Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Je ne veux pas" and the Transcendent Sky

It is June and the weather still requires at least three layers—one of which should be wool and one of which should be water resistant. The sky is an ambiguous grey-blue and the wind varies from hurrying-may-bring-in-a-gale to a changeable breeze that ruffles the edges of my newly planted nasturtiums. I fret. I have bought the most compact, shortest variety of nasturtiums: my compromise with the wind and my desperate need for color. Nasturtiums and marigolds and calendula will dance like jesters against the back drop of dark soil, if the weather will only allow it.

My body aches from yesterday’s efforts in the garden. It is beginning to look like what I want it to grow into, but the season is short and I am frustrated that I cannot work as long and as hard as I remember being able to do. After a half-hearted morning’s work, I ache so much that I take two aspirins, put an ice pack on my elbow and go to bed. When I wake, I feel better physically, but hungry and disconnected. I browse the kitchen and nothing appeals to me. I eat a cracker and wander back to my garden.

My spirit is picking up as the postie arrives, but falls again when I discover that my passport is not among the mail. I have had to send my passport to Swansea along with my marriage certificate and a complicated application for a provisional driving license. With that in hand, I can then apply to take a test and then an actual driving test with an examiner in the car. All this because I have an American passport. I tried to find alternatives but the bureaucracy here is more convoluted than I have ever experienced. Scotland has a devolved government. That means it has its own parliament but nearly everything that involves money is done somewhere else. In this post 9/11 hyperparanoid political climate, I worry about each day that passes without my passport, which also contains my visa.

I walk into the house with the mail in my hands still covered with garden dirt. Morris is intent on doing his farming paperwork, so I reluctantly drive into town on my own. Hungry, tired, dispirited, my outlook momentarily brightens when I see cows and calves in the highway. I stop and wonder if I need to get out and help. I recognize the man whose cattle they are. The cows are quickly marshaled off the road and he waves my car on. I smile and wave as I go by. He recognizes me and his smile widens. I know him and I know the situation. That familiarity warms me up as I turn into town.

I buy a few groceries and get some money for lunch. I walk to one of my favorite eating spots—a little cafe in a reclaimed shack that adjoins a surf shop. It is good food and good company and it is a success story. I like it for all those reasons as well as the fact that it is a portal into a whole new world. Waves for surfing up here are among the best in the world, but you need to wear a thick full wet suit because it is always cold. I have decided that I will try it, but I am not yet sure when that will be.

After lunch as I pay my bill, I check out a rumor that there is going to be an introductory session in June for surfers reserved just for women. As often happens, stories here have a grain of truth and collect elements of each storyteller’s wishful thinking along the way. The young man behind the counter doesn’t know much about that. He says that on the longest day there is going to be a party on the beach and anyone who wants to can take a go at surfing. This has in common the elements of June and surfing, so those elements are likely true. The rest will resolve itself in time—Caithness time. I am learning to move to that rhythm.

I go back to the grocery store and stock up in earnest this time. I see my nephew and comment to the cashier that he has the look of a man in love. He is getting married In October and I don’t think he has stopped smiling since he and his fiance made their decision. They are having their own challenges with bureaucracy because she is Australian, but they are in love and nothing can dampen that wonderful glow.

As I climb into the car for the trip home I am still stuck in the mood reminiscent of the lines from the Pink Martini song, “Je ne veux pas travailer.” In the early days here the Je ne veux pas was sometimes so intense that I could barely get out of bed. When I emailed to friends and family for help, they all had wonderful suggestions. My daughter suggested that I immerse myself in the things that first attracted me here. I am reminded of that when I come over the ridge of the road from town. Heading past familiar fields of cattle and sheep and crops, the beauty of the landscape catches me with the same awe that I experienced when I first visited here.

In the three-part choreography of earth, sky, and sea, the sky is now the prima ballerina. The luscious golden light of long days renders the clouds pearlescent and pours through a clear space between the long banks of clouds stretching along either side of the highway. It is so like the voluptuous clouds in the Sistine chapel that I can almost see the hand of creation stretching from one cloud bank into the other. No je ne veux pas mood can stand up to that.


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