Four weeks in the Scottish countryside was wonderful. Do I write you a list? Here are many things that delighted me, though the words are inadequate:
- The castle was, as I said, a delightful nonEuclidean space, rooms leading into other rooms, closets and built-in cupboards like enigmas. Even after a month of systematic nosing about, I didn’t know where all the doors went. And because it has been a residency for decades, as well as being a home (though to be fair, the owner had a lot of houses, flats, and castles she could call home), it felt lived-in. Art was chosen for reasons other than Importance; chairs were comfortable; spaces were meant to be moved through and stayed in. Antiques were laid out where they could be touched. Solutions to the problems of a real home — needing more bookcases, for instance — were solved with the same sorts of jury-rig you or I might try.
- The countryside…. So much walking, along woodland paths and dedicated walkways, alongside roads. The cool air, the rain, the thin lemon-colored sunlight of late afternoon — which starts at three — the carpet of dead oak leaves, the mosses, the horses in their fields, each wrapped in its blanket.
- The birds outside my room. There was a hole in the wall just below my window, and the blackbirds would visit it a few times a day, in several pairs, making their delightful little buzzy pop of a song. When I walked in the woods I heard other birds and saw a few, as well, including raptors, doves, whatever counts as a finch-sized little puff on this side of the ocean — a tit?
- Time. So much time. I wrote (well, many days) and read and ate and walked and had sit-down dinner with my cohort; and there were still hours of each day where I didn’t really know what to do with myself. This was the space to be bored, the space to run out of things to do.
- On the downside: the heat went out. I burned my hand, which is recovering nicely. Something in my foot…well, I don’t know, but it’s a ligament thing. None of these interfered with the delight, a good lesson for life moving forward.
- Ruth Shannon’s cooking. Ruth is brilliant, producing meal after charming meal. Sundays she really extended herself: whole salmon, duck, haggis, plum pudding for our pre-Christmas feast. In general, having someone cook for you is a great pleasure.
There were many other things, as well.
And now I am in an airport hotel in Glasgow, waiting to walk across the parking lot and check in for the Iceland flight, to spend a month with Elizabeth: still more writing, different walking, different thinking. When I was looking forwward to all this I knew two things: that it was not going to be what I expected, and that it was going to be important and useful. True, true.
Anyway, to be continued….