Man has to be his own savior

Cairnryan to Belfast ferry crossing
29th XI 2015

Full moon leaving Scotland, three nights in the chauffeur’s flat to get away from it all, to get away from everything else we’ve gotten away from. No Thanksgiving guests, no leftovers, no shopping or cell phone service. Another ferry crossing, probably a similar route plotted by King Henry VIII, pushing the Scots and Protestants into Northern Ireland to keep the Catholics at bay.

The flat, the quiet and contemplation are good for Dawn and me, our creativity, even the kids want to paint. We wander from room to room looking out the windows on the grounds watching for pheasants, clouds, storms coming in — and at night the moon gives everything a charmed, unsettled look.

Out walking earlier we’re stopped by the owner in his car who doesn’t recognise us as guests in the flat and asks, “Are you lost?,” – and being lost or exploring have the same look from the outside.

Dawn and I plan to come back some day when the kids have grown and we can stay a month and just write. We watch “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” with Jim Carrey as the evil Count Olaf, how fun he is to watch, he’s unlocked. Dawn is restarting a story she’s been drafting for a year or more but keeps going back to books to research it, says it’s like an acting teacher told her a long time ago, Until you realise you’re enough, you’ll never be happy on stage.

I take a walk on our last night — the moon makes everything look the way you’d think it would on a lonesome castle along the southwest coast of Scotland – and stand in the road with the trees and the wind looking up, scrawls of clouds, clouds of scrawls, looking for a sign from God that never comes, it’s locked inside.

We pass into Northern Ireland with no border control, greeted at our home for the next six nights by a family of three who’s brimming over with joy to welcome us, but a house so small you can’t all stand together in the same space without apologising or giving up ground (no, you first, please): and it’s an old brick row home with a coal stove in the sitting room the man shows me how to use, and the little room off the side by the back where they keep the coal bin, a bucket, some tools – and after we’re settled in I say I’m going out to the store, which I always do, and the weather turns like that, so much they’re all gesturing and making faces about it in the store, shaking their heads – and though we’re speaking English when they talk to me and I to them we don’t understand each other one bit – I look for beer and wine in the small store called Spar, the same one I first saw in the Austrian Alps (chains have a way of getting into every crack and crevice no matter where you are, pests), and I wander around the small store like a labyrinth, accosted by a short Asian man who looks part Albino or has bad burns around the eyes, says something like he works there or remarks on the weather, but I just laugh and turn away. I search for beer and wine on the edges of the store where they always put it to pretend it’s not there and this time it really isn’t, and I ask the cashier where I can get some and go a few storefronts down where they have to buzz me in like I’m seeing a call girl – and an old guy inside who’s paying points at me, laughs and says something to the others and they laugh back, and I have no idea what any of them just said and I might as well be in Germany.

In the morning I come downstairs at six to check the coals and it’s true, they’re still going, and I feed it, empty the ashes, put on some drone music and a candle, write, recall what Charlotte said to me in bed, she confided she’s sad, misses home, and it’s the goddamned Skype I think that does that to them, to see their friends and cousins in little boxes looking back, wondering how far away they are from one another when they seem so close on screen, how long until we return, and when?

I always pictured the chauffeur as a slender, taller man who ages well and lives alone, but here by the castle the flat is big enough he could have a family and be close enough to be called on by his master for any reason, to just drive.

Throughout the house they have little sayings in calligraphy on the wallpaper, on hand painted signs — sweet, reassuring things like, “It takes hands to build a house but only love can build a home.”

I would write, Until you realise you’re enough, you’ll never be happy on stage.

Post title HT to Echo & the Bunnymen, “Silver” from Ocean Rain, released 1984.

Categories: travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Was it weird for you all to be away for Thanksgiving? It’s times like that you must miss home the most.
    The Northern Irish accent can be IMPENETRABLE! They speak so quickly. It has a hard edge too it too, not like the softer Southern Irish of Dublin etc. It’s going to be interesting for you – though perhaps unsettling – to be somewhere that has seen so much trouble so recently. In certain areas of Belfast they still keep the hugh murals, memorials to those who died during the Troubles and many areas are still divided by religion. History hangs heavy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Sunday church bells started here at quarter to the hour and keep going like an alarm you can’t turn off, funny — and there’s a flag out front our house I’ve never seen before, red and white with a star – can’t quite tell because the wind’s had it going since we got here. Was a bit weird being away for Thanksgiving, but altogether lovely too just being together the four of us, cooking, making tea, baths…truly remarkable landscape too. Dawn kept saying these are Jane Eyre views. That good, clean Jane air. Thanks for your note here Lynn and enjoy your Sunday! – Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely windswept and tousled! What was it with the Brontes and windsweptness – must have been what they saw everyday as they looked out of the arsonage windows. Mind you, they had a thing for surly, mildy inpleasant heroes too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There’s certainly something to be said, and it’s been said before, for the external surroundings affecting your insides, and what comes out when you express yourself. Makes me want to go back and read those tales though, as I think I’d stand a better chance of getting it now, versus when I did, and hadn’t been anywhere else yet. Hoping our kids have good imaginations coming out of this, or better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • They’ll certainly have ‘windswept’ and ‘rain soaked’ as part of their mental vocabulary by the time you leave Ireland! I’m sure it’s another ‘soft’ day with you – it certainly is here. 🙂


  2. i think, when looking back, all of you, kids included, will find this trip to have been a magical, transformative experience.


  3. Your point about Skype is interesting. It’s keeping your air balloon stays snagged to the treetops? A little or a lot? I would think that it’s extremely hard to keep taking the home you’ve left along with you.


    • That air balloon stays snagged to the treetops is good phrasing. I’m not a fan of it, but I’m weird. I remember getting so excited about FaceTime, one of the reasons I rationalised getting an iPhone, then never really used it because I didn’t like it much. But we’ve been relishing some bad English TV here, in Belfast (good-bad, that is): Keeping Up Appearances, BBC nature programmes with David Attenborough. Come up feeling wrung out a few hours later, time to stoke the coals again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Coincidences are just that but again, was listening to Ocean Rain just yesterday. There was another weird parallel the other day too, I forget what, but I didn’t mention because I don’t want to come across as OMG with five exclamation marks.


    • My friend and hairstylist Donnie would insist (by way of Jung) there are no coincidences, but I’m happy our lives are on similar trajectories, or similar playlists. I made Dawn read the lyrics to “Silver” and she kind of asked what’s it about, what does it mean, and it was a good discussion over lyrics, how I think songs aren’t required to hold up to the same artistic merit as poems, but can dip their toe in that realm, and why the lyrics on that album seem so nonsensical at times but perfect in their own way, as if that’s the point. (You think you’re a vegetable, never come out of the fridge.) And I tried to present Jim Morrison as a poet in a college writing course, and recall my professor at the time biting her lip, as if there was so much more she wanted to say but couldn’t, to be polite. OMG!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw that same full moon in Ohio. What a spectacular show it was. I heard Garrison Keillor do a piece on being overseas for Thanksgiving and how it’s treated like a Thursday. It made him miss the holiday, which was a big surprise to him.


    • Funny, how there are so many moons: one in Ohio, one in Scotland, and another we saw in Germany and they all look a like, a bit whinging and self-absorbed, but throw a good light in the darkness. Thanks for sharing Garrison’s POV — ours was lovely, very strange, but definitely “felt Thanksgiving.” Much to be thankful for, including you my friend! Glad you got back to Ohio. Best, – Bill


  6. “Are you lost?”
    Yes, most of the time. I know where I am and where I am going, but I am still lost.


  7. That quote, that bit about realizing you are enough, I can relate to that. Thanks for putting that in there. Hits the spot.


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