"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to reality. Sigh.

I'm back from Scotland, and Kentucky, and finally clear enough of mind to write a post, although my trip was so full of so much, I barely know where to begin. I have so many pictures I could post. Dale took pictures, too, but his are still in his camera and his camera is still with him in Boston.

I could give you a whole travelogue here and show you where we were and when, but I sometimes equate that with being stuck at someone's dinner party and having them drag out the slides of their vacation. They get to reminisce and you get to nod and look at your watch every five minutes.

What I will tell you about is that it felt magical.

Scotland is one of those places I've always wanted to see because I've always wanted to see it. I could talk about castles and green lands, etc, but that's just a ruse. I had no rational reason at all. All I can tell you is that my little mongrel heart longed for Scotland. By ethnicity, I am staggered parts Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Swedish and a dash (a small one) of Sioux. Of all those pieces, it's been the Celtic in me that pulls me toward the heather on the moors.

So riding a fat Draft cross through fields of heather by Loch Ness left me with, according to Robert my taxi driver, "the biggest bloody smile on my face."

And walking around the Kelpies, getting close to them, experiencing their size and their placement, put a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes. The Kelpies were built to honor the draft horses that pulled the barges up and down the river. They are on islands surrounded by water. It's all beautiful, even if it took us over three hours to find the entrance to them and it was raining buckets by the time we got there, which meant no one could see I was kind of blubbering.

That's me in the pink jacket, under the horse's nose.

In between, we toured castles and ate fish 'n' chips and drank ale. By the time we got to Aberdeen, we'd also toured some Scotch distilleries and tasted a wee dram or two. I won't say I'm now a big scotch drinker, but I understand and appreciate it now. Aberdeen is not big on tourism, so there weren't any shops to purchase tee-shirts and cashmere scarves, etc. We walked down to the Aberdeen Bay from our hotel, which was about a half-an-hour walk or more, then we walked up and down the beach. It was overcast and cool.

It was while we were strolling around the beach that a funny thing happened. I was taking all kinds of pictures, and I decided to take a close-up of the sand, to show the kinds of flotsam and jetsam that wash up on the shore. It reminded me of going places with my (Scotch-Irish) grandma, whose idea of a souvenir from someplace was a shell from a beach or a flower from a path. A piece of the place meant more to her than a towel with a map on it.

"You need a rock," some small voice in my head told me. So I picked one up and stuck it in my pocket.

For the rest of the trip, I rubbed that little rock in my pocket and felt - connected - to the country and my grandmother and maybe my roots, I don't know.

On our way home, we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit the Horse Park. (We also toured a bourbon distillery - after touring the scotch ones, it was only fair.) That turned out to be quite the adventure, as we were stranded for a night in Chicago due to bad weather. We slept in the terminal at O'Hare, on cots with 200 of our close friends.

Yep, a big ole slumber party. No, I didn't take pictures.

Kentucky was beautiful, especially the horse park. Once again, I wanted to tear up, because this was a big wonderful trip and we took it and I was so happy and somehow humbled. At times, it felt like the fun and the wonder of it all was too big to fit in my soul and I was going to float away from joy.

Have you ever had such an experience?

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