Friday, December 26, 2008


Christmas, Highlands, A Personal Post for Lurkers

And how would you travel overseas with Christmas presents? There are several ways. You can do what I did, which is to buy your presents ahead of time, wrap them (minus the tape so security can look at your luggage if it really, really wants to), so Christmas Eve at the Drummonds is easy. This means you can enjoy a leisurely glass of Gigondas by the fire.

You can do what my mother did, which is to buy your presents well in advance, bring a list and your own wrapping paper. Or, you could be like Gordon and be happy that the economy is in the free-fall, because it would mean that your last minute Christmas shopping, conducted in New York City a day before you are set to fly overseas, is unencumbered by other shoppers. This would also mean that as you wrap your presents in your parents' living room, you would need to hide behind a sofa, so no one would see what you are doing.

For some reason, Gordon decided to turn all of the women in his life into cats. Since discovering my feline form, my black ears have not left my head. I even put the orange cracker crown on my cat head. The combination of orange and black apparently upset some some of the relatives, as these are the colors worn by a "rival" football team. Fortunately, I don't get all empathetic about sports. Don't those guys get paid enough for sounding thoroughly thuggy in every culture?

My hand-knitted snowflakes hang in the window.

The rental car is a Renault Scenic. You have to be kind of smart to drive it, because it operates via a card and a button. Also, I have to step on the brake to start the ignition. To turn the car off, I have to pull out the card, and hit the "Start/Stop" button three times.

On the way to Nethy Bridge, we passed through a landscape covered in frost. It was beautiful. Until then, the skies had been low and gray, but up in the Highlands, the clouds parted. It was difficult--as usual with my poor photography skills--to capture the effect of every blade of grass, every leaf, covered in white ice like this. Frost isn't heavy, like snow, so the scenery looks light and crystalized.

Gordon's beloved Aunt and Uncle live in Nethy Bridge. I'd always wanted Uncle Dan to meet my father, but this was not to be. At least, I thought, he will meet my mother, and he was excited about the prospect, and had started cooking dinner for us, way back in November, freezing dishes to serve to us when we arrived. I saw him last in October when we attended his daughter's wedding and he stole a line from my father's wedding speech to toast his daughter and new son-in-law. And then, a month later, he was dead. An odd and terribly synchronicity. There's no causal relationship between the two things, but I feel strangely guilty, as though I have set a precedent. It has been odd, tiptoeing around these subjects, watching out for people's feelings and trying to give everyone the room they need to grieve and emote and guard their "safe" space. I'd like for next year to include less loss. Life can be short.

No trip to Nethy Bridge is complete without a visit to my beloved Ralia, home of the whisky wall. I'll be bringing home some presents. And I might even have some whisky of my own to get rid of this nasty cold.

This evening I am relaxing in Drumnadrochit, by Loch Ness. We've had a lovely meal--the food in Scotland continues to get better and better as people discover the goodness of local ingredients. Once upon a time, we would roll into a town, and choose between fish and chips and the only Chinese restaurant for miles (which we were convinced was actually a spy post, disguised as a food joint). Tomorrow it is off for the islands, standing stones and gloomy valleys. More photos to come.

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