30 October 2011--There was no blazing golden New England autumn. Summer simply refused to go; the leaves on the trees forgot to change color, and
declined to fall. That sounds pretty agreeable, and I imagine it was...until yesterday. Even the most charming of guests must be wary of overstaying
his welcome, lest he become the object of the sudden and seemingly inexplicable ire of his host. So it has happened here, as the weather gods, fed up
with summer's freeloading, struck southern New England with a raging nor'easter. Two feet of wet sticky snow on full foliage means unprecedented tree
damage throughout the region, which in turn means widespread power outages. The job of repairing utility lines is almost unimaginably enormous, and
will take many days.
I'm lucky--the layover in Amsterdam kept me from arriving in the teeth of yesterday's storm. Win is able to pick me up at the airport in Boston and deliver me home, where me dear old mum waits in an unlit and unheated house. We will be without electricity for seven days, but things could be a lot worse. The weather gods, perhaps a bit embarrassed by their fit of temper, give us a fairly mild week, and we are comfortable enough wrapped in blankets. We are fortunate to have a gas stove and water heater, and so can cook and bathe. We do a lot of reading during the day, and go to bed when it gets dark. There is plenty of time to contemplate the thin veneer of civilization that shields us from total chaos and true disaster. And there's an irony I can't ignore, that one usually travels hoping to encounter the unexpected, and returns home expecting to find everything as it was left. It is human nature to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the way things are now is the way they always have been and ever shall be. When we find ourselves on the wrong side of events we have not foreseen, or even thought possible, we are shocked, and want to know how these things could have been allowed to happen. People don't seem to understand that we are all travelers, whether or not we physically go anywhere. We are perpetually moving into a situation that has never before existed. No matter how carefully we plan our journeys, we never really know what we are going to find when we get there.
I am, of course, already thinking about next year's trip. Over the next months, I'll consider a number of different itineraries; long about July, I'll start nailing things down. For three months in advance, I'll have a good idea of where I'm going to be sleeping at night. There will be some familiar stops, and some new ones. I'll have pints in the Bow Bar, and the Plockton Inn, and the Highlander, and some pubs I've never set foot in before. I will have ideas for filling my days, ideas which may or may not play out as I imagine. There will be surprises, pleasant and otherwise.
I am often asked why I return to the UK, and particularly Scotland, year after year--surely, my friends say, you've seen it all by now. There isn't an easy answer. I haven't seen it all, of course, and never will. Even in the most familiar places, there are things I miss, which I tell myself I'll catch another time. I know very well that there will not be enough other times. I know also that nothing is ever really exactly the same the next time through. Nor will I be.