In his seminal ethnography based on fieldwork with the Western Apache of Arizona, anthropologist Keith Basso speaks of the ‘wisdom that sits places,’ expressing the idea that land and language holds precious wisdom through names and narratives past and present. In Gaelic culture, Dinnseanchas is the term for the lore of how places came to be named.
One definition in Dwelly’s Gaelic dictionary of iargain is ‘to bewail the loss of a friend’. One might consider a knowledge gleaned from a language indigenous to place – a place name meaning, story, song – as a friend you wish you’d always known. Fàth has various meanings: cause, reason, opportunity, perspective and the lesser meanings of poem or breath – all of which could be thought of as expansive and essential to connection.
Such details can enrich our vista or illuminate our understanding into another time. Finding these details, these connections, is its own salve.