Sunday, September 27, 2015

Autumn in the Highlands

Once again, I have let too much time elapse between postings. I have to admit that, with the addition of morphine patches to my pain meds routine, I find myself a little less proactive in terms of my personal blog and even just keeping in touch with people. The morphine doesn't make me particularly dopey, just very laid back. But I shall attempt to be more regular with my blogs.

I am sitting, once more, at the Gale Centre in Gairloch for my final weekend of the year. It has been a very odd season. Some months have seen sales tick along at a very good pace and others have been very slow. I am happy to report that my accounts show that I am in the black so far this year, and it can only get better as the Christmas season approaches. It may be the end of September, but in the world of retail, Christmas has begun.

My view from the Gale Centre, with the Isle of Skye visible on the horizon.
As I drove into Gairloch this morning, I was greeted with the spectacular view from the hill overlooking the village. Loch Gairloch was a beautiful dusty blue, flowing out to The Minch; the Isle of Skye was visible on the horizon. A single white sail broke the expanse of blue water. It was just so beautiful and peaceful. I'm not sure I could ever be happy far from the sea. Having grown up inland in the Shenandoah Valley, the sight of the sea was always associated with happy times. Indeed, I still find the view of the sea to be exhilarating. Not long ago, a pod of dolphins came very far into the loch at Aultbea. (Of course, we didn't find out until after the fact.) The number of cetacean sightings in the area continues to increase, which is good news. We have orcas off the coast here, along with minke whales and the occasional humpback. Seeing these majestic creatures is always such a privilege. And of course, I always enjoy seeing the grey seals basking on the rocks at low tide along the coast between here and Dundonnell. And it won't be long until the feral goats come down from the hills before winter sets in.

Chris' recovery from his chemo has progressed nicely, with some setbacks and forward movement along the way. After a very enthusiastic spring forward following the end of his chemo, Chris found
A lovely photograph taken on September 18th -
a beautiful bright Autumn day.
himself feeling quite unwell again. He even ended up back the hospital for an overnight when he experienced some pretty horrendous chest pains. Those turned out to be musculo-skeletal instead of cardiace. Of course, with the crisis of the cancer and cardiac issues, we had almost forgotten that he suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, so his feeling unwell and tired may be due as much to those as to anything else. But he is doing really well and learning to pace himself better. He has been taking gentle walks everyday on the advice of the cardiologists and has taken his camera along, capturing beautiful images of the hidden treasures of wildflowers tucked into the verges and hedges.

One afternoon he returned from his walk and was intrigued by the sounds he experienced while walking along the road where gorse bushes grow in abundance. He said the sound was something like a crackling fire and that it started and stopped with the gorse. A quick peek at the internet revealed that during the late summer, gorse bushes explode with the sounds of the seed pods popping open. hence the sound of the crackling. Chris has captured the wisps of thistles going to seed and the withering petals of the final wild roses of the season. It is wonderful to see him doing his photography again. If you check out his website,, you can see all his beautiful photo art. We were thrilled to hear that some of his images have sold in the US, too, through the gentleman who bought the rights to some of his photographs with the intention of creating large wall art in etched aluminium and acrylic.

We are now just a little over two weeks away from Callie and Stuart's wedding. His father and stepmother and his mother are coming over from Australia and we look forward to meeting them. Callie is getting very anxious, but in the best possible way. I can't wait until I see her in her dress, being walked down the aisle by her very proud stepfather. There will be many happy tears, I am sure. The number of guests are fewer than we would have liked, as friends from the States aren't able to attend. But we will feel them with us in spirit. And, of course, my parents will be with us in their own way, too. Callie is having my mother's engagement and wedding rings tied into her wedding bouquet and my father will be with us too, in a manner I can't reveal in this blog. Chris and I went to Inverness last week to get his wedding finery. He is going to look so handsome in his new suit, and my mother-of-the-bride dress is almost ready. What a wonderful, happy day it will be. You can look forward to seeing photographs here once we have them back from the photographer (along with photos we take on the day).

Doe and young deer having dinner in our garden.
We have regular visits in our garden now from a beautiful doe and her children - one younger deer and a male who is probably a couple of years old - his small antlers covered with down. I had seen her a couple of times in the raised bed just feet from the house. The other evening, as Chris prepared dinner, all three deer made an appearance, munching away on the grass and the hedge. At the other end of the garden, our resident rabbits were enjoying their evening meal. So, there we all were, they were enjoying their dinner on the other side of the window, as we enjoyed ours on the inside. As I said to Chris, it was evening silfray for all of us. Chris reported to me that yesterday, while I was here at GALE, the deer were in the garden again and (finally) caught Gracie's attention. She "stalked" them from the living room window, slowly moving along the top of the music box in her attempt to surprise them. I have no doubt that, if they had seen her, they would have simply thought what a silly cat she was.

Gracie playing in her "pillow fort."
Speaking of our favourite kitten, Gracie will be 1 year old on Thursday and we are trying to decide what treat to give her on the day. My dearly departed cat, Demelza, was very partial to crab, and I used to give her crab every year on her birthday. Not sure what to give Gracie - perhaps some lovely Scottish salmon. She is as mischievous as ever, with battles with the duvet her favourite game. At night, she will often run, full tilt, down the hall from the kitchen and leap onto the bed. We recently had to replace our duvet and bought one filled with feather and down. The noise it makes when pounced upon is irresistable to Gracie. And she loves playing amongst the pillows. I captured her in her wide-eyed playfulness the other evening. If only she could keep still enough to get a photograph perfectly in focus!