A short business trip to Scotland two weeks ago, a chance to spend time along the Moray and Cromarty Firths in the northwest highlands of Scotland. Close to the North Sea, a pastoral landscape of rolling hills with snow-capped high peaks in the far distance. Large swaths of farmland intersected by small towns, whisky distilleries and large estates, oil rigs out to sea. Fields green with rapeseed, the promise of sunny yellow carpets soon to follow. A stone dovecote standing sentinel in a sea of deep brown, freshly tilled earth. Clusters of bright yellow daffodils, huddled against stone walls, fruit trees just coming into bloom. Sheep and cattle out to pasture. Along roadsides and edgeways, tangles of mustard-yellow gorse, dense and thorny, ideal cover for bird nests. Everywhere, ancient stone walls, churches and castles, in all states of repair and ruin. The early spring weather chilly and breezy, with a mix of drizzle and sunshine. Our hosts and the staff at Glenmorangie House, generous of heart, offering comfort, food and drink for soul and body. Walks along the shore and on country lanes, a welcome interlude from busy, jet-lagged days.
Back in Vermont, the spring lags behind. But the days are lighter and longer, the songbirds are back and the maple syrup harvest is stored away. The walking trail along the swollen, muddy West River is mostly free of ice and snow. And there is beauty in the bones and contours of the landscape, still visible through the leafless trees. Without the deep shade of leaves, the forest floor is bathed in sunshine, the elusive and short-lived ephemeral spring flowers soon to beckon with their bright blooms.