So you think you own this?

    It seems there are two lenses to infinity: the telescope and the microscope. Look up and out; look down and in… you will find yourself suddenly peering in the same direction.

    I AM NOT A WORLD TRAVELER, by any stretch. In fact, these days I seldom leave the small American city I call home. But there is no shortage of space to explore within this tiny sphere. And I do, just that. Day after day.

    I have set foot abroad, though. Quite a while ago, now. I wandered alone through the emptinesses of Scotland, when my worldview was still forming. (That eternally ambivalent place, on the edge of the earth. Beyond here, be dragons.)

    And I’ve carried what I learned from there, to wherever I have wandered since.


    There is no law of trespass among auld Scottish souls. There is only the Right to Roam.

    But two rules make right: shut the gate when you go, and leave nothing behind.


    That lesson greeted me one fine day out in the Hebrides. I had gone bicycling on the Isle of Lismore with two young children. Ruth, a ginger-haired lass skilled at violin, and Tom, a clever boy who had written a school paper about a small Viking castle on the far side of the isle.

    We had hopped the ferry from Oban and were pedaling to the castle, so that Tom could share what he’d learned.

    Along the route, we cut across a farmer’s field, to eat sandwiches on the wall of a Pictish broch.

    When the farmer spotted us from his tractor perch, and eventually nodded in our direction, I asked the children: “Do you know the farmer?”


    “Are we allowed to be here… on his land? On this?” I asked.

    “Ye cannae own this,” Tom said, and patted the ancient stones of the broch, set there long ago. “Ye just take care of it for a while.”

    Clever boy.

    I think of what he taught me, from time to time, as I roam my neighborhood in Troy, New York — full of old stones set here a while ago.

    You can’t own this. You just take care of it for a while.


    Duncan Crary


    From: A Small American City #07: Reclamation


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