Writing Our Legends
Let’s play a game of word association! Think of the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear: Scotland. What’d you see? An intricate tartan kilt? Someone proudly blaring on the bagpipes? Scenes from last week’s episode of Outlander? Or maybe just a perplexingly large amount of sheep? All of these would be correct, but after my first-week trekking through the Highlands, I can tell you when I hear Scotland I think magical folklore, the clearest water filled with jellyfish, sun tans (or burns depending on if your complexion leans towards ghostly, like mine), oh and sheep.
While our group had prepared to be in an absolute torrential downpour for our week in the highlands packing every piece of waterproof gear we could get our hands on, we were surprisingly greeted by one of the sunniest and hottest weeks the Highlands has seen in almost 23 years. But aside from that rare forecast, the Highlands is packed to the brim with other legendary tales and stories which were recanted to us by our wonderful guides and hosts for the week Donna & Eddie Stiven.
Each day Eddie would take us out on a wee walk (which is Highland slang for a multi-mile hike) up and down the glen telling us bits and pieces from a myth cycle about the brave young Ulster warrior Cuchulainn. Following in the footsteps of Cuchulainn took us to all kinds of mysterious spots in Glenelg from the coastline where he supposedly invented the game we now call “shinty”, to the Brochs which housed powerful queens and diviners, and finally to the Isle of Skye and Dun Scaith (or Shadow Queen’s Castle) where Cuchulainn’s journey reaches its climactic ending– but no spoilers I suggest you visit and get the story from Eddie himself. Each day walking with and listening to Eddie it became more and more aware to me that the folklore is such an integral part of the Scottish culture not only because of its unique origin but how it binds the people and the lands together and puts such an emphasis on the importance of storytelling and keeping the tradition of telling those stories alive. Something that is so refreshing to be reminded of as a group of young storytellers and theater makers.
There were also days where we got to create our own new legends that’ll hopefully be passed down for years to come–in the Scotland Program at least. Like “The day the weather was so warm the Scotland company not only got to BBQ on the beach but jump in the ocean and even get a suntan (sunburn)”. A bit of a long-winded title, but you get the idea. Even though we attend school in Malibu, it’s a rare day when the theater kids get to go to the beach, and Eddie made it a full experience complete with freshly caught clams, waterfalls, and some of the clearest, most radiant water I’ve ever seen.
As I write this racking my brain and whirling through my camera roll to pack in all the details that this post will allow I’ve come to realize something: much like the lore of the Highlands and the Scottish people, we’re each writing our legends as we go about our lives. Each of us is collecting moments that we’ll pass down as stories to be told over and over again by loved ones who keep us alive in storytelling. I know for me personally our excursion to the highlands will be a huge part of my legend, and I’m eager to see what chapter will come next with our remaining days in the Scotland Program.