2020 was a “Twilight Zone” year for most everyone. I am thankful that the surreal nature of my year was overwhelmingly positive. For most of us, the Twilight Zone bled into 2021, but again for me, it was mostly in a positive direction.
I will clarify, it was not that nothing negative happened on top of what was happening to all of us. At the end of 2020 it was discovered I have (until I don’t) high blood pressure; so the woman who’d never taken prescriptions ended up with three. Then there were several other physical situations, more like "maintenance/updates," that needed to be addressed as well.
Through it all John was by my side even with 4100 miles between us. I often bring up topics from my life on the farm that put John off his dinner; but when it comes to talking about anything related to my health and well-being, he 's not squeamish and wants to know details. He grew up with 4 sisters, so that has undoubtedly had an effect on his comfort level. We weren't only having lighthearted texts and videos but were actually in each other's everyday lives
About a year ago, I started thinking about a return trip to Scotland not only because I have wanted to return since I left, but also because John and I were both having increasing desire to meet face-to-face. Initially a friend of mine, whose sister lives in London, decided she would like to make the journey too. We investigated costs etcetera. It finally became clear that travel for me would be difficult and hugely more expensive. My time there would also be limited because I still work. The discussion of John coming to the states began.
Initially he was quite resistant even though he did want us to meet, but finally it was decided, yes, he would come in November and stay for the 90 days allowed on an ESTA waiver. Big decision for both of us. First of all, it's a very long journey and although John had traveled internationally, he had never done it alone.
On the subject of being alone, I had lived alone for 30 + years and he for not nearly that long but it had been quite a while. Since I occupy a one-bedroom apartment, well I think you get the picture. Nevertheless our desire to meet face-to-face triumphed over any negatives or hesitancies we had.
Once settled, John delved into planning and getting together the things he would need, while I came to the realization I needed to rework my little home so there would be some space for him to actually occupy.
When we began talking about it, November seemed like a really long time away. Before we knew it, it was November 18th and I was headed up the highway to the Kansas City International Airport to meet him face to face for the first time. Yes, there were butterflies but I don't think there were ever bad ones. It was the kind of thing one has before an event, even one you're looking forward to, that is unknown. What would we experience when we were actually in each other's physical presence? Well, we got the answers, and so will you in the next blog!
In closing this blog, here's a few shots from our first of many, many, many, many selfie shots together hours after we "met" on that lovely November 18th. We have always had fun ...
At the end of the last blog, John and I had begun doing weekly video chats on Sundays and sometimes Saturdays as well. This was happening during what he refers to as his "hibernation."
Every year in Glasgow (and a lot of Scotland to say nothing of the UK in general) it's rather gloomy, rains a lot, sometimes snows and is generally dreich. He doesn't mind cold temperatures so much; but John is a huge fan of blue skies and sun. Interesting for a guy who has spent his whole life in Scotland, but then maybe that has contributed to it.
Anyway as he says, he goes into hibernation during the winter months because he's not inspired or drawn by sunny days to go out. His ventures out during our early months of video chatting were mainly for groceries, etc., not adventures which would have also been greatly hampered by the lockdowns they experienced as well.
Once the weather started to shift in February he started making trips to Victoria Park which is very near him in Glasgow's west end. It's a beautiful park with many areas including several ponds and a lot of water fowl including swans. Thankfully the swans there are aware that humans are friends and often bring food. For the most part, they are not aggressive and seemed to enjoy posing for the camera.
At some point, and neither of us can remember the when or where, John decided he wanted to "take me along" on one of his adventures via a video chat. That's when the six-hour time difference actually worked for us. I would get up extra early so to be ready for work by 8 but since I didn't have to leave until 8:30, we would have a nice amount of time for him to call and do a video chat from wherever he was on that day. Of course, on the weekends we had a little more leeway.
We both have really have loved those video chat trips. It has been a combination of a few places that Wendy, my sister, and I actually went on our trip, but didn't get to explore as thoroughly, and lots of places entirely new to me.
Wendy and I did have a good amount of time the day we were in Edinburgh and could have seen more if we had chosen to take the later bus back to our hotel. However, we did not know how near we were to so many things I am aware of now. An opportunity was missed for us when we were in the country but John has certainly helped to make up for that by taking me via video to many of those places.
Our video chats have not been limited to places included in our trip itinerary, Glasgow, Edinburgh Saint Andrews and Glen Coe. He also introduced me to Stirling, the wee village of Luss, cruising on Loch Lomond, Oban, Culross (where some of the filming of Outlander took place), and Alloway, birthplace of Robert Burns. Of course the exploration in both Glasgow and Edinburgh has been much more extensive than what I saw first-hand.
Interestingly, some of those places John had either never been to before or it had been many years ago. He said he felt somewhat compelled to go as it seemed "wrong" that this woman from Kansas had been there but he, a native, had not.
Side note: he's also never been to Ireland. However he has been checking out the fact that flights from Glasgow to Ireland are not only short but cheap for the most part. So Dublin, for sure, is coming up in probably another six weeks or so. He's also going to do some more researching on where exactly he could get to in Ireland as it's not a large country but he would be dependent on whatever public transportation is available. I am no help with that since I was on a tour bus I have no idea about that, but I digress.
The video explorations continued through late fall of 2021 but went on hiatus for a very good reason then, which will be explained later. As will what else was happening besides video chats, coming in the next blog. I'll include a little video I put together with Magisto that gives a peek into those video* adventures. Click on the photo below. *Note: anything but HD. Still deciding how much I want to spend on my hobby/passion. :-)
It is still curious to me that somehow almost from the beginning I sensed John was a person I could trust. Not simply an honest person who wouldn't be trying to take some nefarious advantage of me, but rather a person who really listens and actually wants to hear your story. Because he not only seemed willing to listen but even anxious and very desirous to hear any of my life stories, I was willing to share-they poured out of me. Anyone who's known me for any length of time is aware I have had quite a diverse life. I don't think I'd even realized how many adventures I've experienced until I started sharing them with him. I shifted from Messenger text to emails much of the time as I felt it was simply too much to be putting into a text. I didn't just share interesting quirky experiences, but also some kind of deep-seated things that turned out to be a cathartic process for me; I guess much in the way people talk about writing their autobiography. Through it all John never expressed disapproval or shock, although my life hasn't been incredibly shocking. I am not the American version of Miriam Margulies! We found ourselves in a scenario similar to other individuals throughout time not living in the same place and "writing" to each other. Even though our process has utilized modern technology, we were getting to know each other in a very old-fashioned way. He never wrote the long dissertations that I wrote to him but there were a number of his text responses with thoughts so profound they would just stop me in my tracks. So many words passed between us via messages and email, I believe I knew by October that there was something very different about this man. Despite the obstacles of 4100 miles between us, I was starting to have quite an attachment to him. I am as many describe that, "Fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread." In my own defense, I will say I've also been pretty good at listening to my gut and knowing how I really feel. John is much more cautious and so he never wanted to stop communicating; but he also did not let his heart go as fast in the relationship as mine did. I loved our exchanges but naturally also wondered what it would be like to have a phone conversation with him. Would we still find so much to share and talk about or were we only "good on paper?" I finally asked if he would ever want to do a call, as now there are so many options to do international calls via the internet at no expense. I think I remember him being a little hesitant but finally on a Sunday the beginning of November 2020, we had our first phone conversation. It was kind of mind-blowing for both of us. We talked for over an hour and it went by in the blink of an eye. There was never any loss for words on either side. There certainly was lots and lots of laughter. So with the ice broken and both of us enjoying that first chat, we decided to do it on a weekly basis. Thus began our Sunday phone calls which lept from an hour to an hour and a half to 2 hours and sometimes more! Again, naturally I decided I would like to see him while we were talking so I asked if he would be interested in doing a video call. Once again, he was a bit hesitant and said he'd think about that. He decided we should try it, so our first video call was on the first Sunday of December 2020. And that was kind of the point at which we never looked back. We did a lot of "looking" as you will learn in the next blog!
The next installment of my story picks up in August 2020, a little less than a month after I sent a message to the photographer whose work I admired. He had been posting a number of photos and I was watching with amazement and some amusement. His following was growing and looked to me like a part-time job to keep up with the comments. At that point in time, it appeared he was trying to respond to everyone. So I sent a second message and jokingly said it looked like he had a new "career" responding to the comments on his photos. And just to make sure he understood my humor I put in a winking emoji. By the way, his name is John. In responding back, John said, "Yes," the response really had grown and he was finding it difficult to reply to every comment as he always had previously. Somehow after that second message there was a third, fourth and then the count was lost. Our messages were primarily in regard to the photos he was taking, as I was doing research on the photos I took while we were traveling there. Many photos I took through the bus window and had no idea where we were when we were driving around Edinburgh. At that point he was going from Glasgow, where he lived, to Edinburgh at least once a week. I was so excited to see photo after photo pop-up that he would then describe the location and the subject matter. Slowly but surely I was identifying my own photographs. Ironically, because I have had the travel journal on hiatus for so long, those discoveries regarding Edinburgh have yet to be shared.
Here's the story of one such discovery. Our Scottish guide, Kevin, had mentioned the Grassmarket area several times during the brief drive around Edinburgh when we arrived near dusk on the first Tuesday of our journey. The name intrigued me so I was certainly looking forward to seeing it. Since nothing was ever officially announced of us being in the Grassmarket I didn't think we ever were. I was completely delighted to see John's photo post that looked very similar to the positioning of one of my photos and he described it as a view of The Castle from the Grassmarket! I was so excited. And I discovered that we probably drove through several times even though we didn't stop. Being someone who likes to research things himself, John appreciated my desire to do so and my enthusiasm. It was one of our first points of shared interest.
Although I'm a little exasperated with myself for not being more timely with continuing the travel journal, I'm alternately very excited about picking it up again. Embedding myself deep in those experiences always brings waves of great memories, warm feelings and like hardly any time has passed since we were there. A great thing to be able to say given the events of the past two years.
By September messages exchanged with John moved from once every few days to daily, to multiple each day. I think it easily happened because both John and I are very open people and we love to write and read. We also love to laugh and particularly dry humor. That has been incorporated from the beginning ranging from giggles to tears rolling down my cheeks, literally.
By September my curiosity to hear him speak had really grown. I knew he was going to have some type of Scottish accent, although he says I'm the one with the accent. So at one point I requested him to do a little video of someplace he'd like to show me and narrate so I could hear him talk. This is not something he likes to do but he graciously granted me my wish. I received a wonderful little video taken during September 2020 in Princes Street Gardens. He was near the Ross Fountain, autumnal foliage all around and The Castle in view on the huge volcanic rock hill behind. I had a ridiculous reaction to hearing him talk as I initially thought he sounded like Mrs. Doubtfire. Amazingly, I told him that. He was very gracious in his response, even though he didn't really think that he did. Later after I had heard him speak a lot more and I went back and watched Mrs. Doubtfire, I apologized for that comment. It was ridiculous because he does not sound like Mrs. Doubtfire!
What next? Coming soon!
It is astounding to me that the last (and first) blog I did here in "now" was a year and 4 months ago! That really is very bad form for a blogger, or for doing anything in life consistently.
So why the long hiatus? Did I lose interest or passion? Definitely not the case. Why the return now? The answers are not quick but I think pretty interesting, at least that is the reaction I get when I tell my story.
The end of July 2020 several things happened that became the beginning of changes I would never have anticipated. Anyone who likes "Hallmark style" stories, enjoys hearing mine, so I will share it now.
2020 was a year most of us never expected to experience. I do my best to focus on happy and be positive, so that year I had to work a little harder. Thankfully, I was less than six months out from my life-changing trip to Scotland and Ireland so I began the journal still to be finished (and it will be) on this site.
As I dug into learning more about where we were at all times and history about those places I knew I didn't want to lose "connection" with those two countries. My first step was to find groups on Facebook related to Scotland and Ireland. I was primarily interested in photos. Curiously, I had no problem finding groups related to Scotland but I had no success regarding Ireland. So I either "joined" or simply started following several in Scotland.
By February checking into those groups at least daily was a consistent bright spot for me. There were always lots of photos but many were not to my liking as they were heavily edited, filtered, etc. I want to see as close to what my eye would see, so to that end, there were several photographers whose shots consistently caught my attention and brightened my days.
I'm one of those folks who likes to read about the people whose posts I like, so I knew one photographer whose photos I really liked appeared to be a guy in his late 20s to 30s and most likely lived near an area we had visited in Glasgow. His profile pic was black and white, kind of artsy looking and his expression intrigued me.
His photos continued to be ones that always made me smile and then one day his profile pic changed. I was very surprised to see he was not a 20-30 something but probably close to my "ageless goddess" range. It made sense to me though, as I had often thought his "style" was not something typically seen from younger photographers.
One of my beliefs is to make sure I share appreciation of others, whether they are family, friends or strangers. We all need all the "hugs" we can get whatever form they take.
2020 had rolled on and by July I felt I was very overdue to message this man and let him know what a difference his photos had and were making in my life. So I sent a message via Messenger and said "thank you," gave some background about the impact my trip to Scotland (and Ireland) had. I wished him and his family well.
He sent a gracious reply back and that was that. Except it did not turn out to be "that." Will be continued!
Almost nine months ago I re-thought the website and changed it up to be an outlet to re-live, dig deeper and share photos from the life-changing trip I took in October 2019 to Scotland and Ireland.
I stayed on track with my "timeline" for many months but then started beginning to allow myself distractions from our "Twilight Zone" year. Finally ditched guilt for being "behind" because the "timeline" was created by me! I could certainly make it what I wanted/needed it to be.
As I have remembered the moments of the trip, poured over photos, researched the "where" of the photos, two things occurred. First, I've gained so much more knowledge about our specific adventure and both countries as a whole.
The second thing has been a cementing of my memories and a love for Scotland and Ireland in the core of me. Since being there, I did a DNA test and discovered I am not only Welsh (already knew that) but have ancestry in England, Scotland and Ireland. It has seemed something deep within me did and continues to feel a strong connection.
In addition to researching locations and backstories on my photos, I decided to "up" my connection to both countries by joining groups dedicated to photo posts on Facebook and Instagram. I've not only loved seeing others photos of the places we were; I've also learned so much about other areas we did not get to visit.
One contributor to the Scotland groups consistently posts pictures that really resound with me. He has a great eye and edits to enhance while retaining the "realness" of the photo. Finally decided to message the photographer and share my appreciation, knowing it would bless me if someone did that for me. That has spawned an ongoing "conversation" both on posts and messages. Besides appreciating his skill, there's humor and wit but also the sense of a tie to day to day there.
As much as I love all that and the blog journal, I also realized sometimes I would like to share current thoughts and photos, so the creation of "now blog." Still pondering if I'm going to add more galleries for my now photos. In any case, I'll put a few in my blogs ... like right now, for instance!