Saturday 14 February 2015

Has owning anything to do with love?

Even when it's grey, it's stunning. And much of it is timeless, although of course people have left their mark. That old ruined pile on the shore of Loch Assynt, for example, was built by MacLeods hundreds of years ago, when they no doubt felt they owned it all.The mountain on the right belongs these days to the John Muir Trust and the shore on the left belongs to the local community. Some of the land in the foreground is in private individuals' hands.

Yet, as Norman MacCaig so beautifully questioned in his poem, 'A Man in Assynt', when a millionaire buys the title to a piece of land like this, he or she doesn't get exclusive ownership of it. The landscape as a whole belongs to all of us or indeed, to each one of us individually. In any particular moment, as we take our place within it and feel its wonder, it can feel like a personal possession, and surely we are right to treasure this place like a precious heirloom, to be possessed by it. 

I wonder how the people of the Iron Age considered ownership, and how different their concept of their relationship to the land was from the way we think of it now?

In that great poem, MacCaig asks, 'Has owning anything to do with love?' On Valentines Day, that seems an appropriate question to share. I'm still no closer to the answer than 'everything and nothing'.

Thanks to Bill Ritchie for the photo, and the land, and the love. 

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