Today is my last day in Helmsdale. Tomorrow I'll be headed to Edinburgh and on to London Heathrow for my journey home.
All in all, five weeks turned out to be a good length of time. I'll be glad to get home to my family, who have had two family funerals in as many weeks. If I had some work to do, or if it had been summer and the weather had been nicer, perhaps a longer stay would be alright. As it is I am glad I was able to experience rural Scotland in the off-season. I mean really, how many visitors get to experience the end of a Scottish winter?
General Impressions of Scotland:
I was a bit thrown off guard by the general reserve in people I've met. Now, granted, I didn't truly get to know many Scots, and I admit I should be the last one to complain about people being reserved, but still. The Church here has certainly been very generous and hospitable, and in some cases very formal. But Americans seem to have very bad reputation here. I thought I was used to stereotypes (i.e., the French are rude and obnoxious, the Scots are cold and reserved, Americans are arrogant and loud); I was home schooled, for goodness' sake! I could be holding a intelligent conversation with someone and they would still ask me, what about socialization? Does anyone besides me see the irony in that?
I think the only conclusive statement that can be derived from my observations is that all people all over the world are fickle and naturally sinful.
What will I miss the Most?
The landscape. The hills especially, with the sea as a backdrop. I generally hate hiking, but walking here was a bit different than those forced walks we take every year on vacation. Why? A: this is Scotland, and as such it is infinitely more interesting to walk here than is it in the midwest. You have the very different topography plus the element of a history. B: in this case I could set my own pace, go as far as I wanted and go where I wanted. C: There's not a lot to do in Helmsdale, so as far as recreational activities go, this was it.
What am I Bringing Back with me?
To all those people back home who demand I return with a Scottish accent, really and truly I cannot do it. My ancestors have been in America for two hundred years, and there's no going back. As far as material purchases, everything's so expensive here, most of my purchases were small. Except I spent 30 pounds on Scottish-made wool to take home and sew into a skirt. I knew coming over that material would be the ideal souvenir, but I've never spent so much on one piece of material before! There's wool everywhere here, and I love it: wool yarn, unspun wool, wool material, wool on legs, 100% wool in every state you can think of. Yesterday the W ladies and I stopped at a textile fair and I got to try peg weaving and spinning(which I would love to do at Ft. A, but they guard the spinning wheel carefully). And other than wool I mostly bought books, which I will have to pay to ship home because they will not fit in my bag.
If I went Again, what Would I do?
I would have liked to visit the Banff area, where all my family place names seem to be, but the railway doesn't go to Banff so it wasn't accessible for me. Though if the Lowlands truly are more domestic and agricultural I think I would prefer to stay in the Highlands. The landscape is worth the isolation. If I came again I would like to go where there's an active dance group. I was very sorry not to be able to dance in Scotland.
I've had a wonderful vacation. The W family treat me like a queen, and I haven't cooked a single meal the whole time I've been here. No laundry and really no cleaning work to speak of. It's been amazing! I'm very grateful for the restful time I've had. I wasn't expecting that but it's made for a very nice break, and I feel ready to plunge back in to the fray once I get home.
A song I learned:
Psalms 23(Sing Psalms) to the tune of Tarwathie