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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Lochs, Locks and Luck

Gratitude is the Mussar trait that comes to mind when I think of the recent trip to Scotland with my dear friend Judy. The trip made me reflect on gratitude through several lenses:

Gratitude that required mindfulness, so I didn’t take for granted my good fortune in having this marvelous adventure.

Spontaneous gratitude that came easily when something special happened on the trip, and I was able to express my thanks.

Unanticipated gratitude when a challenge became a blessing in disguise or when a sticky situation worked out smoothly.

Mindful gratitude meant appreciating my good health and stamina when I climbed countless stone, spiral staircases in the eight Scottish castles that we visited, when I walked five miles each day and when I was able to kayak for two hours on a serene, scenic loch (Scottish for lake).

I was mindful in appreciating Judy’s driving skills along the narrow, two-lane country roads, lined with trees and stone walls. At times when a car approached from the other direction, my first reaction was fear, but I shook that off by embracing the adventure and trusting in Judy and the universe. I was truly thankful when we returned the car, and both the Peugeot and its passengers were intact after five days of driving on the “wrong side” of the road.

While being mindful about what I was eating, I could value the unique Scottish cuisine: crispy fish and chips, plump fresh mussels and scones with clotted cream. We even tried haggis, (I thought it was actually tasty!), but I opted for the pornstar martini* rather than Scotch. (Gratitude to my friend Tanya for that recommendation!)

The opportunity for the second type of gratitude, spontaneous thankfulness for the friendly Scots, abounded. There was the woman walking her dog near Doune Castle who recommended a wonderful local eatery and talked about her homeland with great pride. An elderly couple on the way to Bruar Falls told us about different kinds of purple heather and the rare white heather, which brings good luck. (Unfortunately we never found any.) The entertaining host at the information center in Pitlochry shared her personal story and encouraged us to visit the Heathergems factory, where they make jewelry from heather stems. We did…and bought some lovely earrings as souvenirs.

During our National Geographic/Lindblad cruise of the Caledonian Canal, I appreciated the captain of the Lord of the Glens, who maneuvered seamlessly through the constricting lochs – bringing back memories of those narrow country roads.

I was grateful for the expertise of the ship’s staff and guest speakers who made the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands come alive. The witty, knowledgeable guide at the Culloden battlefield helped us understand this pivotal battle of 1746 that changed the course of Scottish history when the Jacobites were defeated by the British army for the final time.

One guest speaker demonstrated the original purpose of the kilt as a coat, blanket and “skirt” by using Todd, a fellow traveler, as a volunteer model. A good sport, Todd played along, lying on the floor while being rolled into eight yards of wool plaid. The antics of our speaker made us guffaw while gaining an understanding of this bit of Scottish ingenuity.

And I was grateful that we could extemporaneously honor the memory of Malcolm, Judy’s husband and our lifelong friend, with tributes throughout the trip, including at the cemetery on the isle of Iona where many kings are buried, including the real Macbeth and Donald Bane, King Malcolm’s brother.

I also had several opportunities to experience the third type of gratitude, finding it in unexpected circumstances. Because the cruise had been rescheduled so many times, they “fit” us in by giving us a cabin on the lower deck where the crew stays. The room featured two small portholes, two single beds about a foot apart and a bathroom that required contortionist skills for showering. Judy and I had a good number of laughs each morning as we danced around each other to find our clothes and dress. I was thankful that we made it work because we are two small women who get along well and seek adventure in its many forms!

Gratitude for a blessing in disguise occurred when Judy and I fell ill as did many other passengers on the ship. When the first passenger tested positive for COVID, we immediately started taking precautions, including masking. Unfortunately, we still got sick, and I slept for the better part of an afternoon and evening when the seas were rough. Although we felt better before we got off the ship, I sent an email about the situation to the proprietor of the quaint B&B we had booked in Fort William. The host immediately responded and asked us not to come due to the vulnerability of someone there. So we quickly (in less than an hour) pivoted from our original plan to spending the last few days in Glasgow where we could take precautions and avoid close contact with others.

I came to regard the change of plans with gratitude because everything fell into place with serendipitous good fortune. With no train tickets or hotel reservations, we jumped on the Lindblad bus to Inverness. While on the two-hour ride, I was able to book a hotel through Expedia and find the train schedule to Glasgow. We arrived in Inverness, went to the ticket office, where no one else was in line, and got tickets on the next train, leaving in 20 minutes! We were told to change trains in Stirling. After making a quick pit stop at the Stirling station, we hopped on the waiting Glasgow train. It was a short walk to our hotel, and thanks to Google maps, we didn’t get lost!

We continued to mask and isolate as much as we could. Since we both felt healthier, we decided on outdoor activities and spent the last two days of our adventure walking for miles to visit the Botanic Gardens, the grounds of the Kelvingrove Museum, the tall sailing ship at the Riverside Transportation Museum and the Necropolis, where we made a brief stop at the Jewish section. We wouldn’t have experienced any of that had we not wound up in Glasgow!

So this trip was an adventure not only in making memories, but also in practicing gratitude in its many forms. I was grateful for our incredible experiences in better-than-expected weather and for the people – Judy, the locals, and the crew and friends we made on the ship. I appreciated our agility and “shear” ** luck in handling the unexpected challenges that travel brings.

And after a full day of smooth, yet exhausting, air travel, donned in an N-95 mask, I was truly grateful to be home with Irv in Conifer, where I consistently tested negative for COVID!

* Passion fruit juice, vodka, passionfruit liqueur, lime juice, sugar syrup and a shot of Prosecco on the side. YUMMY!

**Intentionally misspelled in honor of the thousands of sheep we saw along the way

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A lovely postcard, and an itinerary in flexibility we should all follow. Great pics, too!


Aug 21, 2023

A lovely postcard, and an itinerary in flexibility we should all follow. Great pics, too!

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