WE all have a sense of place and stories and memories of how we reached that place.
Sometimes it can be where we have made our home, sometimes a temporary haven where we find a few hours’ refuge from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
It can also be a major turning point or a milestone in our precious, limited time on this planet. A Sense of Place was the theme of a book festival where I was one of the speakers. It seemed a particularly topical one given the political climate over the last few years.
The question was posed right at the end of my talk and in the little time that remained of the session I provided a short and reasonably simple answer: My sense of place was sitting at the summit of a mountain having breakfast as the sun rose on another glorious day.
This is the epitome of calm, the few hours that wash away all the nasty things in life and reset the clock. Except that later it kept niggling away at the back of my mind that it wasn’t quite as simple as that.
I don’t believe one moment or one experience can truly give you a sense of place. It has to be a combination of factors that slot together neatly like a jigsaw puzzle and you are a fortunate person if you don’t have at least one piece of that puzzle missing.
It has to involve family, friends, well-being and happiness with your surroundings. You also have to find some way of finding peace with the bigger issues over which you have little control.
For the best part of my life I have lived by the sea. I am as happy wandering along the shore as I am in the hills. On a wild day when mountains are best left alone, a stroll along the seafront accompanied by crashing waves is a more than acceptable substitute.
The urge to be drawn to water is primeval. A cottage in Glen Coe would be lovely but I am sure if I lived there I would soon be pining for a return to the water’s edge.
I believe that a sense of place has been a factor in the recent upsurge in political awareness, the realisation that we can, and should, forge our destiny with our own hands.
Too many people in this country have been strangers in their own land, geographically as well as politically. I have lost count of the number of bright, intelligent Scots who know next to nothing about the nature, geography, history and culture of their homeland. They seem happy to survive in their own little fiefdoms, blissfully ignorant of what is happening just a couple of hundred miles away.
We are rich in history and, for such a small country, there is a huge diversity in landscape. I love travelling but I have no desire to live anywhere else.
I like my holidays in the sun but the novelty of continuous sunshine soon wanes and the thought of moving abroad to live out my days in warmer climes has never appealed.
I like the seasons here. I like the fact you can have all four in one day.
I like the bite of the freezing wind that rolls in with the waves as I walk along the shore on a stormy winter day.
I like the wild beauty of the mountains in winter, the days of deep snow and the frozen terrain sparkling in the low light.
I like the way the rising light in January and February reawakens me to new adventures.
I like the rolling, swirling mists that help the mountains play hide and seek before dissipating to reveal the full glory of the view.
Roll all this into one and I suppose that is my sense of place.