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Lost and Found In a field of sheep

I was lost in a field of sheep. This was my first trip ever leaving my own country and here I was wandering around a pasture full of sheep for hours on a small mountain in Oban, Scotland. My feelings wavered between adventurous, peaceful, embarrassed, and downright petrified.

I was raised in a matriarchal family. There was a constant voice in my head that sounded like my beloved yet worrisome grandmother. She had perfected the art of guilt-tripping in order to get what she wanted, a life without worry or fear. I could hear her response to my current predicament (and ultimately my desire to travel to Europe) as if she were still alive: “Well if you like it…” she would say. In other words, she did not like it.

My parents were the opposite. My father was a fisherman who loved the open sea and my mother loved a good road trip. Hippy teenage parents out to discover the world with two children in tow. My mother often brags of her “free range” parenting. My brother likes to mock our family summers spent at a nudist camp, deep in the woods of New Hampshire; the State that boasts “Live Free or Die.” Forever the comedian, he still jokes that we were abandoned and frightened in the woods, lacking the comforts of clothing. My parents would envy my current plight and my brother would laugh at my misfortune.

It was September 2017 and I had traveled to Scotland with my oldest son Ronnie, who would be attending the Scottish Association of Marine Science for six months. Oban is a small historical waterfront village two hours from Glasgow. He had traveled to over a dozen countries while studying abroad and the only place I had met him was in Manhattan, a mere three hours from my small hometown of Preston, Connecticut. While I was on the train to New York it occurred to me that this was a pretty sad state of affairs. If he could travel the world so could I. After all I was the one who encouraged him to be courageous, adventurous, and chase his dreams.

Arriving in Oban with Ronnie

It was a beautiful day in Oban, in fact we spent much time marveling at this since we knew Scotland was known for its inclement weather. Inevitable rain storms would soon be upon us. We had our big city fun in London and now I was on my own for the day while he attended campus orientations. The GPS on my phone was completely useless. I’m not sure where it was taking me but certainly not to the center of town where I had visions of seeing a beautiful garden, touring a castle ground, and indulging in ice cream by the water.

It was an impressive hike though. I was able to enjoy the classic Scottish experience. The greenest rolling hills, little waterfalls trickling over a stony mountain, an infinite amount of sheep, and classic highland stone barns, the kind you expected a fantastical eccentric hobbit-like creature to live in. For a while there was a paved road that eventually ended, turning into a green pathway. I was at the point where turning back could have taken longer than continuing on. So despite my concerns, I kept going.

The most uncanny, yet comforting, happenstance was that every now and then people would walk by as if it was perfectly normal to be walking through a field of sheep. First was a pair of women, then two couples. I was too embarrassed to ask them where I was or where they were going. They pretended not to see me and I did the same. Confiding in European strangers seemed deeply humiliating. Europeans are either intrigued by your United States citizenship or disgusted by it. Some will enthusiastically interrogate you while others will completely ignore you. I could hide the fact that I was American for only so long. Opening my mouth to speak would be a dead giveaway.

After I made it to the top of the mountain, there was no longer much of a pathway, just endless fields of sheep with fences leading nowhere. It was quite breathtaking and peaceful. I lingered about for a bit photographing Scottish flora such as: the rowan berry tree, clusters of white wildflowers, and long stems of violet heather, in an attempt to convince myself this was all part of the highland adventure.

I had become a professional photographer five years earlier. I hated my previous job and one day my father told me “it’s not a job if you do what you love.” From that moment on my passion became my career and my camera was always by my side. One thing I could say about my venture astray, I was certainly embracing my father’s gypsy lifestyle.

It wasn’t long before my positive spirit plunged into fear. How in the world was I going to find my way out of here. How long could I keep trekking through this labyrinth of sheep? Did I have enough water and snacks? How much trouble will I be in with my son when I get back? “I left you alone for one day,” he would lecture me. Would he ever travel with me again, if I even survived that is. Was my brother's delusional description of our childhood; “lost and alone, naked and afraid” going to become a reality? There was also a constant murky haze lingering over my head reminding me of the looming precipitation.

Just as I was starting to panic, a cloud of misty fog descended revealing hints of sparkling blue water. There it was, my saving grace, the ocean! The deep dark blue sea, fit for a mysterious sea serpent with the horizon as my compass. I'm a fisherman’s daughter, I can find my way back along the coast anytime. “Use your Yankee Ingenuity,” my mother would say. Feeling proud of the knowledge I had accumulated throughout my lifetime, and quite resourceful, I headed down the other side of the hill towards the water.

The Sound of Kerrera was my saving grace.

I found another road. A small one, but nevertheless a paved road. As I stopped to see if my GPS would work, a van pulled over offering to give me a ride. I have never hitchhiked in my life! My grandmother would turn over in her grave! What is my son going to think of his mother, the lost hitchhiker? I couldn’t think of that now. I had to get somewhere civilized before dark. I knew it could start down pouring any second. I could hear my brother’s witty remarks but knew my parents would jump in the van. So I did.

Ironically the driver was a woman from Maryland. I had lived in Baltimore for two years and my middle son was born there. I was relieved to share my embarrassment with a fellow American. She dropped me off in town and I made my way to a picturesque little park overlooking all of Oban. I took some photos and sat down for a bit before advancing onto my castle tour and rewarding my self reliance with an ice cream treat, just before the rain drops began to fall.

The view from Pulpit Hill

During my repose I wondered, why was I always thinking of what everyone else thought? My grandmother, my parents, my brother, my son? Why were all of their voices in my head?

I had a good time after all. I was resourceful and responsible. I wasn't harmed in any way. I was just as brave and ventersome as I had taught my boys to be. There was that peaceful moment on the top of the hill where they all left my mind and I appreciated my isolated surroundings.

Tranquil Isolation

As soon as I returned home I started to plan my next journey. A journey into the lost and found, chasing after my own dreams, on a search for my own voice. I was not just another lost sheep waiting for a shepherd to find me. I could find myself.

I was not just another lost sheep.
Touring castle grounds at Dunollie Museum. Sunset on the water while enjoying my icecream at Thepokeyhat.

This is a True Story. I can't make this stuff up. See my original posts below.

I Hiked 7.9 Miles around Oban, Scotland that day (unintentionally).

The camera I used that day was the white Canon SL1 with Kit lens 18-55mm. I love this camera because it is lightweight but still shoots with great color and clarity. My backpack was by High Sierra and has tons of little inside pockets for all your gear as well as room for snacks and clothes, and side pockets for two water bottles.

Created By
Karrie Knowles
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