Monday, May 5, 2014

The Encounter

The Clan Campbell Castle

                    Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Neil Campbell.

Who knew that fate would be waiting for me on the top of a green and quiet mountain, nestled deep amongst the Scottish countryside. Certainly not I. But on this particular day, it was as if the universe had been patiently waiting for me to arrive.  I had come all the way from America to discover my family heritage. To the the town in which our ancestral castle was situated, home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, and ancient seat of Clan Campbell
With a feeling in my gut that one garners from a particular feeling; as if one is not just on the earth but a part of it, I strolled out past the ancient castle, out along the small, lazy river which ran into the gleaming Loch Fyne. I was trying to find a  way to the top of a small mountain which sat beside the castle and soon discovered a route which would lead me to the top of the hummock.
The trail I found was a small, rock strewn creek which was covered with a slick algae. I began the gentle climb, slipping and sliding my way upwards. The forest that surrounded me was dark and enigmatic. Although the trees which sat in the woods had a willowy, brown bark, they were covered in a green, silky moss which permeated the woodlands with the aroma of the earth. The ground was laden with smooth rocks and a dense, dew covered grass. The canopy of trees was so thick in places that the intermittent Scottish sun barely reached the loam covered earth below. Here, in the depths of the forest, I could feel a boundless history. I could easily discern the legends which penetrated my existence. I could hear the clang and charge of distant battles. I could taste the past which hung in the air. I stood mesmerized in the timbers. With a purpose born within, I began to understand my clans claim to these rugged hills and valleys. I was immersed in the deep, guttural feeling of this place. I stood...drinking in the energy. I blinked. My mind slowly surfaced, and the past vanished. I moved forward; up and out of the heavy forest toward the pinnacle of the hill. Loch Fyne, shining in the rare sunlight, stretched out before my eyes. The town sat at the base of the hill, white and stony. I was basking in the glory of being in Scotland, of traversing the land of my ancestors when suddenly, up and over a rocky knoll, came two small boys of about 6 or 7. One of the boys was wearing a costume of sorts and behind them came a gigantic sort of man. He wore black wellies and a thick, brown coat. He had hands the size of tree trunks. The young boys ran about me. One dressed, I assumed, as a dragon, the other feinting and parring with a wooded sword. After several attempts to slay the dragon which had come charging over the hill, the two boys stopped to address me. “Ello” the dragon boy said to me, the tall, tree trunk of a man standing near, as if on guard. “Well hello. Are you a dragon?” I asked politely.
Inveraray, Scotland
“No.” the young boy replied in a thick Scottish accent. “I'm the Loch Ness Monster and I live in that castle down there.” He pointed with his diminutive finger toward the Clan Campbell Castle. I smiled and nodded at him and his partner. About that time, I saw a large, four wheel golf cart coming up over the dale. It stopped just a few yards from where I, the Loch Ness Monster and his charge, stood. Out of the vehicle came a man dressed in a black blazer and slacks and a woman in a lovely, blue blouse and jeans carrying a picnic basket. For some reason the young couple looked familiar. I began to turn their faces over in my mind. I knew that I has seen them before, I knew I recognized them. In a moment of clarity my mind put all the pieces together. I addressed the young monster “you live there, young sir?” I pointed down the hillside. He and his young friend nodded vigorously. Ahhhh...I smiled and nodded my head in understanding. “I see. So you and your charge here are the princes' of Argyll are you not?” The young boys grinned, nodded, and laughed. Abruptly, one gave a mighty growl, the other raised his mighty sword, and they turned and raced towards the young couple with, what I now understood to be, their Man at Arms hot on their heels.
The Watch Tower
 I moved in the direction of my backpack, the couple, and the tower that sat ever so majestically on top of the hill. I nodded as the beautiful young woman reached down and tousled the hair of a young prince. I smiled in her direction and she return the gesture kindly. “Beautiful day is it not?” she addressed me.
“Yes ma'am, it certainly is. Still, we might get some rain...” My voice trailed off.  I looked across the sovereignty that stretched before us. The young gentleman emerged from the antiquated, stone tower. He smiled at me as he approached. I addressed him casually. “So how does one get to ride to the top of the mountain on one of those, sir?” I pointed toward the gigantic, four wheel vehicle that they had, just moments before, arrived in. With a wink and a smile he returned, “oh, well one has to have a special sort of pass to get a ride up in this contraption.” I smiled and laughed and the three of us exchanged some more pleasantries about the day and the beauty of the land. I eventually excused myself and wished the party a good day. The Man at Arms gave me a quiet nod of his head, the children did a final feint and parry, and the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, the head of my clan, bide me ado with a wave and a smile. I turned and walked down the grassy hillside, out of the sunlight and into the depths of the forest, grinning I might add, from ear to ear.
The Duke and Duchess along with the Dragon and Knight that I encountered
along with newest member of the Clan
(this is a file photo)

And that my dear friends is how fate brought me together with my heritage and even closer together with my grandfather. It was he, I am sure of it, who reached down from the heavens that day and granted me a most beloved and treasured moment that I shall never forget.

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