Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dolphin Dives and a Lopsided Somersault

‘We are water people,’ my brother explained to the anxious lifeguard cautioning us about undertow as we splashed in the edge of the surf of the Andaman Sea. I had no idea what he meant. I lingered on the we-ness. My brother was always at least a step ahead of me.

Water: Quixotic. Defining its own boundaries. Fast-running water in the I ching means both danger and opportunity. Fall Creek was our playground as kids and it provided both opportunity and danger. The pond where we skated as kids back when winters were cold enough for skating outside. The pool in the backyard, filled-in limestone quarries and the gravel pits pock marking Indiana. Finally growing into the abyss off the reef protecting the northern edge of Grand Cayman. Water was never far from our best selves.

I am at a conference of writers. I should be at a workshop or networking or something earnest. Instead I am in the pool. Blissfully nearly empty. I swim a bit and think a bit and for no particular reason do the rapid fire up and down simulating dolphins to get from one side of the pool to the other. I might have walked, or done a lady like breast stroke. My brother made me do it. We used to practice those rapid up and down moves in our own small pool or the pool at the house in Cayman. I put myself safely in the middle of the pool and did a somersault—lopsided and more demanding on my lungs than it used to be—but a somersault nonetheless. My brother did it in scuba gear along the wall in view of the anemones and the purple vase sponges. It is harder to do than you might imagine. It was some time before I tried it, but I had to try. My brother made me do it.

If he were here now, I’d tell him I understand what he meant. He would be unimpressed that I got it at last. For him it was so obvious that he could not imagine that I would not have understood, but he wouldn’t have minded either. He liked being one step ahead of me—it was his birthright.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Caithness Writers web site up and running!

Thanks to our hard working (and techno savvy) secretary, the Caithness Writers web site is up and running.

If you are local, check out our program there and join us.

Also, use the link to buy our ebook (It is a bargain, really).

Also be sure to check form time to time for news such as connections with Scottish Book Trust and online competitions.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Back to St. Magnus Cathedral

The first time I crossed the Pentland Firth I was with my brother and sister in law. In fact, the only reason I am in Scotland now is because they invited me to come on their trip with them.  So many things about who and what and where I am are the result of their individual and combined example. Mike is gone now, and we are all struggling each of us in our own way to come to grips with that. St. Magnus Cathedral is part of that for me.

It is about a thousand years old. It was built as a penance supposedly for some of the internecine bloodshed that fills much of Caithness-Orkney medieval history. I like staring at the massive sandstone columns and thinking that dozens of stone masons spent their entire working lives on this single building and reading the walls and listening to the secrets of the millions of people who have been here with broken hearts, newborn babies, all the big and little moments of our lives echoing off the stones.

I am grateful that I push open the heavy wooden door into an emptiness. Today I do not want to share this cathedral and my time here with anyone else. I do not want to pass the time of day with a stranger or even a well-meaning guide. I punctuate the silence with my sturdy walking shoes on the outer aisles and linger over the ancient stones. I like the phrase from some century long ago--'beloved in life, regretted in death.'  Then I sit awhile in the dappled, multicoloured light from a stained glass window. Another time I might have liked to study them. Today is about listening, finding stillness within myself that will allow the healing.