Sunday, 21 December 2008

Latha na meadhon gamhradh

Mid Winter's Day - The Solstice
Well, here we are marking the important day by rising before dawn and walking to the top of the ridge to get a view of the rising Sun at the turning point of the dark half of the year. We Celts have celebrated this day, and tomorrow (the Dead Day), for a verra long time. It is the death of the Sun; death of the year; death of all that was. All those present moments and future ideas of 2008 become the "past" over the next two days. It is a time of introspection, of tidying up the memories and laying them in the mid-winter fire. Then, on the 23rd of December, we begin again; the Sun is reborn, for out of death always comes new life.

(What did you think the fat man in the red and white furs was for? giving you presents? No, that's St Nicholas. The man who comes down the chimney to the hearth fire brings the Sun back. Read The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett and everything will be clear).
As you can see from these photos, not much evidence of Grandfather Sun this solstice. A near gale force wind buffeting us as we climbed the ridge.

Not a day to inspire, no?

Well yes. We have reached the mid point of darkness; we have come to the end of a cycle within our lives, with a new one just beginning. What is not to feel optimistic about there? It's akin to coming to the end of a job, with new ways of being ahead. It's like graduation without knowing what is next; it's like finally saying goodbye to a relationship (with all that it had) and looking to a new future.

We can respond with fear, paralysis; as many of us do.

We can respond with engagement, plan, aspiration.

In the middle of the coldest, darkest part of our calendar, this is when we plant our seeds beneath the ground and shelter them in small pots. What seeds will sprout into seedlings fo
r us by the spring equinox? Well, it depends what seeds we plant today...

Le Meas, le Durachd, le Bennachdan
Scot AnSgeulaiche

P.S. Here is a Solstice song for you to enjoy: "Solstice Bells"
by Jethro Tull
Go out for a walk and enjoy the constant beauty of nature. When it comes down to it, your good health and the natural world are all the really matter. May you enjoy an abundance of both in this new year, and may the seeds you sew, or the door you open, or the pallet you paint on be of your own choosing.

Solstice Greetings, Samantha

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Gaelic Lessons

I've read a lot of posts on the Outlander Gathering forum recently by people who want to learn Gaelic / Gàidhlig. Below is a web site that has listings for classes and distant learning in many states. Also, check within your state's local adult / evening courses; usually found through a search engine or yellow pages. If there is not a course near you, check with the instructor of any course within your state, chances are they will have a network of Gaelic speakers and instructors, and you may just be the catalyst to get a class going in your area.

Study Gaelic through distance learning. This usually involves receiving your lesson materials through the mail, then having a lesson by phone once a week. Sometimes there is also an annual gathering of the students for a day or weekend, where you can bashfully practice on each other, and get in-person support from the instructor. The money you save on gasoline weekly and the reduction in your carbon footprint are additional benefits. If you want to save money on your phone call, try services like SKYPE.COM - You can download this internet telephone connection to your computer, which you use to call your instructor (or anyone else you wish). It's very cheap, and if you're calling another Skype user, I believe it's free.

If you're coming over here for the Jamie & Claire Tour – for Outlandish Spirits, start learning now, and use your knowledge to share light banter with Scottish Gaelic speakers. Who knows, maybe you'll find a strapping Highlander to practice on!

So, go hence into yonder world and spread the Gaelic words of love. If you know of any classes or instructors not already on the above link, please let me know, and I'll add them onto a list. Mar sin leibh an-drasta, Samantha

Saturday, 6 December 2008

An Apparition In The Snow

Note: Please also check out: How Has Outlander Inspired Your Life /Nov 24th. I'd love to hear more of your responses!

On November 23rd we had our first snowfall since moving into our cottage this year. I woke up pretty early, and decided to take a pre-dawn photo of our house in snow. The whiteness filled the air with a dense mist, and I could see the silhouette of the trees leading up the road, one of the few things visible, colorless against the white engulfing background.

As I stood there focused on my mission to get one good photo of the stone cottage against the white background, I heard a funny sort of 'animal sound'. Not a sheep; they were well across the field. More of a grumble (not a growl). Admittedly, the sound gave me a bit of the shivers, but it was coming from up the road. I looked up the road and thought I saw something on the left side heading towards the bushes.

I dismissed the grey apparition as my imagination and went back inside. When the sun peaked over the horizon, I went back outside to photograph from the crossroads. There, I saw animal tracks in the new snow. They looked a bit like a cat's, but were longer in shape and quite a bit larger than a domestic cat, and being the only house for almost half a mile, I knew it wasn't domestic. I ran inside and got my husband out of bed on a Sunday morning, which, in this case was surprisingly easy to do, but when he heard the reason for such a rude awakening in the depths of a winter morning on his day off, he was on his feet faster than I'd seen in years.

We followed the tracks which had led past our wee house, to the crossroads, and onwards. They went up onto the stone dyke wall and back down again, then crossed the road to the left side...... just at the point where I thought I had seen something earlier. We took photos of the tracks, and I've sent them off to Russell Coope, in north Perthshire, who is an expert on Scottish Wild Cats and animal tracks, and has been studying the cats for 30 years. Though we don't know what the tracks are. Hopefully he will be able to tell us if it is this endangered species at our own doorstep or some other wascally Scottish beastie! Any guess as to what they may be?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thanksgiving / Giving Thanks

I am not religious, but I am a follower of philosophy and great inspiration of people like Martin Luther King:

"We will speed the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing... Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."

I have never been able to read this speech without getting a wee bit o' goose bumps. I have so much to be thankful for and it's days like this that I recognize this fact. As Deniz Bevan of The Girdle of Melian blog, pointed out "You are so lucky to be living in Scotland." I am thankful I live here, but I bet I'm no luckier than Deniz. Canada is a lovely place to live, and hey, everybody likes Canadians! That's something to be thankful for, especially these days.

My husband (who is much appreciated) and I don't own our own house, but we found a lovely cottage to rent on a long term basis. We only have one car, but we don't need it every day. We cringe at the thought of having to fill our oil tank for the winter, but we have proper heating since moving here, as apposed to a very cold, damp place we used to live in. It makes me think of the words below:

"Once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience." Sadi, The Gulistan

If you have an inspiration of being thankful or appreciating something in your life that you'd like to share, whether from the Outlander series or anything that touches your outlandish spirit from other sources, please do share them. Thanks to Janet and Deniz for being my first blog contributors. Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers and welcome into the moment to our international friends... now pass the cranberry sauce please! Sam

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Outlanders Gàidhlig words - audio

Here is my husband, Scot AnSgeulaiche speaking some of the Gàidhlig terms of endearment used in Outlander. There are more on the Jamie and Claire Tour page

You will need a Plugin in your browser, such as Quicktime or Real Player, to play these audio files. You may also Right Click on them and "Save As..." to your hard drive and open them with a stand alone audio programme.

"Mo chuiseal", Jenny's term for her bairns (lit. "my blood")

"Mo doinne", Jamie's name for Claire (lit. "my brown one")

"Mo nighean donn", Jamie's name for Claire (lit. "my brown lassie")

"Sassanach", Jamie's name for Claire (lit. "lowlander")

There are more book phrases on the Jamie and Claire Tour page. If you have any that you would like Scot to record, post here with a page ref, if needed.

Monday, 24 November 2008

How has Outlander inspired your life?

WARNING: This post has a spoiler from "The Fiery Cross" book.
I'm asking about inspirations that the Outlander series has given you, from the little things to the big things. It can be as big as motivating you to change a part of your life, or as small as helping you to get through a difficult moment, like this example: Claire having to defend herself against a bison in the garden with a saw (creating much blood) is a scene that, oddly, came back to assist me later. As long term, but slightly lapsed, vegetarians, we were given a large hock of deer venison as a thank you gift. "Thanks", I said, through a pasty grin, standing at our back door ("what the hell am I going to do with this?" I secretly thought). When my husband found out about it, he was quite happy, because apparently he liked venison, so I felt somewhat obliged to cook it.

Some time later, having squared up to this awful looking chop on the chopping board, I was wondering how I was to butcher it without a) feeling sick b) shutting my eyes and cutting off a finger c) putting myself off the supposed dinner it was to become.

Into my mind popped Claire Fraser, and I thought "What would she do?" Then I remembered her taking on a whole buffalo, not just a bone of venison. I thought "If she can do THAT, I can do THIS".

The venison casserole was a hit with himself, (my husband) btw.

Met any "bison's" in your life that a sprinkling of Gabaldon helped you to overcome? Are you inspired by Claire's ability to overcome adversity or Jamie's ability to speak several languages? Let us hear the teeniest or grandest thought that comes to your mind.