I am on the train to Edinburgh Waverley from Queen Street, Glasgow, enjoying the views.
In the distance, the Campsie hills look like a geological tidal wave. As we hurtle along, I try and spot the green towpaths of the Forth and Clyde canal ducking and weaving from one side of the railway to the other until the red oil-shale bings of East Lothian loom like giant sculptures.
As we zoom through this dramatic landscape, you can’t help noticing how human hands have re-shaped it to meet our needs for transportation, energy, food and fodder. I wonder what we have put back.
At my table sit a young French couple. They aren’t looking out of the window. They are poring over a thick guidebook to Edinburgh. We get chatting in my bad French. I ask them what they already know about Scotland.
They look at each other, giggle and say, “Loch Ness. Haggis. Whisky.”
When the profile of Arthur’s Seat appears, everyone gathers up their things in anticipation of the great flourish of Edinburgh Castle towering above the train as it enters Waverley Station.
My day passes. I reflect on their expectations.
Is this all there is to it – a reiteration of the old clichés?
On the return train journey, I realize that myths – like the Loch Ness Monster – cast their spells across boundaries of time, of geography and language. Myths marinate in the imagination and develop exotic flavours that need to be sniffed and tasted.
And so the question ‘What does ‘natural Scotland’ mean to you?’ was already out there – just waiting to be asked.
Our Dreaming Scotland pilot project sets out to share new perspectives of natural Scotland by contrasting the impressions and expectations of new arrivals with those of established residents. We will be presenting the results as an installation at the Imagining Natural Scotland Conference on August 27th.
All photos © Karen Gordon
The Dreaming Scotland Team:
Lowri Potts – writer http://flyingpizza.wordpress.com/
Tam Treanor – software developer/sound designer http://www.tamtreanor.com
Karen Gordon – photographer http://www.karengordonphotography.co.uk/
Adviser: Dr Jennifer Smith – Senior Lecturer, English Department and Convenor of School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow. http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/critical/staff/jennifersmith/
Interview support: Sadie Ryan – Masters in Linguistics, University of Glasgow.