Wee Bit Hill and Glen

 October, 1999

Broddick, Isle of Arran, Scotland

The eight of us, two women and six men, stood in a circle holding hands in the small living room of a rented villa on the grounds of a hydrangea-draped old hotel. It was the embers end of a lively night of story telling, guitar playing, singing and laughter for two Americans far from home, a life-battered Englishman, and five Highlanders.

When Farquhar Ross began to sing the once-banned Oh Flower of Scotland in a pure contralto voice,  the whiskey went out of everyone, and the room turned into a centuries-old meeting of patriots with their blood up, a sacred space.

WEDNESDAY afternoon, Buck and I hit the interstate exit that said “To Home,”  and stopped by our local Publix to re-provision before heading to the woods following a short road trip. Buck laid out strawberries, blueberries, Greek yogurt, two cobs of sweet corn, a tomato and other treats on the conveyor belt. I stood still, ears cocked one aisle over, where a young cashier with black curly hair was singing Gaelic folk tunes in an exquisite tenor while he chatted with a customer. Before leaving, I learned his name is Seamus. He’s a college student from Ireland, studying at the University of West Florida.

Buck noticed I was humming and smiling as we carried our purchases across the steamy parking lot to the car. I told him what I heard. Our thoughts immediately went to that night on the Isle of Arran.

“I wish we could experience that all over again,” I said.

“Me, too,” Buck said, “but we can’t recreate those one-of-a-kind events. We just have to savor the memories and make new ones.”

There is a white turtledove at the feeders this morning. Its ethereal look is striking among the ubiquitous dun-colored mourning doves. Looks like Pope Francis amid the throngs of people in Rio de Janeiro. Cardinals and titmice flap and hiss, making the feeders sway like cars at the top of a ski lift. Contentious birds, squabbling in the midst of a 24-hour all they can eat buffet.

I drink coffee, listen to the drone of a low-flying airplane, the song of red wing blackbirds just beyond the clearing, and the industrious drill of woodpeckers. I consider how the oak tree that serves as a landing pad for birds on their approach to the feeders has recovered so entirely from its near destruction by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 its disfigurement is now only a cellular memory concealed within the permanent memoir of its rings.

Buck and I have nearly completed our period of discernment. We have visited other places to consider whether, as we age, they might offer some greater measure of independent sustainability for the long haul for two independent cusses accustomed to plenty of space and total privacy.

We have seen some very green grass indeed. But we are home now, immersed in our own “wee bit hill and glen.” We have put the suitcases away on a high shelf.

And we have formulated a plan.

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