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Unto The Hills
Road to the Isles


ONE day, Friend of my heart, you will look again upon the islands. Not today or tomorrow, perhaps not even this year or next year -- but one day, when you least expect it, you will be suddenly set free again, to wander where you will.

And where will you go but to the islands? Oh, feet that hasten to tread the heather, and eyes that ache to see the blue plume of peat-smoke rising over the distant hills! The map, the train, the smell and bustle of great stations; and you, bending your unaccustomed shoulders under the weight of a pack and wriggling your toes in boots that have suddenly grown too small. Northward, then, with the summer birds, your heart racing always ahead of the rattling wheels. Hasty, half-spilled cups of coffee, and cigarettes that fall to grey ashes in your fingers because you are too excited to smoke. A restless night in a gently-swaying compartment; and, with the dawn, the clumsy gathering together of scattered belongings and the mad tumble into the little branch train that will bear you away to the west coast.

How often do you dream of it in your exile, and picture yourself stepping out at last into the pure mountain air, numbed and weary and dirty from travelling, but conscious of nothing save that you have arrived, and the boat is waiting to take you out into the path of the setting sun.

With what joy will you toss your rucksack aboard! With what eagerness will you gaze out across the grey mirror of the sea, repeating aloud the beloved names which still hold all of magic you ever knew. Skye and the Cuillin -- Eigg and Rhum -- Fingal and Ossian, whose heroic shades yet haunt the caves and corries of the blest.

And when the day has at last gone to rest, and the slow shadows of night spread across the water, you will go to sleep with the crying of sea-birds in your ears, happy and at peace. Because you have come, as you promised, to the islands. Because you have come home.


"The Atlantic Sea," off Uig, West Lewis


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