“…throwing open their windows for the cool breeze the storm had left as an apology.” – Louise Penny, The Murder Stone
Sometimes the sentences I rediscover in my quote book are not particularly profound, or insightful, or perspective-changing. Sometimes they are merely sentence fragments, sometimes only a few little words. But every piece of literature in my modest collection has one thing in common – it’s all great writing.
The quote that began this post spoke to me today for a particular reason, which I’m sure will become clear by the end of my musings. But, for now, let’s pick up where we left off.
“It was drizzling slightly, and all the joyous spring flowers were lying down, like young soldiers slaughtered on a battlefield.” – Louise Penny, The Cruelest Month
I have always been fascinated by graveyards. Perhaps I have mentioned this before?
A firm believer in the innate goodness of humanity, I have nonetheless often found myself both intrigued and repulsed by the same species’ capacity for extreme violence. Especially today, in the midst of the 24-hour-non-stop news cycle, it can sometimes seem that for every kind act being committed on this earth at any given time, there are simultaneously 2 or 3 acts of cruelty.
“I have stood at the brink of the falls, that thin line that separates eternity from time”
– Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still
As you may know, the quote above describes the feeling of awe and humility that washes over you when standing on the brink of Niagara Falls, with the sheer crush of water rushing its way over the ancient cliff face to the churning bowels below – it is a glorious and chilling sight – completely unique the world over.
Unique as the Falls may be, the description of that thin line separating eternity from time…that, I have felt elsewhere. On the edge of the Cliff of Moher in Ireland for example, or sitting on the cliffs of the Cape Breton coast, staring out at the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean seemingly without end.
What these places all have in common is that they are viewed from a great height, which is what I figured Ms. Buchanan was referring to in her description. When I went through my quote book today to come up with the perfect way to start this post, however, suddenly this quote spoke to me differently.
“The tale is the map that is the territory. You must remember this.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods
I’m not sure why I continue to work slowly at this telling of my trip to the UK with my sister so many years ago now. Perhaps it is because a few of my acquaintances like to read it, perhaps it is simply to keep the writing muscles limber as I work on my first novel. Whatever it is, I hope this tale is at the very least entertaining…and at the most an inspiration from which to map out your own adventures.
“I picked up The Hobbit. And I began to read. I was swept off to a green, green Shire in a far, far land, and my soul has never returned. I suppose it never will.”
As with everywhere else Kristen and I visited, I could write so much more on the adventures we encountered in Inverness. Considering how long it’s already taken me to tell this story, however, I think it’s best to move on.
My final parting thought about Inverness would be my remaining confusion surrounding the fact that we didn’t visit the fields of Cullodan while there – tantalizingly close as they were. Instead we took a bus out to a small village of no repute and traipsed up to some anonymous farmer’s field for a picnic and reading session in the grass.
I’ve spent a surprising amount of time in the intervening almost two years thinking about why I didn’t insist on a visit. Finally, two Outlander books later, I think I know why. It’s going to sound strange, maybe even ludicrous to some, but here goes. Continue reading “Jacobite Middle Earth”→
“The immensity of Durham Cathedral engulfs the wanderer within a great wilderness of towering stone.”
– Peter Ackroyd, Foundation
When travelling with a loved one, there’s a certain sense of excitement at the chance to share a beloved haunt. This is how I felt about bringing Kristen to Durham Cathedral.
I can still remember the overwhelming sense of awe I felt the first time I visited this beautiful building. I was just me and my Dad, my friend choosing to stay at the hotel for a nap. Spending time alone with my Dad was a treat, one exciting enough to make me want to talk non-stop, but my usual unending stream of senseless conversation was suddenly halted when we turned the corner and I was faced with the soaring stone towers of the cathedral.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Dad had suggested the visit in the first place: to earn some peace and quiet for a few moments.
The late, great, Terry Pratchett was so right. And not only is there so much universe, but still so much of our comparatively teeny-tiny earth, and never quite enough time. So why, one might ask, do I constantly decide to visit places I’ve been before when there is still so much to see?
I hope the next few posts will make this at least a little clearer. If not – skip to the as-yet-unwritten posts about Scotland which I discovered, and fell in love with, on this trip.
“Time devours everything, but each mortal believes that his own memory can enshrine immortality.”
– Angela Thirkell
There’s always a certain apprehension when returning to somewhere you previously loved. Sure, the first time you visited, it was beautiful and magical and you promised out loud to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of your companions “I’ll be back” in your worst-possible Schwarzenegger voice.
But then the years pass, life goes on, and that city, town, village or dilapidated old ruin gains this sort of unreal aura. It’s forever perfect. It stands in your mind as the most ideal locale on the planet.
And then, miraculously, you have a chance to go back. Your heart starts to pound at the thought, you feel dizzy. You will be going back to a place that truly makes you feel at peace. How brilliant is that?
But what if that fabulous little pub you and your friends found is now a blaring nightclub? What if that darling little hole-in-the-wall book store has gone the way of so many others and finally shut its doors? What if the ruin you so loved has finally lost its centuries-old battle with gravity?
“They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited ‘first chapters’. I have indeed written many.”
Wow, I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. I agree with Tolkien… Beginnings are easy, endings on the other hand? And so, for the past few weeks, I’ve written us out of York 5 or 6 times. None of them felt appropriate.
I’ve finally settled on something – it’s a little different from the novellas that were the last few posts. But, well, here goes.
“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”
My writing desk at home…Where these posts are drafted!
It’s a funny thing, writing. You can do it for days and days at a time and enjoy every minute of it and yet at some point you need to leave the comfort of your literary reveries – often just for a couple of hours – to take a deep, rejuvenating breath of real life’s fresh air.
Admittedly, I spent much of the holidays taking deep, frequent, even greedy breaths of the free air and I’ve been rather reluctant to dive back in to the chasm – both wondrous and intimidating – of the writer’s mind. But I am back. Truly. These posts should become much more frequent.