22 September 2011--The tomatoes are late. Just now in mid-September they're grudgingly starting to ripen up,
even as I'm getting ready to leave. It's my fault, I planted them late--I've been behind all year. Sometimes I think
I've been behind my whole life...I seem to miss a lot of ripe tomatoes. Me dear old mum should get to eat quite a few
yet, as summer itself is hanging on late. That's not to say that the weather has been entirely cooperative
this year, what with a tornado that passed within a few hundred yards in early June, and the tail end of a late-August
hurricane that caused enormous flood damage in the nearby hill towns. I seem to recall a couple of hailstorms somewhere
in there, as well. But all left us, and the tomatoes, relatively
unscathed. A bit of luck doesn't hurt.
My lovely water hyacinths, in our little fishless fish pond, are late. This past week, they have at last been doing their fireworks act, each pale purple bloom bursting for a brief few hours of afternoon glory.
And I've been late planning this year, partly to give Ron time to attend to some concerns before committing to the trip, and partly because I've just had a hard time getting it together. Some years, I'm filled with confidence and purpose, orchestrating complex arrangements with my eyes fixed firmly ahead, ever moving forward. Other years--this year--I struggle. There have been stubborn gaps to fill, and I've had difficulty finding a room here and there. I had two confirmed bookings cancel out on me, and had a couple of maddeningly elliptical exchanges with B&B owners who did not seem to want to do business. But it has all come together in the end, and I'm happy and excited with the itinerary.
It starts in England, in the cathedral towns of Ely and Lincoln, entirely new territory for me. I'll make my way up through Yorkshire and Northumbria, into Scotland. Ron will join me for the familiar Edinburgh-Craigellachie-Plockton loop, which we'll keep fresh with new sights and activities. Then down the west coast by road and ferry, to Knoydart, Colonsay, and Islay, all overdue repeat visits for me. I'll drop Ron in Edinburgh before spending my last few days in the familiar haunt of Hexham. Along the way there will be magnificent churches, brooding castles, ancient stones, empty beaches, bens and glens, sun, rain, more rain, friends old and new, pubs and pints and drams, and plenty of music.
My enthusiasm has been tempered this past week by a mild sinus infection, but again I'm lucky with the timing. It might have been disastrous had it hit closer to departure, or after my arrival in the UK. As it is, I'm halfway through a course of antibiotics, and am feeling reasonably fit, if somewhat fatigued.
Bobby is not late, arriving right on time to pick me up for the two-hour drive to Boston. For once, I feel prepared, all packed up and ready to go. It might be that having something real to worry about--my health--has kept me from feeling the nameless jittery dread that normally overtakes me as departure approaches. As always, anything I've forgotten can be replaced along the way, or done without. I leave behind the swelling tomatoes, the exploding hyacinths, the stumbling Red Sox, and the lingering season, knowing that in my absence, the warmth of summer will fade away. The golden fire of a New England autumn will blaze and then die, the leaves withering and falling brown to the ground, leaving barren black branches pleading to an ashen sky. In five weeks, I will return to a different world, on the cusp of bleak November.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Dinner on tonight's Air France flight is a choice of chicken or some sort of cod dish. If I were in a reputable restaurant, I'd probably go for the fish--I rarely order chicken out. On an airplane I'll generally avoid seafood. Evidently, all of the other passengers have seen Airplane, too, and there's no chicken left by the time they get around to my section. The cod is baked in some sort of loaf, and it's actually pretty good. It may be airplane food, but it's French airplane food, after all. There is fortunately no need for Air France to ask a bus driver to try to land an Airbus 330.