About the book:
Scotland’s landscape holds stories, many written in stone. Rough rocks by the seashore, Neolithic monuments protruding from a sheep pasture, crumbled nineteenth century ruins in an isolated glen; all speak to the long and often troubled relationship between humans and the world around them. Through a series of essays this narrative explores what the stones reveal to a wanderer from another country, both the connections that bind us to the earth and the separations that we have created. Within this larger meditation lies a more personal journey towards a middle ground — a community that encompasses both the human and the non-human.
Excerpts from Stories of Stone for a Woman of Wood
From Chapter One, Stone-walled Garden
“I dug in my heels, returning again and again to that place crowning the UK, reading books and articles and hundreds of pages of the country’s history. I talked with and interviewed those who lived there, and always embraced the land’s archive, those stories of stone writ large in the earth. What I found was an understanding of a bigger picture; Scotland’s history – from standing stone to Clearances, from community buyouts to cabbage gardens – is much larger than one country’s story. Scotland lies caught between Europe and the Atlantic, a small country entangled in empires, enmeshed in European conflict, impacted by cultural movements, and occupied by people of the land and colonizers alike. This small country’s narrative encompasses humanity’s cultural shifts and in that, it illuminates our changing relationship to the land.
What am I doing here? still echoes through my journals, as this is not a well-defined quest – but I went to Scotland to better understand the questions raised through my life in the American West; I went to understand something about the way in which humans interact not only physically but also philosophically with the land, a relationship that has been shifting throughout the centuries, since even before the stones were stood on end in enigmatic circles thousands of years ago.”
Chapter Two, Taynish: Stone by the Sea
The Otters of Taynish
“The otters swam their way back within sight, occasionally pausing to fish. Their path brought them towards shore. To shore. Mother and cub moved onto the rocky land where I sat. They seemed to know of my presence; she looked right at me, although I was as still as the stone I sat on. They didn’t seem to mind that I was there. The larger otter groomed herself, nuzzled the cub. They walked in their hump-hump otter gait across the rocky shore, their watery grace compromised on the earth’s surface. They poked noses into crevices, sniffed pieces of shore debris, all the while talking with each other in muted voices. They perhaps had come to shore for a bit of a rest, a grooming, a sun bath. Replenished, the sleek mustellids slipped back like returning waves into their watery element, leaving me land-locked, watching the ballet all around — watching otter waves turn to sea waves, all mixed together as the two made their way outward toward that blue-gray point where sea meets sky.”