Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Road to My New Home

The doves are back and so am I. This is the second March I have experienced in the North of Scotland, my new home. The days stretch rapidly as we move out of the winter shadows into the long light of summer, when the sun scarcely sets. Before I decided to move here, I had experienced the Highlands only in July, when it is characterized by long days and soft air so delicious that breathing is a joy in itself. People and flowers bloom with exuberance because the light is lovely and all too soon it is gone. Although I knew it could not always be July, it is impossible to intellectualize cold or what it feels like to become like a child again because you do not know the words for objects or how even simple things like light switches work. I kept a journal of how I floundered between the familiar and the new. I wrote to make sense of this new world to myself and to share my experiences with friends and family. Those writings will form part of this blog. I once complained that here in the Highlands we are far away from everything. “No,” a local friend replied with a patient smile, “everything is far away from us.” Because that is both literally and figuratively true, I decided to share my discoveries of the highlands not only with friends and family but also would be visitors, armchair adventurers, and my new friends here. I hope to include as well voices of those who come to experience this part of the world for themselves, and in so doing to share with others a unique look at a way of life and a place that is often invisible. Since last March I have learned the British or Scottish names of enough things here that the grocery store no longer reduces me to tears. I can tell the difference between a cream biscuit and a water biscuit—neither of which looks anything like what Hoosiers think of as a biscuit. I no longer recite “keep to the left” as I drive or panic when I turn on to a street where parked cars face me on the left because I know without having to think about it that cars park any which way here. I can shift with my left hand, negotiate single track roads including the insouciant wave from the layby, and find my way into the nearest town (and back again) on my own. I have begun spontaneously saying things like “dead chuffed,” “spirtle,” “petrol,” and “scunnered.” My dreams are no longer full of loss or abandonment. I even understand some of the jokes I hear. I have survived homesickness on three different continents, winds that tear the very thoughts from your mind or saw at your nerve edges with relentless soughing, attended half a dozen funerals, and been midwife for at least one calf. It is remarkable that I am still here because many people come here, as I did, for love of someone and leave again: Love deflated by wind or cold or seas that foam or long cold dark nights or days where everything is far away. Too far away. March means not only doves but also the season of new calves and lambs. Many of the people in Caithness who received invitations to the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla had to decline because it was lambing. My life now is not only in a different country but in a different world: I live on a farm and many of my stories will include such topics as the truth about cow tipping, wooden tongue, and how to move animals who outweigh you and have more legs than you do.Posted by Picasa


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