Waypoints: My Scottish Journey
I have come a long way to be here. The cabin sits at the edge of the wood. Constructed from hand-split logs and timbers, it’s partially hidden by tall, majestic trees and dense foliage. Upon reaching the door, I look around and realize it has an inspiring, beautiful view of the valley and mountains beyond.
This is a good place to live, I think to myself. I can understand why someone would want to settle in such a remote, secluded spot. It’s my kind of home.
The cooking area is outside, spread out under an extended porch. A row of saucepans and a colander dangle from hooks fixed to the exterior wall. A large knife rests across a butcher’s block, while onions and chillies hang from strings to dry in the sun and intensify in flavour. In front of this area, dappled by sunlight, a large bench table suggests our host is someone who enjoys preparing food for others. I picture a group of friends on each side of the table, swigging from bottles of beer as they laugh and joke and swat at midges. At the threshold to the cabin now, I allow my gaze to linger on what could be a stage set for an open-air theatre production. It suggests a life very different from mine. There’s a hesitancy on my part to step inside.
‘Let’s do it,’ says my older brother, Cirdan, who has accompanied me on this journey.
We are here by invitation of the woman who has stepped inside before us. She met my brother and me at the airport, and shared the driving overnight in the car we’d rented for our stay. Neither Cirdan nor I know her beyond a few telephone conversations. She’s a very nice lady – in her sixties, I would say – and yet an air of quiet formality governs how we relate to each other.
‘Come in,’ she says, on realizing we are still on the porch.
I feel my brother gently press a hand to my back.
Inside, out of the sunshine, I am greeted by the smell of woodsmoke, tobacco and coffee grounds. I wonder if I detect a hint of weed as well, but now is not the time to comment on it or even swap a look with Cirdan. As our host closes the door behind us, I let my eyes adjust to the interior. There appears to be just one main living area, plus a wooden staircase leading to a bedroom and bathroom. Looking around, my first impression is of a comfortable, cosy, if notably basic, space.
Books line the shelves in no particular order, their spines fractured in a way that tells me the owner is a passionate reader. A desk stands in the corner. Whoever sits there likes to work by candlelight. I find myself looking at a sprawl of sketches and lists in hurried handwriting. Sifting through the sheets with my fingertips, I find an astrological chart spread out underneath. Ashes sit in the cradle of an open fire, and also dust the hearth. With a crackling blaze on the go, I imagine this is the kind of place that brings respite from the outside world. The worn upholstered armchair suggests it’s a been home for quite some time. A place to finally come to rest, I think, which reminds me of the purpose of our visit.
As our host leaves us for a moment to pad upstairs, I am struck by the fact that we are surrounded by the markers of a lifetime. My brother seems to sense this as well. He looks up and around, arms clasped behind his back like a museum visitor. A model aeroplane hangs from a length of fishing line in front of a window. With three wings in glossy vermilion, this First World War-era aircraft is caught in a barrel roll as if preparing to attack. Immediately I recognize the Red Baron, a character who fascinated me as a child. Someone once told me that the owner of this particular model loved to fly. The plane has been both crafted and painted by hand. The detailing is impressive, and reminds me that a creative urge can take people in very different directions.
I move a little closer to the shelves, interested in what titles I might find, only to register not a book but a DVD that’s all too familiar to me. I pinch it free with my thumb and forefinger, though I know exactly what the cover looks like because I play one of the characters in this movie. Without a word, I show the case to my brother. He raises his eyebrows in what could be surprise that it’s here at all, or confirmation of something we should’ve expected all along.
I return the tape to the shelf, mindful now that the owner has been following my journey from afar, before running my finger along the books beside it. I don’t have to go far to find a library copy of the first title in a series that’s about to be adapted for television. I’ve read them all, as I’m about to star in the show. I pull out the tome just to check it’s not overdue. Judging by the date, it’s a recent selection. Then I wonder if the person who withdrew it from the library will have time to read it, and try hard not to feel sad. It’s an odd take on a familiar emotion. There is little weight to it, as if it’s just a prompt for how I should be responding, rather than the real thing.
I go on to pick up clay models of hobbit dwellings and a felt wizard’s hat with a floppy fringe. Each item defines a point on a journey through life; from the old cigarette lighter to what must be a favourite mug. Collectively they should lead me to the person who lives here. I’m just not sure if what I find will match my expectations. All I really have are vague early memories and a handful of second-hand stories, but if I’m honest, over the passage of time I just haven’t given it much thought. Until now.
The sound of footsteps descending the stairs prompts me to step back, turn and smile politely.
‘Your father isn’t feeling well enough to see you just now,’ she says apologetically. ‘We can come back later.’
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|Epub||October 30, 2022|