Little Earthquakes

During my first weekend in London, my friend Jenn said over dinner: I’ve never been to Scotland.

Over that dinner, an impromptu weekend trip north was planned.  When Friday came, I dashed out of the office to Gatwick.  We had planned to fly to Edinburgh then drive to the northern parts of the country, maybe Wick.  The last time I had been in Scotland was with my parents and my Auntie and Uncle, where they wanted to talk about relationships.  They told me:

We’ve all been together forever, so we don’t know what you’re going through.  But I think, Mere, I think that you’ll probably wind up with someone you’ve been friends with for a long time.

I had left them to go back to London to spend time with The Englishman.  Did I believe their wisdom?  I didn’t know then, and don’t know now.

Speaking of the devil, The Englishman and I had dinner last Thursday, and I told him about my trip.  He replied, The last time I was in Wick, I was still in school, and we’d gone up there dressed in pirate costumes. We moved the sofas out of my friend’s house and on to the lawn.  And then we had a bonfire.

It made sense, because that’s all par for the course in my circle.  Case in point: that same morning, another friend had recounted the story of her very fresh breakup.  She said, And I still have to get my dirndl back from him.  Neither of found this statement the least bit bizarre.

Anyway, on Friday, we flew to Edinburgh then started the drive towards Wick.  There was something about this trip that made me think I could resolve my anger leftover from last Spring: my fury at the Scotland Tourism Board, the weird family trip to Edinburgh, and all that followed, as if obsessively retracing my steps not merely in time, but also in place, could provide answers.

Our first destination, though, was Inverness.

Have you ever been on a road trip in Scotland?  At night, it’s not that different than driving the New Jersey turnpike, except you are driving on the opposite side of the road in a car with the steering wheel in the passenger’s seat.  The service plazas have Burger Kings and WH Smiths; you cross great suspension bridges.  By night, you might as well be driving from New York to Washington.  By day, a different ballgame.

Despite a few missed turns, we made it to Inverness unscathed.

The next morning, we were off to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.  I’ve never had a thing for castles – maybe a bad childhood Medieval Times experience? The scenery, however, was breathtaking.

Our drive farther north was then thwarted by a fast-moving snowstorm.

(This tore through the area within an hour of the first photo.)

So we turned around and headed back for Edinburgh.

We arrived in time for a lovely dinner, and spent the next day walking around the city.  I was able to navigate from my memory of May.

But by the end, it didn’t really feel like I was resolving any anger.  Sometimes, I think we go back to epicenters merely to see if the ground has stopped shaking; to find stillness in formerly chaotic places, even if they are wrecked.

Or was I seeking stillness where there would always be little earthquakes?

There were unexpected aftershocks that weekend.  Like remembering that I’d lost my grandfather in a town called Inverness, in Florida, seven years earlier. We’d arrived after the fact – the week of my graduation from law school.  I flew back to Washington after the Florida moment, and I walked at graduation, carrying the stuffed monkey my grandfather’s namesake son had given me.

It was the same monkey in whose fur I had sobbed as a misfit kid; my comfort object when I was divorcing my husband.

When my grandfather died, there was no funeral – just an in-and-out in the greater Inverness area.  We’d rummaged through his things; found tangible evidence of how he’d loved us.  But that was it.

So I thought I’d headed north to resolve my Springtime anger.  Instead, as my heart swelled with the shocking February blues and greens and golds, I discovered I had come to put something else to rest.  I stood silent, just outside of Inverness, as the British weather moved swiftly and switched from snow to radiant sunshine for our visit:  I let it go.  And then the snow moved in again.

That was maybe the last aftershock.  My mother tells me often how proud of me my grandfather would’ve been; how thrilled he’d be with the life I lead.  How much he’d love the present-day me — coupled up or not.  I don’t disbelieve her – there’s something about daughters and daddies; daddies and daughters – daughters know.

So the trip was an end, but also a beginning, as endings tend to be.  It was a core-shaking moment.  And I suppose resolution is much like an earthquake: to be rattled in unexpected ways, and then survive it; built on it; create better things from it.

1 Comment

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  1. The Medieval Castle-lover in me so loves that shot of the ruins over the The Loch.
    p.s. Blessedly Medieval Times has never made it to MN. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed until a particularly horrifying episode of Millionaire Matchmakers. Thank God for the small mercies in this world.

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