Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Sign

 Dedicated to the Memory of my Grandfather Neil Campbell:

I don’t really know if you believe in signs, but I do. I believe that we all have loved ones that have passed on that surround us with their love and want us to live happy, healthy, wonderful lives and I believe that these signs should be looked upon as the most treasured of gifts. 
 Like the misty double rainbow that appeared over the lush green pastures and hills of Dingle Town that I received as a gift from my great grandmother (times 3) as my feet touched the sandy shores and ragged cliffs of Ireland for the very first time. And was it, as some people would have it, mere coincidence that I met on a solitary mountain top deep in the heart of the Argyll Forest, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, the head of Clan Campbell and the apex of my journey two years ago to that vast and beautiful country? 
Was it just coincidence that I found my grandfather’s name “Neil Campbell” carved into a monument in the center of the small town of Inveraray the home and seat of my family’s clan? Or was it by chance that I came across a road sign bearing my grandfather’s adopted name along a gravel trail that lies along Loch Flynn. Could it have been just dumb luck that a Scottish bagpiper, much to my surprise and delight, came piping down a small boreen in the middle of the forest where I sat upon a hill amongst the purple heather?
 All coincidence one could say, but not me. I believe that they were signs. That they were an affirmation of the pleasure my grandfather and those that came before him felt at my sojourn back to my roots. 

And thus it was on top of a bridge in St Augustine, overlooking the Tolomato River, where I once again received a sign. One that would give me the courage that I needed to move forward with a dream. And thus the story goes as follows: Since my return from Ireland I told myself that I would settle down in St Augustine. You know, get a job, go back to school, put away my foolish yearnings to return to Ireland and just live a normal life. And although I have done that I still found my mind wandering time and time again back to my wild ideas of crossing Ireland and Scotland on foot. 

 But on this particular day, not too long ago, I was taking a walk through town, out along the salt marshes, and up and over the Vilano Beach Bridge. And, as I often did, I found myself thinking very deeply as I walked about the possibilities of making a journey across Scotland. Across the lands of my ancestors, through the Argyll Forest, along the craggy shores of Loch Lomond and deep into the history of my family. As I chugged along that day, making my way up the steep bridge, head down into the wind, not paying attention to anything except my feet, my mind telling myself to forget those foolish dreams but thinking of hiking through the hills of Scotland none the less, I looked up and there, just a few feet in front of me, was a man that so closely resembled my grandfather that it stopped me dead in my tracks. 
 And as I stood there, mouth agape, the gentleman pulled along side of me, looked straight into my eyes, held them briefly in his steely gaze, and then, as if in grand approval, gave me a wink and a nod. And it was there in the wake of his passage that I could of sworn I heard the words ‘follow your heart’ swirling somewhere on the salty breeze. It seemed as if time itself had stopped and I stood…motionless. Then, as if breaking myself free from the chains of indecision, I turned to watch as he disappeared over the horizon and out of sight. Eventually I turned and walked in silence down the other side of the bridge, peering occasionally back over my shoulder and finally making my way down on to the shell rock beach, out along the water, and on to the boulders the jutted out into the jetty. I seated myself upon the grayish rocks and looked out across the sea towards Scotland and beyond. It was there that I came to the realization that once again I had received a gift beyond measure. One that would solidify my desire to return to Scotland and Ireland and one that made me realize that I could do it, that I would do it, and that living a dream is a grand and wonderful thing and not foolish…at all.
                                     The Clan Campbell Castle In Inveraray, Scotland

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