The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

Senior Travelers

My husband will vouch for me in this regard. 🙂

With a cheery wave of farewell
we’re off! Adventure lies ahead.
A rosy dawn, a beckoning road,
the time and courage to explore
new spectacles, new vistas grand,
intrigue beyond each bend.

We rumble along, anticipating
amazing sights we’ll see en route,
as we wind through sunlit valleys
and quiet hamlets where
folks behind closed doors
begin another day’s chores.

Arid lands we may encounter
with highway grey, the bushes tawny,
wildlife staring as we pass.
We’ll admire the fertile fields we see,
crisscrossed with tractor trails,
and marvel at the forests rich.

So full of life, so full of pep —
and two cups morning brew.
How soon will we be stopping
for a washroom break?

The sun is bright, the car is warm,
the tires on the pavement drone.
My eyelids start to blink…
twas early I left my bed.
Wake me up when we get
somewhere…
zzz…

Fandango’s one-word prompt today: HIGHWAY

Mirth & Melancholy

In June a pair of barn swallows started a nest on one of the rafters in our garage. Since they’re a threatened species — if not endangered by now — and since they consume huge amounts of mosquitoes, we let them stay. They’re with us such a short time. So I spread an old plastic tablecloth under their nest, we shut the garage door, and left them to it.

Those babies are trying their wings now; I’ve enjoyed stepping into the garage this week to see their progress. First little eyes and open beaks poked over the edge of the nest, now the little guys are out and around. I think some have been outdoor already; you can see their mirth as they discover the joy of flying. They’ll come back to the nest for a few nights, but soon we’ll only see them as they swoop and soar over our yard, foraging.

We’ve enjoyed their visit, but will be glad to see them gone from the garage; the hot summer days are upon us and there were a few times I worried if they could take the heat in that shut up building, even though the sides are all open where the rafters overhang the actual garage. (We need to put on siding yet.)

It brings a bit of melancholy to my mind as I see how fast summer’s passing. I’ll try to enjoy the beauty of all our seasons, but I do find the short, colorless days of winter rather depressing. So I will delight in today while it’s here. Today is the gold in our lives, the hours we’re adding to our treasure of memories. Tomorrow’s coin we haven’t seen yet.

Now I must run along. I’m cooking at the Villa again today, and tomorrow we hope to be off on a nice vacation. We plan to visit friends in the Peace River Country; we haven’t had a trip like this for a long time. Seems there’s so much to do in preparation!

One of the things I’m going to do is shut off all notifications from WordPress so I don’t have dozens of blog post announcements and comments filling my e-mail box while I’m away. I appreciate you all, my fellow bloggers and enjoy reading your posts. My apologies if you get no LIKES or comments from me for a good while.

Have a great rest-of-July. Happy blogging. Or happy traveling, if that’s your plan for this month.

Fandango’s FOWC: MELANCHOLY
Ragtag Daily Prompt: GOLD
Word of the Day prompt: MIRTH
Your Daily Word prompt: APPRECIATION

The Poet and the Goose

This sad sight seen yesterday on my way to town
has turned into a verse:

The Poor Goose!

Along the highway hurrying
to errands of my own
my eye is arrested—
and my heart is wrenched—
to see a snow goose thrashing,
wildly, its head snagged on fence wire.

I grieve for the terrified captive
flailing, struggling to be free
and think how it will die there
finally exhausted,
all alone.
Nature, how cruel you are!
And mankind worse,
to put up this barbed wire!

Rescue options futile, I realize;
desperate as this creature is,
my help would not be welcome.
Car tires with their steady hum
propel me along the rural road until
I approach the flapping bird.

I stifle a groan.
Dry up, O bleeding heart.
It’s just a plastic bag.

Oh, well. Surely
a poem can be wrung
from this ragged, fluttering “goose”
its handles snagged on a fence wire.
🙂

Fandango’s one-word challengeSTEADY
Ragtag Daily Prompt wordWELCOME

 

Letter from the Tropics

This letter is my response to various one-word challenges for today.

Beach scene

Dear Mom & Dad,

Not much doing here this evening so I thought I’d write you a letter — by battery-powered lamp-light, if you can believe it. My room-mate’s doing exercises to burn off the calories from last night’s feast. We were supposed to be lying on the beach enjoying a sunlit sea but they can’t schedule the weather here anymore than we can at home. Good thing our hotel puts a couple these lamps in every room. Now if only the air-conditioning would work!

Hope you like the postcard I’ve enclosed. Yesterday at the market I bought a bunch to send back to the folks at work with the usual, “Wish you were here.” Now I’m debating: should I leave them to envy me, thinking I’m having a wonderful trip? Or should I tell them the truth: we’re in the grip of a tropical deluge, wind and rain like you wouldn’t believe! And no power. 😦

Hurricane

There’s a beautiful sandy beach in front of our hotel just like you see in this photo — at least it was there yesterday — but it’s been evacuated because of the storm and the huge breakers rolling in. Hopefully the sand will still be there when this storm ends, not all washed out to sea.

The power went out at noon. You’ll be thinking, surely the hotel has generators? Yes, and the management got them running within half an hour. But by 2pm they ran out of gas. The shortage was investigated and we heard the janitor’s assistant was sacked when management found out he’s been selling gallons of gas to his poor relatives on the sly. They’ve ordered a delivery of more gas, but it hasn’t arrived yet, so we’re sweltering in this heat and humidity. Oppressive, our Prof says, for lack of a longer word.

You’ll see I’ve picked a postcard with the quintessential beach scene. Prof’s word for today. I told you in my last letter about Professor Hoffmeyer, one of the men who bought this holiday package deal. Of course we call him Prof-meyer. A lover of big words. “Oxford-educated and he can’t speak English,” Kyle says.

Kyle and Caylee are a young couple from Philadelphia. I doubt either of them is more than eighteen. Kyle has Grade Eight, he says, but I’m sure it’s only because teachers can’t fail anyone nowadays. Grew up dirt poor in some tenement slum — been together for a couple of years now. Two months ago they happened to pick the lucky ticket and won a two-million dollar lottery. Wonders never cease.

First thing Kyle did was buy Caylee an engagement ring. You should see that rock! They’re planning to tie the knot at some special place on this tour.

Of course as soon as their relatives heard the news, they all came to “borrow a bit” for some sudden emergency, so K & C knew they’d better make themselves scarce or friends and needy relations would bleed them dry. Smart move. A tropical holiday may not have been their best first choice but family can’t follow them here and we’re trying to help them acquire some dollar-and-sense smarts.

They seem like good kids, really. They’re ready to spend, but we plead with them to be careful. It’s amazing how fast money can disappear and none of us wants to see them flat broke a few years from now. One of the men on this tour is a retired banker and he’s taken them under his wing, giving some fatherly financial advice — something they’ve likely never had in their lives. The important thing is, they’re listening and learning.

Anyway, they don’t see eye to eye — or should I say tongue to tongue? — with Prof-meyer’s highbrow English. He means well, but he just can’t talk in one-syllable words. Yesterday when we hit the local outdoor market — where I bought this postcard, by the way — Prof looked over the scene and exclaimed, “Ah, the quintessential local market!” Kyle looked blank for a moment, then said, “It looks pretty typical to me. We have these in Philly, too.”

The rest of us grinned and adopted “quintessential” as our new buzzword of the day. We’re making a game of sticking it in wherever we can. And once we got our money changed to the local currency, Prof-meyer announced that he was going to “sally forth to acquire the accouterments of the typical tourist.” (Accouterments will have to be our word tomorrow.)

Kyle was stumped for a bit, then said, “Not us. We’re just gonna buy some stuff to show the folks back home where we been.”

“Be very careful, kids,” Prof warned them. “Folks here aren’t very conscientious with the truth about market prices.”

Kyle and Caylee looked blank until another tourist whispered, “He means they’re apt to fleece you if you don’t watch it.”

“Oh, that I understand,” Kyle told him. “We’ll be careful.”

Of course, before long we were surrounded by the quintessential haggling merchants and starving waifs begging coins, with the quintessential ‘Artful Dodger’ mixed in. And the usual gregarious sorts wanting to welcome you to their island with a hearty embrace while an accomplice slips your wallet out of your pocket. Prof lost his, but it held nothing of special value. Guess he’s traveled a lot in his day.

As we were leaving the church bells started ringing and Prof-meyer started spouting about the felicitous tintinnabulation. A few of us who heard him rolled our eyes and shook our heads. My roommate and I were behind Kyle and Caylee and heard him whisper to her that ‘Tabulation means counting, my math teacher told me once. So I think the Prof’s wanting to count the ting-ting-ting of the bells.” That gave us a chuckle.

Hey. The lights just came back on! The fuel truck must have made it through. Good thing, because they say this storm is supposed to last all through tomorrow as well. SIGH! So much for our tropical holiday — “palm trees waving in the breeze,” etc.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a good week. Wish you were here. 🙂

Love from your drenched daughter,
Contessa

Fandango’s FOWC:  QUINTESSENTIAL
RAGTAG Daily Prompt:  EMBRACE
Your Daily Word:  TINTINNABULATION
Word of the Day:  GREGARIOUS
Daily Addictions prompt: PLEAD

A Letter From Home

This “letter” is from a book of poems written by Mary J MacColl, published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY. The book comes with endorsements from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and Oliver Wendell Holmes. speaking of hob-nobbing with the Greats!

Johnny’s Letter

Dear Ned, your letter’s come at last
and Nelly’s cockatoo;
Old Captain Cable brought them both,
‘Twas pretty good of you
to write so much, when it’s so hot;
how jolly brown you’ll be –
just like a heathen Hottentot –
when you come back from sea!

I don’t believe I’d care to hunt
in jungles – at a show;
I’m just as near a lion’s jaws
as I would care to go.
Suppose the cannibals you saw
had nothing left to eat?
Phew! They’d have built a fire, I’m sure
and roasted you for meat.

We’ve all been down at Grandma Lee’s
and didn’t we have fun!
We jumped the fences, climbed the trees,
and made the squirrels run.
High on a load of hay we rode
with Jake and Uncle Nate;
we hunted nests and fed the chicks,
and swung upon the gate.

We fished and waded in the creek,
shook apples off the trees—
I ate so many I was sick!—
we chased the bumble bees.
They stung poor Bobby on the nose
and Katy in the eye;
it made them look so very queer
and oh, how they did cry!

Dick made believe he had a horse –
‘twas nothing but a rail –
I tied the duster on behind,
it looked just like a tail.
But he got tired, let go the rein
and tumbled on a log
and when I ran to call Nurse Jane
I fell across the dog.

I haven’t got much more to say
and I must go to school.
I missed my lesson yesterday.
I said “a little bull”
when teacher asked what bullet meant.
Why shouldn’t it be so
when streamlet means a little stream?
That’s what I’d like to know.

There goes the bell! I must be off–
I ‘most forgot to say
that Charley has the whooping-cough
and Tom fell off a dray.
But ‘cepting them we’re all quite well.
Good-bye – remember now,
if you don’t bring a monkey home
there’ll be the biggest row.

Catching Up With Ourselves

Good morning, everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about our activities so for those who are interested, here’s a brief review of the past week’s comings and goings.

Spring has come to our land for sure. The woods around us are getting greener by the day, more of our summer-nesting birds are showing up every day. Our neighbor told me about seeing orioles a few days ago; they’ve since been over to visit our trees too. Yesterday she saw a hummingbird at her feeder. I’d been planning to get out my feeders so when I heard that, I cleaned out our two feeders — for hummers and orioles — and hung them outside yesterday evening.

Our farmer neighbor seeded the fields around our acreage yesterday while Bob mowed the grass for the first time.

Last Friday morning we left for an overnight trip to Moose Jaw. We stopped for dinner en route and drove out to the Belle Plaine area, east of MJ, to visit an elderly friend who was Best man at our wedding. Joe’s 91-years-old now and somewhat crippled by arthritis, needs a cane, but his spirit is as vital as ever. He’s kept going all these years, refusing to let arthritis immobilize him. This week he was loading up and hauling about 20 head of cattle to the Swift Current market, about 150 kms away. He’s finally giving up feeding cattle.

We drove through Belle Plaine, the town where Bob and I met. He ran a grain elevator for UGG — a company that no longer exists— while my folks bought the local café when I was thirteen. Needless to say, things have changed a lot, especially in the past 20 years. We had trouble figuring out what was what anymore; the café ha disappeared completely. And how can fifty years go by so fast?!

We saw a small herd of antelope on the way to Joe’s home, and I spotted a group of cormorants at a dug-out right near Belle Plaine. This dug-out was made when we lived there, when dirt was needed to build the overpass over the train tracks. So it’s quite a large body of water and there were a number of waterfowl.

We had supper with Bob’s cousin Dennis and wife; in the evening we met my sister Rose for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. All of these live in Moose Jaw.

We stayed night at a motel across the street from Crescent Park and the Public Library + Art Gallery. All day Saturday we attended a writers’ conference at the Library. Met a few people we know and heard various speakers, including a retired Regina police officer. He spoke about how a homicide investigation is REALLY conducted. As you can imagine, he detests all the nonsense shown on TV cop shows. Two other speakers were romance writer Ellie Lynn and mystery writer Gail Bowen.

We came home Saturday evening and attended church as usual Sunday morning, then were invited to our son-in-law’s folks for an extended family Mother’s Day dinner: their three children who live here and in-laws like ourselves.

Tuesday morning our son-in-law and daughter very kindly drove us back down to Moose Jaw to attend the funeral of Bob’s cousin Julia. She’d celebrated her 94th birthday in early February; in the funeral service we heard how she’d enjoyed a long, love-filled, productive life. Her five children have all done well and their descendants seem to have, too.

After the funeral we met and visited with my sister Donna for half an hour or so. It’s been too long since we last connected! I last saw Donna — and only to exchange a quick hello — at our nephew’s funeral at the beginning of Sept 2010. She’s been living in Regina for years and only moved back to Moose Jaw last summer. Hopefully we can connect more often now.

When we got home Tuesday evening around 8pm, we all noticed how much the trees around our yard had greened up just while we were gone. And they’ve continued to leaf out in yesterday’s heat.

Today is cloudy and cooler — and we’re off to Saskatoon later to have coffee and a gabfest with several other writers who live in this area. We’re only about eight who like to touch base now and then — but try to find a date and time when everyone’s free!

Tomorrow we’ll stay home and catch up with some work that’s been neglected while we gallivanted. 🙂 Now I’ll end my “catch-up” post with this short poem by an unknown writer:

The slightest word of comfort
to help us on our way,
the slightest smile from someone
to brighten up our day;
the slightest act of kindness
to lessen care and such
all these cost so little,
but they mean so very much.