Friday, July 30, 2010

Lay By Adventures

A lay by is the little goiter dotted strategically along single-track roads. It allows a vehicle to pull over and let an oncoming vehicle use the main road. I have also described them as aneurysms, but goiter seems less sinister and volatile. They are oases, an opportunity to practice a model of negotiated space and social agreeableness in a constrained setting, and an integral part of both the physical and social fabric.

A lay by allows farmers to pull over and check their animals. Drivers can use their cell phones or capture a photograph; cyclists can catch their breath and let vehicles move past them. Sometimes a lay by is an opportunity to catch up with news from your neighbour or relay a message about an essential item forgotten, " I forgot milk, can you run past village store and get some." A lot can happen in a lay by.

I have never had a keen sense of orientation in the physical world. "You were there once" does not work for me as if leaving a trail in my mind like the magnetic tracery that birds use to return to nesting grounds or the salmon find their way back upstream. The first two years up here were really a bit of a blur. Putting one foot in front of the other and parsing conversations was about all that I could really manage. I kept telling myself that finding my way from one winding, unmarked country road to a distant location on another winding country road would be a project for another day.

And so it came to pass. I wanted to go to a friend's house. I had been there before (I followed her) and now I was on my own. I started out with only the first leg of the instructions clear in my mind. "Cross the main road"-(it has taken me some time to suss what is a main road, but that's another story) on the Barrock Road. At some point the Barrock Road has a sign that actually points toward Barrock, but another wrinkle in my finding my way around is that roads are named for places that no longer exist or names get recycled. Barrock Mains, for example, is not on the Barrock Road.)

But I digress, which is exactly what I did once I crossed the main road. I followed the road around a curve and then had no idea what to do. I saw a car moving swiftly up ahead of me and decided for no rational reason at all that it must be another one of my friends headed to the same friend's house. I followed her. When I realized the car was going to Dunnet Head (a stunningly beautiful site well worth a visit, but not where I had intended to go). I turned around and wondered what on earth I was going to do, when I pulled into a lay by for an oncoming car. Serendipity. The oncoming car contains another friend. We carry on a conversation in a lay by as true locals do. As I see an RV (or caravan as they call them here) approaching, I hastily ask for directions to my destination and hey presto, I am on my way in time for the RV driver simply to give me a grouchy face as he is delayed momentarily. Time is different for vacationers, I understand.

I was jubilant when I arrived at my friend's house and shared my adventure with my friends. For me the best news was having a place where I could acknowledge my--foibles--direction-wise. Having acknowledged my foibles, one of my friends let me follow her out (it is much smaller once you know where you are going) and even stopped along the way to point out where another friend lives so that I would be able to get there on my own.

The next day I drove all the way to Halkirk to find another friend's house and was pleased with myself and my manoeuvring until I had to back into a tiny lay by to allow a lorry filled with flammable materials to squeeze by. Clearly there are many more adventures with lay bys in front of me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Visiting Season

We have not had many visitors this summer until the past two weeks. Three Orcadians came across the Firth. Orcadians are always good company.

More recently we had family from Norway visiting.

Connections. Making connections. Keeping Connections. It is the heartbeat of us all. Some times the simplest things linger. A few words on a summer day are enough to recall and reconnect. I like to think that the young ones who sat patiently and politely through adult conversations will recall something that makes enough of a thread that they can find their way back here someday.

The other wonderful thing about visitors is that we get to re-visit our own backyard. I realized that I rarely have in my blog the images that are often thought of as archetypes of Scottishness-thistles, castles, and wildflowers dancing in a summer breeze, so here they are.
Summer has come in very small pieces--so an entire day of sunshine and quiet winds was a rare treat.

We went to visit Sinclair Girnigoe castle. The current Earl of Caithness is working very hard to restore this family heirloom to a better condition. Much work has already been done on it, but we could not get inside the gate on our recent visit. The thistle with the hard working bee and the mixture of red clover and buttercups all came from the fields on the way to the castle. In its heyday, the castle faced on to what would have been the equivalent of a major highway--the Pentland Firth. The front door, as it were, looks out over the water. A better description would be to say that the castle grew up from the living rock almost as one with the landscape. Our visitor called it a dramatic setting, which is quite true. The view from inside is even more dramatic. Not even Rapunzel would have tried leaving by the windows.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesdays in the Kitchen; Wednesday in town

Posted by Picasa
The afternoon sessions are my favourite because they seem so unhurried. I have been missing Tuesdays because I was heading down south to learn something for my project or I was leading a workshop at Castlehill. I was very happy doing those things, but I missed my Tuesdays around a kitchen table with my knitting needles in hand and my ears tuned for the good craic.

I could tell it had been a while because more often than usual I had to stop and ask who or what, but I was chuffed that I could fall in around the table as if I belonged there. It felt good to be back. I vaguely remember now the first times when only every other word made sense and then only in a dictionary kind of way.

I like the busyness and good energy of Tuesdays.

Wednesday is my go to town day. I enjoy that, too, in a different way. I have been missing my Wednesdays as well. For all the differences in my old life and my new one, I have translated those things that I enjoyed and growing them on here. Now if only there were a good bookstore....
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Girls Rules

For the first time I did not have to travel all the way to Edinburgh by myself. There were too many advantages to having my friends there to list them all, so I'll just sum them up under Girls Rules. Women just naturally know better how to have a good time.

I worked right up to about an hour before my presentation and then relaxed in the "green room"--a seating area outside the conference room where we had to make our presentation. I was edging into that preternaturally calm state and my friends helped keep me in check. We did a good job of presenting and then we went out to celebrate. This Chinese jacket was the first step of the celebration for me. Just down the street from the hotel was Armstong's, a second hand/Vintage clothing store. It was chock a block with things wonderful and wacky. I went in thinking I'd get something tweedy and then the next thing I knew, I had asked the shop person to climb up to the rack full of silk jackets. They called them bed jackets, but this one will hang out in public with me for special occasions.

I'm usually not much of a yellow person, but the overall hue of this jacket is more of a creamy beigey maybe green. I loved the fasteners. Only when I got the jacket home did I realize that they are all hand worked fabric (brownish not purple as in photo-sorry about that). I just love the workmanship.

The adrenalin of my find gave me enough energy to get back to hotel and, after a nap, go out for dinner, but then it was back to the hotel. Still getting my energy back, so I'll just leave you with my Chinese jacket for now--the first instalment of the true meaning of Girls Rules.
Posted by Picasa