th Century. Thus my own ancestors were caught up in the Christianization of Ireland and Scotland. For that reason, I take rather personally what I see as genocide — the Christian destruction of pagan cultures. To me, the saints Patrick and Columba represent an enduring shame, as those of us who live in Christianized cultures continue the work of throwing the Roman religion off our backs — its crummy texts, its infantile (and borrowed) stories, and its ossified and primitive notions about ethics, morality, and epistemology, which in spite of the Enlightenment still exert their 13th-Century influence, poisoning our politics and ruining the minds it touches.

I apologize for the rant. But I hated the abbey on Iona, and I grieve for what the place stands for.

A photo a day, #2



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Of the cities I have seen in the world, I’d nominate Edinburgh as the most beautiful. Paris would be second, I think. And San Francisco would be third. To properly see Edinburgh, one must do a lot of walking — and some hill-climbing.

For now, a photo a day



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In a few days, I’ll have lots of Scotland photos and a long post. Sorting and prepping the photos is going to take some time. Plus, Ken took lots of photos as well, and I will include some of Ken’s photos in a future post. For now, I’ll try to put up a photo each day. Above, Ken, my indefatigable hiking companion, crosses a stile near Calgary on the isle of Mull. We saw lots of stiles — from very simple ones to complex works of functional art — and photographed them all.

New from Acorn Abbey Books


Ken’s three very popular books are published by New York publishers. However, Acorn Abbey Books, as a small-press “indie” imprint, is honored to release one of Ken’s short books in paperback format. That’s The McCandless Mecca: A Pilgrimage to the Magic Bus of the Stampede Trail. It’s priced at only $6.99, and you can buy it at Amazon.

This book has been available in Kindle format since 2013. The paperback edition, and the Kindle edition, have been revised to include a new afterword. The book also now includes 18 photos.

For the record, Ken’s other books are Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom, Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland, and This Land Is Our Land: How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back.

Scotland



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I’m home after two fantastic weeks in Scotland. I’m going to need a few days to console the cat, sort through my photos, get some groceries, and figure out which way a hurricane is going to go. I’ll have a post soon.

Time flies


While retrieving my passport from the lock box, I flipped through all my old passports. There are five passports altogether. It was in April 1984, I was reminded, that I made my first trip to the United Kingdom, including my first trip to Scotland. What a trip that was!

At the time, I had a Welsh friend, now deceased, who was a solicitor practicing in London. He was a political wonk, and though he was descended from Welsh coal miners and felt guilty about it, he was a supporter of Margaret Thatcher. He had requested tickets from his member of Parliament, and we attended the Prime Minister’s question day in the House of Commons, with rather amazing seats in the Sergeant at Arms’ private box. Somewhere in my archives I still have the front page of the next morning’s Times of London. The newspaper would supply the political context, controversial at the time, which I have forgotten. But I will never forget the most dramatic line of the day. A member of the opposition party asked the Prime Minister a long and hostile question. Mrs. Thatcher’s reply was very short a brought a round of laughter: “I do not speak for Mr. Haig.” I can almost still hear her voice.

My upcoming trip to Scotland will be only my second trip to Scotland. I’ll be in Edinburgh and the isles of Mull, Ulva, and Gometra. I have enough memory cards for about 2,500 photos. When I return, I’ll be at risk of boring you all with Scotland posts. I probably will not be able to post while traveling, because I’m taking a bare minimum of electronics.