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When I shared the itinerary for our third trip to Scotland a few moths ago, I was snowed in by a February blizzard and dreaming of warmer days.

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

It was probably fitting that last month, when we arrived in Scotland, we found ourselves in the middle of a heat wave. The wonderful side of the warm, sunny days was that we saw the sights under blue skies and never needed our umbrellas. The bad side was that the early heat brought out the dreaded midges, a tiny insect with a stinging bite that causes blisters on sensitive skin like mine. And several nights, we found ourselves sweating in sweltering hot guestrooms that came loaded with extra blankets and cozy warm duvets designed for the normally cool, highland weather conditions. Scots typically don’t need air conditioning or even fans, but this year, even the mountains were wrapped in stuffy, sultry air – and we didn’t dare open the windows unless we wanted a room full of midges. It was so hot that one of our destinations almost burned down a week before we arrived when the intense heat and dry conditions fueled wildfires in Wester Ross.

I guess that’s what I get for cursing February’s cold and trying to wish away winter!

Locals were delighted with the warm temperatures after enduring their own long winter, and repeatedly thanked us for bring the good weather with us. As it turned out, the whole time we were in Scotland, our cell phones kept buzzing with notifications of tornado, flood, high wind, and excessive heat index warnings – the weather in Iowa was horrible while we were away.

But enough about the weather. I’d like to try to share more than an itinerary in this blog, instead focusing on my reactions to the amazing sights we saw.

Scot - Kellie flowers

Our first three nights were spent at a B&B in the East Neuk of Fife countryside between Edinburgh and St. Andrews. We arrived exhausted from a long flight and a missed night of sleep as we traveled forward in time. We couldn’t have found a more restorative place to stay.

After strolling through the castle gardens at Falkland Palace, at the foot of the Lomond Hills, we wound our way to Colinsburg to check in to our first B&B.

Scot - Jane's House

The house was long and narrow, a renovated stable that was artistic and creatively decorated but comfortable and homey, with walls and walls of bookshelves and a million doors, each one different. There was a fireplace in our room and each morning, we could hear the birds singing through the chimney. Our host gave us herbal potions to ease our jet lag and boost our immune systems, and built us a fire in the library each night. (Those first few days were chilly.) We felt gloriously pampered.

Scot - Leven

The family we stayed with were descendants of the same Lorimer family who rescued and restored nearby Kellie Castle, where we enjoyed a wonderful tour and an afternoon tea in the castle gardens discussing art and architecture of Robert Lorimer. The legends surrounding the castle were fascinating and I had the most interesting conversation with a curator for the National Trust of Scotland.

When I shared with her that I have four houses filled with treasures and that I fear that soon-approaching time when I have to part with the wonders I have collected over the years, she recommended a succinct way to approach the task. The method she uses is to give each item a number between 1 and 4 based on its true worth after rating the objects according to their historical value, personal or emotional significance, monetary worth, and family importance. Those items that rank high in all categories should be saved for posterity, and those things that fall short in one or more categories should be released.

Baldners Dad

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad before he died when he was saddened by the fact that no one would probably want much of the beautiful wood he collected and never used for one of his many projects.

I started thinking about the fact that I don’t have any children, and that my nieces and nephews don’t share my tastes and wondering what would become of my beautiful artwork and pottery and china. As I listened to my dad talk, I thought about how much I paid for each of my paintings and asked myself if I had gotten my money’s worth out of the item based on how much enjoyment I’d gotten from each piece over the years. The answer in each case was yes. So, one day, if they get sold at a garage sale for $10 or carted away by a great niece for free or even thrown on somebody’s bonfire, it’s okay, because I’ve enjoyed them so thoroughly, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Rose - houses

I think I was meant to have those conversations, one on the double recliner at the farm in Minnesota with my dad, and one in a castle in Fife with a stranger.

Scot - Kellie Castle

Kellie Castle was also a rare find in that the castle garden was adjacent to the castle. You can see the castle from every corner of the garden, and photograph its towers and gables and spires with flowers in the foreground. You don’t have to walk to the back forty to enjoy the garden’s beauty. The castle and the garden are one entity. It’s exactly how I pictured Lachlan, Rod’s family’s castle, in Golden Rod. I found myself wanting Kellie Castle to be on the cover of Golden Rod, and will put it there one day. Kellie is lesser known, and a better choice for an imaginary, fictional place known only to my novel, than is Craigievar, which is so easily recognized my anyone familiar with Aberdeenshire. Perhaps then, I can forgive myself for taking artistic license with the history of Lochcarron.

Scot - Culross house 2

The rest of our time in Fife was spent exploring the Neuk fishing villages of Fife, briefly visiting St. Andrews, and exploring the Firth of Forth, the waterway that cuts deep into Scotland from the East, separating Edinburg from the areas to the north. We took the time to explore a little village called Crail because we know Crails in St. Ansgar whose family come from there. Crail is an enchanting little seaside town, and I fell in love with Crail Pottery. We teased about the fact that we couldn’t imagine why the Crail family ever left. It made me wonder about those of us from America who love Europe, and feel strong ties to the area. Would the lure of the promise that America held have been so enticing that I would have left my home and country behind to seek my fortune in the new world? And is it some sort of homing instinct deep inside my soul that makes me want to go back, after almost a century and a half and five generations?

Scot - Colross

We visited the medieval village of Culross where parts of Outlander were filmed and climbed a million steps to look down over the rooftops rimming the sea. When we got lost looking for the city center, I was so exhausted after all those steps that I thought perhaps I might have to be buried right there under the wandering cobblestones.

Scot - Culross square

And as usual, when it was all said and done, we gained less enjoyment from the famous Culross, billed as one of the most picturesque and oldest medieval villages in Scotland, than we did watching the sunset from an old church, and then, a deserted windmill by the sea. No surprise there – time and time again, we are drawn to unpopular, out-of-the-way places.

Scot - Windmill

Cambo Gardens was a disappointment and a relief. The gardens I loved so much 11 years had been dug up and redesigned. The flowers might be as pretty as they once were in another decade or so – more proof that you can’t go back. I must be a true optimist, because I always expect things to keep improving with time, to be better than I remember, not worse. I was pacified by the fact that the barely navigable, half washed out path to the sea I hiked 11 years ago had also been redesigned, and was quite pleasant. The woods were filled with fragrant wild garlic blossoms, bluebells and tiny fairy flowers. The midges were organizing, fluttering their tiny wings in sunny spots in the glen, but not yet biting.

Scot - Peat Inn

But the absolute best experience we had in the Kingdom of Fife and by far the favorite meal of our vacation was lunch at the Peat Inn, in the tiny town of Peat Inn. Indescribable. Every morsel more wonderful than the last. The kind of food artistry and flavorful food I aspire to. Impeccable presentation and heartfelt service. I loved every bite, every second.

Scot - Culross house

Our three days in Fife flew by, and now, it seems like a dream. No wonder, as I was so tired and jet lagged for those first three days. It always takes me a few days to remember what it means to be a relaxed person, free from responsibility, ready to enjoy being served by others instead of serving. I couldn’t have had a better place to put the trip in perspective and set the scene for the days ahead.  NEXT:  From the Lowlands to the Highlands…

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Great expectations have always been a huge motivator in my life. I have a wild imagination that translates into grand dreams. I’m willing to work hard to accomplish my goals. With the help of my talented and resourceful family and friends, a bevy of answered prayers, and a little bit of luck, many of my dreams have come to fruition.

Scot - sunset 2

But for perfectionists and dreamers like me, when things don’t go as planned, lofty expectations can turn into bitter disappointment.

Scot - Rhodadendron sunset

 

In Daybreak, my upcoming release, and the long-awaited sequel to my first novel, Night and Day, it seems like Jensen’s dreams have finally come true. Daybreak finds Jensen in Denmark, living out her long-awaited wish to be a mother. But when Anders has to leave, his son, Bjorn, unexpectedly moves home, and Jensen’s family faces a crisis in Minnesota, everything quickly unravels.

Scot - Windmill

 

Jensen and Anders are determined to find hygge in the colorful legacy of family, gardens, and quilts that make up their heritage and bind their future together, but with everything going wrong and nothing turning out the way they thought it would, it’s doubtful that a perfectionist like Jensen can be happy. It’s especially disappointing when a bright sky filled with promise turns to heartbreak.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

When I lived in Colorado Springs two and a half decades ago, I used to go dancing with friends. A few times, we stayed until closing. I can still remember the transformation from a dreamy embrace on a dimly lit dance floor enhanced by a glass of wine and the romantic sounds of a mellow voice singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” to that abrupt moment when the band stopped playing and the bright lights were flipped on and romantic notions soured when the reality of a dance partner with glaringly obvious flaws came into focus.

bluebells - smashed

You may have read my earlier blog post about the anticipation surrounding our upcoming dream vacation to Scotland. Now that we’ve been there and are back, I can tell you that there were definitely unexpected glitches and frustrations despite our well-laid plans. From unsuccessfully fighting off a biting, blister-causing bug called a midge to being abandoned on the remote Isle of Lewis and Harris when we had car problems and our car hire company provided no service and no replacement vehicle, our hopes for an ideal vacation didn’t always pan out as we’d hoped.

Scot - Aberfeldy sunset

There have been many times in my life when I’ve been forced to give up on my dreams and move on to a Plan B or C or even D. Some of those alternate realities have turned out to be blessings in disguise. But often, those good things don’t become apparent for months or even years and relationships can suffer as a result.

Scot - Chanonry Point

You’ll have to read Daybreak to find out if the morning star finds a way to pierce the darkness that descends on Anders and Jensen’s life when troubles overtake them from every direction, or if the problems they face will damage their relationship beyond repair.

Scot - kilmartin glen

Happily-ever-after is a wonderful thing when it happens and definitely a great way to end a romance, but it can be hard to sustain. Thankfully, I believe we have a God who promises us even more than we hope for, dream of, or can imagine.

Scot - Crinan boats

If you read Night & Day now, you’ll be primed to see what happens after happily-ever-after when Daybreak is released next month… And if you’d like to see and hear how our dream vacation to Scotland turned out, stay tuned for another blog very soon.

Night and Day (1)

“NIGHT & DAY’S Anders and Jensen find their happily-ever-after morphing from daydream into nightmare as blended families, rampant hormones, job problems and miscommunications force them apart. The crazy quilt of their lives is told with gentle humor, heartfelt empathy, glorious descriptions and a satisfying patchwork of relationships that must somehow fit together for love to survive. A lovely book, filled with believable characters, achingly sad and happy situations, touches of terror and despair, and the promise of daybreak after the dark, DAYBREAK is a thoroughly enjoyable read.” Sheila Deeth, Author and Reviewer

Scot - Skye water

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Daybreak – New Release! (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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