Sunday, June 14, 2015

arrival at Three Glens

I'm on Skype with Ed. He asks -- do I hear kitties in the background? No, not at all. You're hearing sheep. Everywhere I look, there are sheep.


Yes, I am in Scotland.

Someone inclined toward pessimism surely would have slumped at the inauspicious arrival. Leaving the plane, we, tired passengers, walk down the stairs, then wait in the cold drizzle for the bus to come and take us over to the very indifferent terminal building. From there, it is a long walk to the car rentals (you have to rent if you're going to stay in the middle of nowhere -- a trade off for sure) and at the car rental desk, I am yet again forced to take on insurance which doubles the cost of the whole enterprise (they don't quote you the price of it when you book on line) and I shake my head at my own stupidity for not having checked this in advance.

On the very upside, I win the fight and I throw down the keys to their "upgrade" (a 4 door Kia) and oh so reluctantly, they do "manage to locate" what I really wanted - a tiny two door Fiat 500. So let's ignore the cost and enjoy the ride.

My home for the next five nights is located one mile from the village of Moniaive (no, I don't yet know how to pronounce it) and fifteen miles from Dumfries. To get here, I follow a very detailed/complicated/intricate routing I had done on Google maps. I think -- great! You basically have to use small rural roads to get there! (It's about 2.5 hours from Edinburgh.) What I should have also remembered was that I would be tired, driving alone without someone to read directions, on very narrow (very narrow!) roads.

Not daunted, I put on BBC, listen to several lively discussions about the UK's concerns regarding asylum seekers from Africa and forge ahead.

And here are several lucky breaks: the roads are rather empty in this part of the country. It's possible to stop the car and take a photo now and then.



The drizzle clouds, as is so typical in Scotland, also lose their hold and sure enough, I find my small ribbon of blue.


But where to? And why here? Oh, you know my criteria: an interesting place with good walks, fresh and honest food and a good room to come back to at the end of the day.

I found it in Three Glens. I can't really call it a B&B. It's not exactly that. It's a stunning (and stunningly new, actually) home perched on a hill, built as a place for the farmer who owns it to retire to eventually, when he's done tending his acres and acres of pasture and farmland and hundreds (my guess) of head of sheep and cattle. In the meantime, so long as he and his wife are not yet retired and living here, they rent out a few of the rooms (I am right now the only guest).

the house

the room

the view from my windows

Perhaps what's most impressive is the eco-friendliness of the property: a wind turbine supplies power (actually the house grabs only 2% of the turbine's output). Ground  source heating (with radiant floor heat). Insulation? Sheeps' wool. (If you're interested, you can read about all this stuff here.)

Me, I'm just mesmerized by the views.


I spend the afternoon sipping tea and listening to the sheep.



It is very hard to tear myself away for a walk, but I do. Just a short one. Down the hill, up the road a bit, then return. The sheep keep me company.


The lambs are getting large, but their voices, crying out again and again, are so young, so asking still for help in navigating the pastures, that honestly, each time one cries out to its mama, my thoughts spin back to Snowdrop.


It's uncanny. To me, the lambs sound like her! It's as if we all are a mere repetition of something that has been taking place forever and ever, all around us, even as we think we are so unique, so one of a kind.


I return in time for dinner. It is served by Greg, the house manager (who hails from New Zealand, but that's a whole 'nother story) and it is completely fresh and honest! He had asked my preferences and honestly, I have no great food dislikes, though I'm happiest when there are plenty of vegetables.

There are plenty of vegetables: veggie soup, then chicken stuffed with brie with ratatouille and braised cabbage and carrots, finished off by a lemon cheesecake with rhubarb. Completely delicious!




Night time. Or is it night time? I doze, I wake up, thinking it's sunrise, but it really is a midnight sunset of sorts. The first night in a different time zone is never easy, but here, I am completely at a loss as to how to treat this period of night that is not really night, not helped by the fact that my iPhone refuses to take on the new configuration, remaining stuck in Detroit time as if it cannot fathom that where we are is no longer over there.

I know better than to fight it. For now, I take out my computer and catch up on my posting.


  1. This, this is what I want in my retirement years!! - and shall not have - the sweeping skyscapes, cloud shadows passing over green hills.
    This is heaven on Earth to me. Maybe a visit to Three Glens is in order!

    I'm glad to see you had your auspicious ribbon of blue to welcome you.

    The food is so colorful. mmm! Good thing it is nearly dinner time here.

    What you said about babies, human and animal, and the timelessness of the cycle, yes, I've thought about that many times.

    Enjoy! Sleep whenever. You have time to adjust, right?

    1. I find it interesting that my host farmer (whom I will meet today) lives just over the hill from where he built his future retirement home. Now that's a man who loves his surroundings!
      A night with an equal amount of wakeful hours and sleep-filled hours. You are correct -- my time is endless when I travel. It's one remarkable difference between being home and being away. There are no agendas when I am away. I'll catch up on sleep eventually.

  2. It's all quite beautiful, the green hills, white sheep and contrasting black cattle. Lovely. But more than where to or why here, my question is why alone? No, I'm not looking for an answer that Ed couldn't or didn't wish to go, I'm wondering why go when there's no one to share it with? I'm wondering at your needs and values. I'm wondering what you're looking for. (Perhaps that's rather personal but in posting this and opening your travels up to questions, I feel it's a valid question.)

    I've vacationed before alone, went on quite an adventure sailing the Great Lakes on a 3-masted schooner. It was adventurous, special, but lonely in not being shared. I guess there isn't enough need to travel that drives me to go, unless there's someone to share the discoveries and the journey.

    1. You don't think I'm sharing?? :)

      I keep in close touch with my beloveds. But I don't always have to have someone at my side round the clock. I've traveled alone extensively since I was a very young person. I value my quiet time -- to think, watch, listen, write. I also value engaging my environment. You don't do any of these as well when you are with someone. I wont go on. The simple answer is -- people are different in the way that they experience life. Honestly, I can't give you a better explanation than that.

    2. Yes, no doubt that people are different, and I realize that. But quiet time can be found in your orchard, or sitting in the front yard while Ed is in the sheep shed. Heaven knows your garden has enough beauty in it that Monet would be entranced for a while.

      Do you see what I'm trying to say? Heh, do *I* see what I'm trying to say? I guess I'm saying that I see more value in experiencing things/sharing things with someone: "Look. Do you see that bird, the way it's hovering on the thermals? Isn't it beautiful against the sky."
      "Feel these shiny leaves. Rub them and then smell your fingers. That's basil." You can't do those things on Skype, it's not of the moment and isn't tactile.

      But none of that means having someone around your side around the clock. Heaven knows, with Ed and your family so close, you seem to live that life at home much more than I do. Ah, maybe that's the difference. I spend most of my days alone, mostly communicating with Bri through the computer a few times a day. The same with friendships, only communicating through the computer. So those few days/hours that I really am together with the people I care about have much more value for me. (Example: Brian and I only had breakfast together one day this week. We stay up late and I need more sleep than he does, so I sleep in on weekday mornings while he gets ready for work. Bri is Bri the way Ed is Ed, Brian likes his mornings a certain way and it's better to just let him do things the way he wants to.)

    3. Okay, snowfleurry, great. That's you. Are you telling me I should be like you? That's not going to happen. Are you trying to understand why I'm different than you? It's an impossible question.

      I have this one commenter -- you don't know her because I never publish her comments. Occasionally she pops up telling me how I should do things differently. Sometimes she interprets my life for me. These days, when I see her name in my Inbox, I go no further.

      Many people think that bloggers tell all and that, therefore, they are a bunch of narcissistic loonies who can't live a day without flaunting their accomplishments. I suppose I should use this thread to say what perhaps isn't obvious to everyone: Ocean isn't a "tell all." I pick my stories very carefully. I write about things that I hope strike some chord of pleasure in readers. I don't document my life, I select topics and I write around them. I write honestly, but I'm always thinking about the reader in the way I write and what I choose to include here. It's a memoir on a theme, only with an endless number of pages!

      All that to repeat what I said earlier: we're different. We're all different. When I say Ed is Ed, I also mean Nina is Nina. We take it from there and life unfolds. That's all.

    4. Whoa. I was having a discussion with you, Nina. An exchange of ideas. And while having that discussion I think I found what I was looking for, the difference between us. Or perhaps the largest difference between us - that I spend my home days alone the majority of the time and you spend your home days with others the majority of the time. That's what the 'Ah, maybe that's the difference' was all about. Discovering the differences.

      I already said that I realize people are different. I even tried to soften everything I was saying by throwing in the semi-jest of 'Heh, do I see what I'm trying to say'. I guess I didn't specifically say I was okay with you being you, but I thought it was implied by my saying I understand that, and in the way I was working through the differences and finding reasons for them on my own.

      No idea where your response came from. I found my own answer, articulated it, and thought that was the end of the conversation. No where did I tell you that you had to be like me. There's a big difference between trying to understand you versus trying to mold or control you. I'm very good with I can be me and you can be you.

    5. Sigh. I should have gone off blog with this, but it was the middle of the night and I was feeling tired. (As I am feeling right now.)

      You asked why I do something, questioning my "values" and "needs." I didn't want to take it there. I responded simply with enumerating a few reasons why I find pleasure in solo travel. You pushed back, telling me I could get pleasure being alone in my gardens. And that I was missing out on things you think are valuable. We were right back to you questioning my motives for why I do the things I do so I said enough -- not blogworthy, not possible to explain, not wanting to explain myself -- it's not what the blog is for. So I responded with that.
      Not a big deal. I should have ignored it, but you are a regular and well intentioned commenter and I thought you deserved an answer. You can, of course, speculate all you want as to my reasons for being who I am, but honestly, you'll probably get it wrong and if you do it on Ocean, I'll either delete it and hurt your feelings, or I'll feel compelled to jump in, which, as you can see, I really do not want to do.

      It's hard for me when nice people write things that I do not think belong on the blog. I can't always locate all your email addresses, so I respond in the comments and then I have to face this back and forth. Sigh.

      Anyway, Ocean really isn't supposed to be all that much about me. I'm just the vessel. A rather ordinary one at that.

    6. I didn't question your values or needs, as in judging something that I didn't even know. I *asked* you to tell me what values or needs you thought you were fulfilling. I didn't tell you anything. I asked you for how you perceived yourself. No judgement, just a request for possible introspection on your part. Later, following my own train of thought, I found a possible reason why I thought you were more suited to traveling alone (than I am).

      I told you what my values were, openly and unthreatened in doing so. And then I came to an understanding of one reason, not all reasons - I left that open as we're complex people - but one reason why travel alone might be more comfortable for you. I didn't think it was a negative reason, by any means. I sincerely believe that your having many loving people around you so that you feel more open to travelling alone is wonderful. I think you're a very lucky woman to be in that place.

      I guess I made a mistake in bringing up the topic. I'm sorry. I thought you were open to discussing motivations, since you brought it up yourself with the where am I and why here questions at the beginning of this post as well as comments about it being hard to leave your family in your previous post.

      Sometimes there are folks who just tend to misread my quest for understanding. For whatever reason they don't see that I'm just looking to understand, myself, them, a situation, whatever, and suddenly they seem to read negatives or being judgmental in things I say. That saddens me, as I see this all as a voyage of exploration, whether it's of a person, a place, a mindset, a tradition. Anything and everything is important, not to be judged, not to be dissected within an inch of it's life, but just to be looked at a moment and maybe understood a bit better.

  3. Wonderful scenery! And that first sheep head-on at the very start is amazing.
    When you get back home, head right to your library to get a copy of James Rebanks's "The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape" It's in the Lake District, not Scotland, but really fascinating.

    1. I splurged and just put it on my Kindle! In fact, I am about fifty miles from Carlisle, which some regard as the gateway to the Lake District. The Dumfries and Galloway district (where I am) is the southern most area of Scotland -- more south, in fact, than England's Nurthumberland. I'm sure I'll feel like I'm reading about the land right around me!

    2. I was hoping you might do that! You'll love it. I wish Rebank had pictures like yours, though... keep showing us that sheep-filled landscape so I can really get those views into my head as I read along.

    3. Don't encourage me! I love photographing sheep! :)

    4. For 2016! What a good idea!

  4. At the beginning of your drive on narrow winding roads, my vision was that you were in the dark, until I saw your picture of that verdant countryside, but I do know how sleepy one can be after the long flight. I did it only once, but had to drive something around 200 kilometers from CDG on the autoroute and through villages, completely losing my way several times and terrifying several French men and women by babbling incoherent questions about where I was and how would I get there. What a sense of triumph when you actually get there..

    I believe I could sit (or maybe walk also for some variety in photos) looking out that window at the scenery, writing, reading endlessly. I don't have your urge to walk!

  5. I was wondering if you were traveling this spring?
    For the first time, yesterday, I had to really motivate myself to get up and out. Typically I welcome the opportunity to move great amounts in new places, but these days I'm thinking -- I moved plenty this spring! Maybe it's time to sit more... :)

    1. I had my "spring" trip going to the quilting seminar at Asilomar. My usual quilt trip leader, a couple other ladies and I are taking a fall trip to Provence, so I'm resisting my usual spring Provence trip. I'll be doing it trip next year. I have this big dream of being in my house unbothered for weeks to come, quilting and blogging, and trying not to almost not pay my estimated taxes on the relevant 15ths. I want to be a no-guilt quilter/blogger while letting those come first.

  6. Are the wind turbines as little noticeable as they seem in your photo? When I read your remark about ecofriendliness, my first thought was "Wind turbines?! In this beautiful landscape?!" but then I looked at your accompanying photo and had to work to find them. Which fits well with some of the comments Rebanks made in the interview with him that I heard on NPR (which is what got me into the book)... we tend to idealize these landscapes, want to keep them pristine, ignoring the everyday farmers who've been there for generations.

    1. My farmer put up his own turbine. I'll go up to it today or tomorrow. Yes, Scotland has a number of wind farms -- you see them now and then, they tend to be in clusters. Here, like in the US, there is a NIMBY battle, but my farmer feels strongly about living sustainably and so his one solo turbine stand right on the hill, in back of his new house. You can hear a swish it if you listen for it out back.

    2. The ecofrienliness of that place is amazing! I followed thr link you gave snd reslly enjoyed what I read... in fact I'm bookmarking it for my Future City Nationsl Engineers Week competition team of 7th and 8th Graders to look at in the Fall. Love using their own sheep wool for insulation... but is there a problem for those with wool allergy? The fourth R (Recover) is new to me... great addition!

    3. What I take from your exchanges is that you are so well suited to be mothers-in-law together!
      You could be BFFs :) and I suppose you will be, growing a friendship along with a granddaughter.

    4. Charlotte: the sheep fleeces are in the walls. But here's one that would make animal loving Ed squirm: cushion covers made of cow hide. Coarse hairs and all.
      JoyD: Charlotte does live in Buffalo, but she is making Madison her second home. On her way there this weekend! :)

    5. And so looking forward to my time with Snowdrop and family plus my chance to catch up with Nina the day she returns!

  7. Nina:

    I read this entry last night - waiting to comment today. Your words and photos are breathtaking. As I'm fond of saying, I gladly am the tail on your kite. You take me to wondrous places with photos and words - at the Farmette or across the Ocean..

    I wondered how you would fare when leaving your cozy routine with Snowdrop. *sigh* You will *see and hear* her quite often. Souvenir shopping (which I suspect has never been your focus) might perk up a bit with all the yummy possibilities for Snowdrop.

    Am sending you something off the grid. Carry on! Enjoy! Love.

    1. As always -- thank you.
      Funny you should mention the souvenir shopping thing. Today, I was in a small town (large village) that had an actually okay shop of thises and thats. You know what I mean: some art, some dishes, scarves, cards and then some children's stuff that you would buy as gifts. I must have spent an hour there! I didn't actually buy anything in the end (mainly bulky toys and mostly from France which seems plain wrong!), but what you wrote is definitely true: places that I pass through, sometimes with enthusiasm and sometimes only mildly so, are infinitely more interesting now that I look at them with the eyes of a potential shopper for Snowdrop. It has made quite a difference for me!
      Oh Love!

    2. ...and scarves for your stylish daughters! And something pink for Ed!!

    3. Ed refuses presents. To make a point, he ignores the flannel shirt I bought him ten years ago. It hangs, collecting dust, even when he is cold and without his trusty jacket. As for daughters -- they have beautiful, plaid, soft wool throws. But I bought those back last year! So, just Snowdrop! :)


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