lowlands 1POSTCARD 136, Peebles, Scotland: We don’t usually wake up to the sound of birdsong at dawn, it’s too early – 4.30 am here in the room with curtains closed to keep out light that glimmers all through the night. Summer in the north means it’s nearly always day. Difficult to sleep, getting out of bed is not easy but I have to be up and ready to leave because this is the end of the retreat and the start of the long journey home.

A labyrinth of corridors and narrow staircase that leads down from the upper floors in this old mansion house converted to a Health Center. Nurses chattering together in their white coats come upstairs, pass me on the staircase going down (ghostly image of maids and housekeeping staff from a former life). I go down and down to the small chapel created in the old wine cellar at the lowest point beneath this great house. Find a place and sit in the silence. I feel humble, a Buddhist in a Christian sanctuary, examining the nature of human experience rather than its external creator – ‘a part of’, rather than ‘apart from’. The ‘hallowed’ Presence may have no name… identification creates an object in a world of subjectivity; a world of whispering Hymn books’ paper pages turning in these curious acoustics: ‘forgive us our trespasses and those who trespass against us.’ So many ‘s’ sounds the rhythm of the Prayer goes out of sync for a moment then its momentum builds up and falls into unity again. Trespasses and trespassing; acting out scenarios in the mind – letting-go and forgiveness.

Say goodbye to nurses, therapists, doctors and friends I’ve known for four weeks and will probably never see again – we shared a small lifetime. Goodbye dark stained wood panels, chandeliers suspended in high ceilings; goodbye antique furniture and carpets over oak block herring-bone flooring. Bags in car and down the long drive into the rolling hills. Sun breaks through and the sky is blue as we descend through the landscape. These are the Lowlands.

“The mind is a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.” [David Hume]


Note: Dear fellow bloggers, I’ve been on retreat for more than a month, deep in the Scottish lowlands. One of the requirements was to stay away from social media, so I’ve been offline for all that time. Nice to be back, more posts to come…

17 thoughts on “lowlands

  1. One of the requirements was to stay away from social media

    Now there’s a bit of contemporary Christian wisdom for you.
    I’m pretty sure cellphones are the work of the devil too.

    • Yes, a hard thing to do to people. We all felt deprived at first, had to stumble around looking for something else to get engaged with. Difficult to get used to just ‘being’ there and not telling other people what’s going on.

  2. Oh, so very happy you’re back and feeling better!!! Good to “hear” your voice again!! Welcome back!! Missed you. At the moment, a bad migraine so this is short. This retreat had nurses and therapists? My husband has spoken of the mania from the long days in highland summers. Applies to all. Namaste, Ellen. Look forward to hearing of your experiences.

    • Thanks Ellen, it’s good to be back. I’m in London Heathrow after a very much delayed flight from Edinburgh – thought I’d miss the connection with the Delhi flight but the incoming flight from Delhi is delayed too. So I checked in and seem to be on schedule. Yes, the constant daylight in Scotland is hard to believe. There’s a 2002 movie set in Alaska “Insomnia” starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. It’s that kind of thing – eyes so widely open it feels like they stay open even when you’re asleep.

  3. So happy to see you back Tiramit! Thanks for the Likes. I was just thinking about you yesterday and missing your presence. And wondering how your health retreat was going. Now here you are. Welcome back.
    I hope all is well.

    • It’s good to be back Suzanne, refreshed after a long interval without access to social media. Thanks for remembering me, there’s no way I can go through all the posts I’ve missed from fellow blogers, I’m just picking from where I am now. Thank you

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