Look Homeward, Grace

Doune shoppedAfter a month of rambling around Scotland, the time is upon me to return home. The trip did not do what I’d hoped it would–cram my head with romance plots, all tidily worked out to the last, fascinating detail–but it did leave me with many gifts.

A few of these gifts, I will spend the next few months walking off on my treadmill desk.

strathlyon sutherland castleI may not have plots, but I have ideas I could never have come across at home. The Pictish warriors were jealous of those old Viking guys, for example, because the Vikings, with their saunas and impressive battle dress, did so much better with the ladies. I’m left to ponder: Is it the land that was conquered, or the ladies’ hearts? The amount of Norse blood in many parts of the UK suggests the latter.

Strathlyon viewAnother gift, a big one, is motivation. For a week, I stayed in a lovely, tidy, beautifully maintained holiday cottage. The writing just flowed. I need to take a greater interest in how my house looks and feels when I walk in the door. Two big dogs and I need to have a talk about who’s allowed on what furniture, and I need to stock up on vacuum cleaner bags. I know my environment impacts my mood and energy, but the reminder was timely.

The Birnam Oak, of Birnam Forest fame.

The Birnam Oak, of Birnam Forest fame.

I’m also impressed by Scottish society. When they faced an independence referendum last September, voter turnout was 90 percent, and it was the old people whose opinion carried the day. Yes, election day was a holiday, and public transportation far exceeds what we, with our great distances can offer, but 90 percent?! We can’t even hit 50 percent. We need to do better.

Maesehowe Dragon

Maesehowe Dragon

I’m excited, too, about the group tour I’m organizing for next September. There is so MUCH to see and do here, that even if you’re not a writer, for ten days, I’m confident I can show you a great time. (More on this tour later…)


So travel has again done what I rely on it to do: Refreshed my perspective, cheered me up, given me ideas, and helped me see how home can be made more appealing. But I also met with folks at the University of Stirling to

Guess where?

Guess where?

discuss their master’s program in creative writing. Scotland is on notice: I’m coming back Soon and often.

Was there a trip that shifted your perspective on home, on yourself? If you could travel back to one place, where would it be? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, now on sale in both ebook and print formats.


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24 comments on “Look Homeward, Grace

  1. I always enjoyed traveling. Did much more of it when I was younger. The only thing that held me back then was lack of funds.

    I’m better situated financially now but now my age and health hold me back. When you are hobbling around in pain it can suck the joy right out of anything, So I’m reduced to watching travelogues on TV just like the old people did when I was a kid (smile).

    I was always drawn to historical sites (sometimes much more so than my traveling companions) so it was a learning experience – but also a joy. But I was always glad to get back home – wherever that was at the time.

    • I hear ya. I can manage most of the steps most of the time, but not like I used to handle all of the steps, hills, horses and ponies when I was younger. Scotland does not get high marks for handicapped accessibility, either, but the History Channel sure does!

  2. A trip to the Orient showed me how very different life can be in other parts of the world. Very humbling and mind-expanding!

  3. We went to Disney on a family vacation when my daughter was seven. It was amazing to see Epcot, the Animal Kingdom and the parades through her eyes. She smiled for the entire week and was thrilled to have pancakes with Pooh Bear, swim in the pool and go on the rides.
    This trip reminded me that children have their own perspective– they see and experience things in a much different way than adults do.

    Please do not enter me in the contest. I have read Dancing in the Duke’s Arms and enjoyed every word. My review will post on my blog on Monday.

    I wanted to let you know that I read Nicholas, Ethan and Trenton this week-a bit of a GB binge– and loved them. Each one of them is a fabulous hero!

    Safe travels home , Grace!

    • Thanks for those kinds words, Susan, and for the review. When I went to Brazil, I took my then-9-year-old daughter. I saw poverty–chickens loose in the yard, the donkey using the front porch for shade from the sun. My daughter thought it was wonderful, and for days after we got home I heard, “But WHY can’t we have a donkey on the porch?”

    • Wow! That is some kind of GB binge! Good for you Susan!
      And I adore Disneyworld. And Disneyland. We have a wonderful time every time we get there!! What great memories!

    • I dunno, bn. I recall some travel to visit my parents when I was a new mom. Using up all my leave, all my disposable income, all my spare energy, to drag a two year old cross country, and then coming up feeling absolutely empty… Those visits reminded me how far away from family I was, how much I disliked where my family lived, and how thin my safety net was. I think I would have been better with staycations in those days, but my family was certainly not going to make the effort to come see me or my daughter. So…

  4. We often (three times in the last six years)go to Door County Wisconsin for our yearly summer vacation. It has a history of being a very *artsy-fartsy* kind of place which is great since we are an *artsy-fartsy* kinda family.

    We try to go in August,during their yearly music festival. We rent a *cabin* (which is nicer than our very nice house)and relax, all of us. We bring breakfast cereal, purchase milk and perhaps lunch things and eat out a lot. But what we really do, besides relax, is collect ourselves. We hike and bike and do a bit of sightseeing (great lighthouses)and reconnect to each other and to ourselves.

    It is the reconnecting to ourselves that is the important part and why it makes sense to go back and back to the same place over again. Yes, we enjoy the area and yes, we enjoy the music fest and the wonderful trails and state park and history of the area (and the quirky shops!)but knowing the area already (and we try to rent the same place)give us a bit of freedom to turn in to recharge. And that’s the best thing about that kind of vacation, recharging so we can refresh ourselves.

    We’re not able to go this summer and we really need to!

    • Scotland is becoming like that for me. I recognize that cool, contrasty northern light when I walk out of the train station, I recognize some of the regional accents, I can use the money, I can drive on the wrong side of the road. I have a nice feeling of exhaling when I get there, and like coming home, but not home. I love that term: I collect myself.

  5. Your entire trip sounds wonderful. About the effect of your tidy surroundings — I too have learned that I am much happier with a neat and clean apartment, even though I don’t enjoy the housework. My solution? Doing chores while listening to historical romance audio books, of which we all would love to have more from you!

    • Your ladyship, I am just not selling very well in audio. This is puzzling, because the Scottish audio books in particular usually fly off the shelves, and mine have an excellent narrator (they truly do). I produced Darius myself, then cut a distribution deal with Tantor, and at the rate old Dare is sauntering along, I won’t earn back his production costs for about ten years. Maybe Vivvie needs to have a talk with him?

  6. Italy changed my perspective. But not in a good positive way.
    Hawaii changed my perspective in such a huge positive magical way, I will never forget it. And we fully intend to go back.
    If I could repeat a trip right now, today, it would likely be Hawaii. But my husband and I have had so many wonderful vacations. And I would love to repeat most of them.

    • I didn’t have a good experience in Italy last year either. I still have my eye on Eloisa James’s Tuscan writer’s retreat though.

      My dad has good memories of Hawaii. Said he moonlight was so bright, he saw a moonbow from the deck of his ship. Wow.

  7. Hmm… I am a city mouse. I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is first in my heart.The first time I was in London I just felt all my senses were awake. I also felt that way about Edinburgh. There is something about a great city, it is hard to describe.

    • I like Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge.” He and his sister were was on their way to Paris during the Peace of Amiens, his first opportunity to visit his half-French (illegitimate) daughter. The carriage he was in stopped right in the middle of the bridge at dawn, and boom, dude got a poem. He refers “all that mighty heart is lying still…” It’s the loveliest urban image I’ve come across, and it was written by a dyed in the wool country squire.

  8. How the apt. looks, makes a world of difference in how I feel. I am pretty neat and it’s just me and old Dusty the 16 yr old kitty. But at present it’s in turmoil as I am trying to re-do some storage ideas. Now I will not be able to find anything – and I am the one who changed it, ah well ! I lived in a big motorcoach for 13 years, traved the US, due to husbands health reasons did not get to all the states but you can’t beat our beautiful country.

    • Nola, that’s something hard to convey to the Scots. Yes, they have scenery, and different regions, all of them beautiful, but they don’t have the distances and variety we do. All of Scotland would fit into South Carolina, and when I tell them that a visit to the parents means four full days of driving at highway speeds, they just goggle. Their idea of the US is the vacation they took to Orlando thirteen years ago, and all the gun violence they see in the news. I just wish they could see the Grand Canyon, western Kansas, the Maine Coast, the Great Smokey Mountains…

  9. I was 22, in the military and just south of Fairbanks, Alaska. I saw grizzly bears and eagles fighting over salmon that were just trying to go upriver to have babies, for pities sake! I watched draperies of northern lights dance at the edge of the cliffs where I was working. Although I have traveled over most of the United States, there has never been anything like it. That’s my place. Laura

    • I added the Northern Lights to my bucket list. If I spend enough time in Scotland, I’ll see ’em. I still haven’t set foot in Maine, NH, VT or OR, but other than that, I’ve seen the Lower 48. We have such a beautiful, beautiful, country.

  10. Most of my “vacations” have been to see family, or attend weddings, funerals, and graduations. I also travel occasionally for business conferences, but my budget rarely extends to true vacations in exotic locations. I never regretted these trips, though I rarely came home “recharged”.
    However I was recently very lucky to travel to France. I am almost at a loss for words to describe the experience. I can easily imagine that much of what I saw would have looked exactly the same hundreds of years ago. We used AirBNB for our accommodations which meant we could even afford to stay in the heart of Paris. I would happily repeat every part of the trip, and it makes me wonder what I have been missing all these years.

  11. On the summit of Mount Sinai, on the road to Santiago, God does not stand any closer or speak any louder. But we listen better. -Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot, Glenstal Abbey

    I listen better away from home. To my body, to my travelling companions, to my hopes and fears and, yes, the Almighty.

  12. The one place that I have visited and wish I could go back to was Belize. It was such an amazing experience and so beautiful. It was hard to come back home after a trip like that.