Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Words, words, words

In case you didn't know, I love words. I love learning new words. I love looking at a page full of words and knowing that, although I've probably seen all those words somewhere before, what the words say will be completely different. I love looking at how changing one word can affect the tone of a phrase, and how simply rearranging words can speed up or slow down the rhythm of the whole sentence. Because of this, I really love the game Bananagrams.


Don't you just love how that pile of letters looks? It gives one the feeling that there are endless possibilities. The game is simple. You each draw a certain number of tiles and then have to make your own little crossword, using up all your letters. Once you finish the letters you drew, everyone playing has to draw a new tile, then as soon as someone uses up their new tile, everyone draws again. You keep this up until all the tiles are used. The first person to finish is the winner! We often play it after dinner, and it's always fun to look at the words everyone comes up with. Sometimes, instead of playing with other people, I like trying to make a crossword using up all of the tiles. This time I decided to make it more difficult by using a specific theme. The obvious choice was Harry Potter. Here is the result:

 It took a lot of work and some help from Rebecca, but we managed to do it! Now doesn't that look inspiring? All those words, with all that meaning, just sitting there waiting to be used? Read books, my friends. That's my advice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


This evening Granny learned what "friends with benefits" means, and she thought it was a brilliant phrase. We then decided she should place a personal ad in the local paper: "Classy, yet spunky fem. in northern Scotland. WLTM male resembling George Clooney to be her friend with benefits." Then she and I looked through pictures of all my old boyfriends and she ranked them in order of, in Granny's words, "gorgeousness." I'm hoping my DNA will cooperate and turn on those awesome genes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dunrobin Castle

Our Scottish adventure wouldn't be complete without a visit to a castle! And this castle is extra special because it is owned by the Sutherland clan, a clan which we proudly belong to. Dunrobin Castle is also interesting because it's haunted! The daughter of the 14th Earl of Sutherland was imprisoned by her father in an attempt to prevent her from marrying someone he considered unsuitable. She tried to escape by climbing down a rope, but she fell to her death, and since then has roamed the upper rooms of the castle in despair.

Isn't it beautiful! I especially love that bright blue clock. Imagine living in a place like this, with narrow spiral staircases and huge fireplaces and elegant portraits of dead family members on the walls. The only downside I could find was how cold the castle was! If I do end up living in a castle (which, at this point, is not likely, thanks to Kate Middleton), we will have plenty of majestic fireplaces just like this one:

The Sutherland motto is written on this fireplace in the entrance hall: "Sans Peur," meaning "Without Fear." "Frangas non flectes" means something to the effect of, "You can bend, you will not break me." Clearly, it is not advisable to mess with a Sutherland.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but we took plenty of pictures in the beautiful Italian gardens outside! That building in the back of the picture is a museum housing the stuffed heads of the many animals that the Sutherland family killed and brought back from their expeditions to Africa. There were elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, lions, and dozens and dozens of other animals. It was vaguely terrifying.

We watched a Falconry show after touring the gardens, and we saw hawks, falcons, and owls swooping right over our heads! The owl's wing even brushed my hood, which I kept up the whole time just in case. I get a little nervous when birds fly over me, because... well let's just say I've had a couple bad experiences and leave it at that. I try to keep this blog classy.

The whole time we were in this garden, the only thing I could think about was the incredible game of Ghost in the Graveyard we could play there. Casey, get your cute little self on over here right now and let's do it! And bring the Jackson family too because there are plenty of dirty places that I just know Josh would hide in.

Like I said before, you don't mess with the Sutherlands. They gon' find you.

To top it all off, the castle is right on the beach. How perfect! Can you imagine waking up every morning, looking out the window, and seeing this perfect view? I love all the different shades of green in the garden. It creates a sense of depth and mystery, like you could explore there forever and still not discover everything this garden has to offer.

After we left Dunrobin Castle, we stopped by a small town called Dornoch to look at some beautiful stained-glass windows in the church. The most notable thing we discovered in this church was the sarcophagus of Richard de Moravia, who was believed to be the founder of the church. It is said that he was killed in a battle against the Scandinavians, but not before he killed one of the enemy with nothing but the leg of a horse. And yes, he was also a Sutherland. Can you say Sans Peur?

Monday, June 20, 2011

G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. There are some authors, like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien, who I love for their stories. But there are other authors, Chesterton and P.G. Wodehouse (whose full name is Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, which is awesome) for example, who I love for their writing. Each sentence is individually crafted in a brilliant way, and I can imagine them sitting at their desks for hours, pondering each word and phrase to ensure a perfect balance of form and function. I usually discover authors through friends, but Chesterton I discovered in my grammar class. My professor used sentences from some of his favorite books for practice and homework questions, but he never included any references. I always felt really proud when I would recognize one of the sentences (usually the ones I recognized were from Jane Austen). In one of the assignments, I kept coming across wonderful sentences, and each time I typed them into Google, it brought up Chesterton's The Man who was Thursday.

After I finished that book, I did some more research on Chesterton, and the more I learned, the more I liked him. According to Wikipedia (the launch pad for any research I ever do), Chesterton is called the "prince of paradox." Time magazine observed, "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out." I love this example: "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it." Chesterton was about 6'4 and weighed 290 lbs (the downside of being famous enough to be in Wikipedia is that your weight becomes common knowledge). In fact, in P.G. Wodehouse's The World of Mr. Mulliner, a loud crash was described as, "a sound like Chesterton falling onto a sheet of tin." Chesterton was staunchly Christian and wrote several books on the subject. One quote of his that I really like is from Orthodoxy. He philosophizes, "Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." He continues this train of thought in the next chapter, which is entitled The Ethics of Elfland (which, by itself, is enough to make me like him):
The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, 'charm,' 'spell,' 'enchantment.' They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched. I deny altogether that this is fantastic or even mystical. We may have some mysticism later on; but this fairy-tale language about things is simply rational and agnostic.
 I recently discovered this article entitled Wonder and the Wooden Post and loved every word of it. It is quite long, but I'm going to include it here anyways.
For some reason, I took a picture of a wooden post once upon a time. I felt it was fitting.

Black night had shut in my house and garden with shutters first of slate and then of ebony; I was making my way indoors by the fiery square of the lamplit window, when I thought I saw something new sticking out of the ground, and bent over to look at it. In so doing I knocked my head against a post and saw stars; stars of the seventh heaven, stars of the secret and supreme firmament. For it did truly seem, as the slight pain lessened but before the pain had wholly passed, as if I saw written in an astral alphabet on the darkness something that I had never understood so clearly before: a truth about the mysteries and the mystics which I have half known all my life. I shall not be able to put the idea together again with the words upon this page, for these queer moods of clearness are always fugitive: but I will try. The post is still there; but the stars in the brain are fading.
When I was young I wrote a lot of little poems, mostly about the beauty and necessity of Wonder; which was a genuine feeling with me, as it is still. The power of seeing plain things and landscapes in a kind of sunlight of surprise; the power of jumping at the sight of a bird as if at a winged bullet; the power of being brought to a standstill by a tree as by the gesture of a gigantic hand; in short, the power of poetically running one's head against a post is one which varies in different people and which I can say without conceit is a part of my own human nature. It is not a power that indicates any artistic strength, still less any spiritual exaltation; men who are religious in a sense too sublime for me to conceive are equally without it. Of the pebble in the pathways of the twig on the edge, it may truly be said that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see these things and have not seen them. It is a small and special gift, but an innocent one.
As my little poems were mostly bad poems, they attracted a certain amount of attention among modern artists and critics; I was told that I was a mystic and found myself being introduced to whole rows and rows of mystics; most of them much older and wiser than I. Of course, there were professional quacks and amateur asses among them; but not in much larger proportion than would have appeared among politicians or men of science or any other mixed convention. There was the long-faced, elderly man, who said, in a deep bass voice like distant thunder: “What we want is Love”; which was true enough, if to want means to lack. There was the little, radiant man, who radiated all his fingers outwards and cried: “Heaven is here! Is is now!” as if he were selling something, as he probably was. There was the chirpy little man who took one confidentially into a corner and said quietly: “There is no true difference between good and bad, false and true; they are alike leading us upwards.” He was easily disposed of; merely by asking, if there was no difference between good and bad, what was the difference between up and down? But it would be gravely and grossly unjust to suggest that any of these represented the modern mystics whose acquaintance I made. I met many men whom history and literature will rightly remember. I met the man who was and is by far the greatest poet who has written in English for decades. For I will not call Mr. Yeats an English poet; I will only say that I should be sorry to see him translated into any other language. I met a man like Mr. Herbert Burrows who, almost alone among men in my knowledge, contrived to combine an Oriental and impersonal religion with that hard fighting and hot magnanimity which we in the west mean when we are speaking of a man. There were great poets and great fighters, then, among these modern mystics whom I met; and their genius and sincerity, as well as their mysticism, led me to conclude that they were quite right. And yet there was something inside me telling me, which what I can only call a stifled scream, that they were quite wrong. It was the same for that matter with my early economic opinions. I was a Socialist in my youth; because the attack on Socialism, as then conducted, left a man no choice except to be a Socialist or a scoundrel. But, even then, long before I ceased to be a Socialist, long before I heard of peasant ownership or any other escape from our present disgrace, I had felt by a sort of tug in my bones that the Fabians and the Marxians were pulling the world one way when I wanted it to go the other. So I felt about great mystics like Mr. Yeats; about sane thosophists like Mr. Burrows. I felt, not merely that their mysticism was in flat contradiction to mine—more even than materialism. I went on feeling this; it took me a long time to give it even an obscure expression. I never found a really vivid expression until I knocked my head against the post. The expression that leapt to my lips then, I am (as I say) forgetting slowly.
Now what I found finally about our contemporary mystics was this. When they said that a wooden post was wonderful (a point on which we are all agreed, I hope) they meant that they could make something wonderful out of it by thinking about it. “Dream; there is no truth,” said Mr. Yeats, “but in your own heart.” The modern mystic looked for the post, not outside in the garden, but inside, in the mirror of his mind. But the mind of the modern mystic, like a dandy's dressing-room, was entirely made of mirrors. Thus glass repeated glass like doors opening inwards for ever; till one could hardly see that inmost chamber of unreality where the post made its last appearance. And as the mirrors of the modern mystic's mind are most of them curved and many of them cracked, the post in its ultimate reflection looked like all sorts of things; a waterspout, the tree of knowledge, the sea-serpent standing upright, a twisted column of the new natural architecture, and so on. Hence we have Picasso and a million puerilities. But I was never interested in mirrors; that is, I was never primarily interested in my own reflection—or reflections. I am interested in wooden posts, which do startle me like miracles. I am interested in the post that stands waiting outside my door, to hit me over the head, like a giant's club in a fairy tale. All my mental doors open outwards into a world I have not made. My last door of liberty opens upon a world of sun and solid things, of objective adventures. The post in the garden; the thing I could neither create nor expect: strong plain daylight on stiff upstanding wood: it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
When the modern mystics said they liked to see a post, they meant they liked to imagine it. They were better poets than I; and they imagined it as soon as they saw it. Now I might see a post long before I had imagined it—and (as I have already described) I might feel it before I saw it. To me the post is wonderful because it is there; there whether I like it or not. I was struck silly by a post, but if I were struck blind by a thunderbolt, the post would still be there; the substance of things not seen. For the amazing thing about the universe is that it exists; not that we can discuss its existence. All real spirituality is a testimony to this world as much as the other: the material universe does exist. The Cosmos still quivers to its topmost star from that great kick that Dr. Johnson gave the stone when he defied Berkeley. The kick was not philosophy—but it was religion.
Now the mystics around me had not this lively faith that things are fantasies because they are facts. They wanted, as all magicians did, “to control the elements”; to be the Cosmos. They wished the stars to be their omnipresent eyes and winds their long wild tongues unrolled; and therefore they favoured twilight, and all the dim and borderland mediums in which one thing melts into another—in which a man can be as large as Nature and (what is worse) as impersonal as Nature. But I never was properly impressed with the mystery of twilight, but rather with the riddle of daylight, as huge and staring as the sphinx. I felt it in big bare buildings against a blue sky, high houses gutted or still empty, great blank walls washed with warm light as with a monstrous brush. One seemed to have come to the back of everything. And everything had that strange and high indifference that belongs only to things that are… You see I have not said what I meant: but if you admit that my head and the post were equally wonderful, I give you leave to say they were equally wooden.
I love this article because it reflects how I try to look at nature, with "a sunlight of surprise." Every tree or cloud is amazing just because it is there. I'm not a great poet or painter, so I can't glory in what I can do with nature. I can, however, sit and appreciate something's existence. That's why I tend to take pictures of trees and rocks and clouds, because there isn't really much I can do with them other than just see them for what they are.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In honor of the best daddy in the whole world...


I love my dad. He is my coach, my cheerleader, my hero, my number one man. He's taught me how to say my prayers, ride a bike, solve differential equations, appreciate butterflies, and use eating utensils correctly. He courageously survived my teenage years and came out on top. Here are some of my favorite memories of my dad.

Rebecca and I went on a camping trip with Dad when I was about nine or ten, and I can distinctly remember canoeing through some exciting rapids, made even more exciting when Rebecca "accidentally" fell out of the boat and started floating downstream. I remember roasting marshmallows that evening and flinging the burnt marshmallow skins at nearby trees.

 I have many fond memories of trips to Scotland with Dad. Every day he would force us to go outside on some walk or other and we would complain and whine the entire time. He would try to fit in as much as he could into the two or three weeks we were there, and all we wanted to do was sit around and play card games and eat toffees. But I am so grateful that he did it. I wouldn't trade those memories for a lifetime supply of toffee, not even the Cadbury Chocolate Eclairs.

When I was twelve, Dad and I ran the Yorktown July 4th 5k. I was nervous because I wanted to do well and impress him. I did some research (it's amazing what you can find on Google) and turns out we both placed fourth in our age group! Of course, his time was six and a half minutes faster than mine, but that's not important.

Something I love about my dad is his cheesy smile. It is physical proof of his goofiness, a quality that many people don't realize he has. (P.S. Can we just pause a second to admire my coat? Okay, thanks.)
I really enjoy sitting with Dad in Sunday School and listening to his comments. They are always so logical and well-formed, and they make me think about things in a different perspective. Dad has taught me to be more open-minded, and I admire the way that he can make his religious beliefs and his scientific beliefs mesh so cohesively in his mind. I've also learned from him how to develop well-educated opinions and that I should avoid having opinions that I haven't thought through and reasoned out for myself.

I tended to have parties most weekends during high school, and Dad was normally very patient unless we were talking loudly during an episode of Dr. Who (a felony in our household). At my Harry Potter themed 18th birthday party, he even participated, dressing up as Professor Snape.

I remember the day when Dad started to build our tree house. I loved that tree house. We used to pretend it was a space ship and we would "paint" it with water. We had to paint really fast so that the wood would still be the dark, wet-wood color when we finished. I also remember the big yellow swing that he hung up. My dad is so smart and resourceful. He can always figure out things when he sets his mind to it. He wanted to hang the swing higher than his ladder would reach, so he climbed up the ladder and carried up another ladder with him. He then lashed the second ladder to the tree and climbed up from there. That swing was the coolest swing in the whole neighborhood, and you could go as high as the roof of the house if Dad was pushing you.

I have so many special memories involving my dad and soccer. He coached me every year as I was growing up and taught me to have a passion for the sport. He tried his best to teach me how to productively channel my frustration and sometimes I managed to do it! One time Dad was teaching us about defense and he said, "Who can tell me what marking means?" Due to Dad's accent, Nico misheard him and responded, "It's when you make fun of someone, isn't it?" I still laugh every time I think about that. Dad was a smart coach and was able to balance fairness with a desire to win. He isn't like those wimpy coaches that you get these days who try and put every person in every position. He gave everyone fair time while being strategic in his lineup. He was also very supportive when I did soccer in high school and whenever I played, I wanted to make him proud.

Dad has always pushed me to be as good as I can be, and I am so grateful for that. I may not have enjoyed it at the time, but hindsight tends to be 20/20 and I know we wouldn't be as close now if we didn't have those problems then. Sometimes I thought he was insensitive, but I always knew he loved me. And really, that's the most important thing. Thanks Dad. No matter how old I get (or how old you get!) I will always be your little girl and you will always be my teacher, father, and friend.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." — Anaïs Nin

And believe me, it tastes almost as good the second time. The more time I spend writing about what's happening in my life, the more I want to write and the more I appreciate the seemingly simple experiences that I write about. Here are a few memories that I want to 'taste twice.' I've arranged them in list form for your convenience.

1. Opera- It started last Thursday when Granny took us to see Rigoletto, a tragic opera by Verdi. Opera was something that I never knew much about, but since then it keeps popping up everywhere. Popstar to Operastar came on TV earlier this week, and we've been following the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. I haven't been able to get La donna è mobile out of my head. (Click on that link and listen. I'm sure you would recognize it. It's incredible how often it's used in popular movies or TV shows: Dr. Who, Saturday Night Live, South Park, Grand Theft Auto III, Star Trek, Seinfield, Sesame Street, and My Friend Tigger & Pooh, among others.) A couple of nights ago Granny and I attempted to sing O mio babbino caro in the kitchen after dinner. Rebecca can attest to our prodigious talent. Opera is a singular art form because it conveys so much emotion in the music alone. The singer doesn't move around the stage much while performing, so the expression has to be conveyed through dynamics, facial expressions, how they stand, and so on. The music isn't organized into rhyming verse, chorus, verse two that echos verse one, chorus, verse three, chorus, bridge, chorus. It's sung in waves of sound, and often a singer will sing half of the song, and then go back and repeat but sing louder, or slower, or in a different key. It took me a while to appreciate the vibrato of the voices because usually I prefer clear, choir-boy kind of music, but I'm slowly growing to enjoy it.

2. Work- I'm getting into the swing of things at work. I've made some friends and learned most of the menu. I'm a waitress more often than a dishwasher now, which is a nice change, although waitressing is a lot more nerve-wracking and I have to be thinking the whole time. When I'm washing dishes, I go off into my own little world and, when the noisy dishwasher is on, I sing opera in hushed tones (no high A-flat for me). Work still has that new, exciting feeling, which I want to maintain as long as possible.

3. Granny's memory- Forgive my bragging, but my Granny is awesome. She knows the name for everything: flowers, birds, songs, actors, places. But Rebecca and I have learned that if you ask her a straightforward question like, "What is that plant called?" she won't be able to remember. So instead of asking a question, we make an observation such as, "That's an interesting-looking plant." She will then volunteer the answer, easy as pie.

4. Photo shoot- On the drive home from Inverness on Thursday, we saw the most beautiful patch of wildflowers, so we stopped to have a photo shoot. Here are some of the results:

5. Teatime- It's a wonderful tradition that I am determined to perpetuate into my grownup life. A snack of hot chocolate and cake is the perfect way to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. I harbor a slight resentment towards the Boston Tea Party-ists (pun intended). Of all the traditions to quench (I'm sorry, was that too far?), why would they choose an essential meal? Especially one that leaves me saturated (a bit of a stretch) with cocoa and joy? I will leave you with this lovely cartoon I found that expresses the importance of teatime in Britain.

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to 
the ceremony known as afternoon tea. 
- Henry James 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Earth's crammed with heaven

And truly, I reiterate,.. nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And, — glancing on my own thin, veined wrist, —
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Leigh Bk. VII, 1. 812-826

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Quest for Puffins

We went on a wonderful journey yesterday to Handa Isle, a small, uninhabited island known for its huge colonies of seabirds. The road to Handa took us through the magical highlands of the West. The rolling hills were interspersed with breath-taking, terrifyingly grand mountains (there really aren't enough adjectives in the English language to embody them). There were several moments when we came through a pass in a mountain and a vista like this appeared, and I couldn't decide if I wanted to be Marianne Dashwood or Aragorn or High King Peter or Pocahontas, but I knew that I wanted to stay there forever, roaming the moors and soaking in the magic.

Honestly, and I know this sounds melodramatic (permission to roll eyes granted), I was on the verge of tears when I saw that little river winding its way to that loch. How perfect. 

Handa Island itself did not disappoint. The only sounds we could hear were bird calls and the constant, muted murmur of the waves hitting the cliffs below. We walked 4 1/2 miles around the island, stopping on the north edge, where the majority of the birds were located.

The birds were just preparing to nest, so there were plenty of squabbles over who got to nest where. The gulls were exceptionally vociferous. We also saw Kittiwakes, Gullimots, Great Skuas, Arctic Skuas, and, most importantly, Puffins. There is a special place in my heart for Puffins. Their quirky appearance and awkward waddle are so endearing and sweet. When we first got to the viewing place, all of the birds were across a huge crevasse on a stack.

We were standing on the cliff in the right of this picture. You can see how far away it was. We had binoculars and I saw a few Puffins from far away, but I couldn't get any good pictures and I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that we had come all this way for a few passing glimpses of orange beaks and feet. We started moving on, but then Granny suggested we leave the path and walk around to the other side of the cliff where this picture was taken from. So we walked around, took a seat, and waited. And then, a miracle occurred.

This little guy popped out from his hole about ten feet from where we sat. Again (this seems to happen a lot to me) I almost cried. I held my breath and took picture after picture for fear that he would fly off in a moment and I'd never see him again. 

But he patiently waited, turning his head back and forth to let me get every profile I wanted. Then he walked around a little so I could get some action shots. I thought the trip couldn't get any better, and then...

Out came his wife. They looked up through my eyes and into my soul and I'm pretty sure I heard one of them say, "You're welcome." Either that or, "This crying stuff is getting ridiculous. Get a backbone, woman."  It was a humbling and wonderful experience.

We sat on this cliff for about 15 minutes, enchanted by the sky and our new friends and the blustery wind and the way the light blue water faded to dark blue as it approached the horizon and silvery-gray as it approached the cliffs. Most of those black and white birds on the edges of the stack are Kittiwakes. Most of the Puffins lived on top, while the gulls lived on ledges down the side of the cliffs. The Skuas nested in the marshes away from the path. We stayed away from them because Skuas can get vicious if you disturb their nest.

 I love these mounds. They look like they belong in Alice and Wonderland. The dainty little flowers on the top are called Armeria maritinum, or Sea Pinks, and during the spring months they cover the island.

Sometimes it is necessary to leave the path.

Other than birds, the only other animals we spotted on the island were rabbits. We saw rabbits in droves, which is actually one of several collective nouns used to describe rabbits. Other leporine collective nouns are warren, nest, colony, bevey, bury, or trace. Just an aside, I love collective nouns. After we left the cliffs, we ambled around the rest of the island, avoiding puddles and searching for whales and singing The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music (aaaah-ah-ah-aaaah). We got back to the shore, and hopped on the ferry to go back to the mainland. 

The boat had odd seats that you straddled like you were riding a horse. Instead of a pier, there was a wooden plank that they rolled up to the boat once it came ashore. We got some hot chocolate at the Shorehouse and stopped in Ullapool for takeaway fish and chips on the way home. We ate the fish sans utensils, which I think made it more delicious. By the way, don't you just love the name Ullapool? I think Scottish names are the most beautiful names in the whole world. By the time we got home, we were exhausted but completely fulfilled. Once we recover, we will start planning our next adventure. I'm hoping a castle will be involved.

I left a piece of my heart on Handa.

P.S. I utilized a famous, award-winning loo at the Shorehouse. Be jealous. It was an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Good news! After much agonizing, telephoning, visiting and, worst of all, patient waiting, I finally have a job. I start tomorrow at the Eilean Dubh, a small restaurant right up the hill in the village. Fun fact: apparently Eilean Dubh means "Black Isle" in Gaelic, and when you pronounce it, the 'b' is mostly silent. Anne, the restaurant owner, is very nice and said that her restaurant focuses on treating customers like old friends. All of the food is freshly made and all the supplies come straight from local distributors, which is really neat. I will be working in the kitchen as well as the front room so, in theory, I'll understand how the whole restaurant works by the end of July.

On another note, we went to dinner tonight at Michael and Maureen's and Michael said something that really started me thinking. He was talking about his mother, my great-aunt Betty, who is a very talented author. Michael said that his mother didn't write books to satisfy a demand from others. Instead, she wrote to learn for herself. By researching, writing, and rewriting, she's able to really learn about things that she's interested in and also is able to develop opinions and really work things through for herself. Then Michael asked, rhetorically, what each of us would write about, if we were to do something like this. So I thought. And you know what? I really don't know. But I will figure it out.

And now for something completely different. Whenever I learn a new word, I always want to work it in with whatever I'm writing. However, I've learned a word that likely will never apply to anything I want to write, so I will put it here:

Exophagy (n) — the practice, amongst cannibals, of not eating one’s relatives or members of one’s tribes.

Cannibals have it right. Survival is important, but family is more important.