I’ve always wondered if the people of long ago had more fun then us. Before photo cameras became the must accessory of all our goings and doings, people were capturing memories with pencils, brushes and ink. In prominent families an artist might be hired to depict a trip or a party, and no gentleman or gentlewoman's education seems to be complete without a skill in drawing and watercolor painting.
About a year ago I took part in "The Cabins,” a multidisciplinary retreat in Connecticut brilliantly organized by writer Courtney Maym, and while there I took it as an opportunity to become such an artist. I loved it! I left Connecticut with a book filled with drawings and comics of the retreat and since then I continued to capture events and travels in my sketchbooks. So, when I was packing for a vacation to Edinburgh with my husband, I made sure I had enough sketchbooks to document my travel.
Our family of three loves to travel, and we travel as often as possible, but for the first time since our 16 year old son Philippe was born, my husband and I were going to travel alone. We were to spend 10 days by ourselves while Philippe toured Scotland separately with his school group.
If you look at
http://dasha38.wixsite.com/realtimeinink you can see that my books' pages are usually filled with people, conversations and bits of scenery. However, the Scottish trip's take was something entirely different.
I had some vague romantic ideas regarding spending all of this time alone with my husband in a foreign country. I packed a suitcase of cocktail dresses, some sexy lingerie and even a swimsuit. What was I thinking? Was I going to make a real life comic about my marriage life suddenly revived by the absence of our ever so present child? Or did I picture it as a grownup backpack adventure upgraded with cash and fancy clothes? I don't know, but later, looking into my sketchbooks I realized that with one exception, not a single person made it into its pages! Somehow, all my drawings depicted a lonely landscape, often a cemetery or two, and references to the dreadful Scottish weather. Who would even think these drawings belong to a woman on her second, sort of, honeymoon?
Now, if this were a fiction story it would be a turning point for a heroine to suddenly realize how lonely and unsatisfying her marriage is, especially as a prelude to the soon-to-be-empty- nest of her home. I stared at my books trying to make sense of it, as I didn't feel neither lonely nor unhappy. The explanation was much more trivial: my husband, Michael, doesn't drink, which made my usual, while traveling alone routine, untenable. There was no pub-crawling, drinking beer and whisky, taking time getting friendly with the local scene while drawing it. Instead, we visited tons of galleries, museums, castles, and the Isle of Arron. We did visit a whisky distillery, which I thought might provide a reprieve from the cemeteries, and I tried, but quickly abandoned my drawings as things began moving too fast for me to depict them. I always saw my drawings as a curated story of an event, but my Scotland trip showed me how the absence of narrative and story can become a story itself. I was too busy being happy to find time to draw my little family, even though I wish I made an effort to capture my husband blissfully devouring a mutton stew at Dean Gallery (which he, a lamb lover, pronounced the best).
It doesn't matter what direction one takes in Edinburgh, you are most likely to come across one of the city’s many old cemeteries.
Scots have very long memories. No old story is old enough, in some parts of the Highlands you won’t be served in a pub if your last name is Campbell, due to the long bitter dispute between the Stuart clan and Campbell family, and the Bonnie Prince Charlie? He is more popular than Jesus Christ himself.
I thought that Russia was "The Homeland of the Elephant,” a notorious joke satirizing Russia’s propensity for declaring itself a leading force in various fields, but no, it's Scotland. Anything ever discovered, created or invented, as stated by locals, was done by a Scot. The mythic Camelot was, according to the legend, found on the top of an ancient volcano in Holyrood Park in the heart of Edinburgh. I climbed to Arthur's Seat alone while Michael chose to visit some fancy castle.
Rain comes and goes, so does wind. Your umbrella is useless here. Scots have a saying "If you don't like the weather wait for 5 minutes.” We tried; it worked, but not always. We went to the Isle of Arron for two days and the weather in the mornings was dreadful. Our guide took us to a distillery for a whisky testing at 10 am, a very Scottish thing to do, and a hike in the cold rain was a piece of cake after that.
Imagine being born here, would you? On the right side of the border, of course.
Another favorite saying: "I was born on the right side of the border" meaning that you are not, God forbidden, English but an honorable Scot.
The only drawing depicting Michael and our son Philippe, successfully picked up after his group voyage was over, going away from Scotland to Normandy. I was riding in the back seat, drinking whisky, and spying on them, but that is a whole other story.