I also wanted to share with you a short poem William Wordsworth wrote during his tour of Scotland in 1803. Together with his sister, Dorothy and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth spent a couple of months in and around the landscape of what is now the West Highland Way. The poem is written about an encounter he and Dorothy had as they were walking along the long length of Loch Katrine, towards Inversnaid, and the banks of Loch Lomond. He writes:
"while my fellow travellers and I were walking by the side of Loch K[atrine], one fine evening after sunset, in our road to a hut where, in the course of our tour, we had been hospitably entertained some weeks before, we met, in one of the loneliest parts of that solitary region, two well-dressed women, one of whom said to us, by way of greeting, "What, you are stepping westward?"
"What, you are stepping westward?" -- "Yea."
-- 'Twould be a wildish destiny,
If we, who thus together roam
In a strange Land, and far from home,
Were in this place the guests of Chance:
Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter he had none,
With such a sky to lead him on?
The dewy ground was dark and cold;
Behind, all gloomy to behold;
And stepping westward seemed to be
A kind of heavenly destiny:
I liked the greeting; 'twas a sound
Of something without place or bound;
And seemed to give me spiritual right
To travel through that region bright.
The voice was soft, and she who spake
Was walking by her native lake:
The salutation had to me
The very sound of courtesy:
Its power was felt; and while my eye
Was fixed upon the glowing Sky,
The echo of the voice enwrought
A human sweetness with the thought
Of travelling through the world that lay
Before me in my endless way.
from Poems, in Two Volumes (1807)
The poem is written by an English man in Scotland: a man who feels an interest in and a connection to the highland landscape (a landscape similar, in some ways, to that of his native Cumbria, but also very different from it). He's a man who is aware of his own foreignness, and travels in the uncertain expectation of finding rest after a long walk. The friendly query of the two women he encounters: "what, you are stepping westward?" has a powerful effect on him. Their words act as a kind of benediction, inviting him to wander in the landscape he finds so beautiful and strange, and warmly welcoming him to it.
My hope is that, over the course of the next few months, you, like Wordsworth, will feel warmly welcome in my landscape -- the beautiful landscape of the west highlands -- and will enjoy wandering through it, with me.
What, you are stepping westward?