I very nearly didn’t come here. When I googled D’s address, and realized he was a 4-hour train ride north, up beyond Inverness, I nearly balked.
I’d been in a long distance relationship before, and knew the difficulties of keeping things going via irregular visits and nightly phone calls. Even though this was only 4 hours by train, and not 8 hours by plane, the Highlands might as well have been the moon to me at that time. My life had been attached to my career, which was attached to being in or near a city, since I was 17. Yes, at 56, I wanted more time in the countryside, more green and mountain in my everyday life. But I thought that meant living in a small town, just a quick trip away from the city – not 4 hours away on a train or bus that only came my way once or twice a day – and never at post-theatre hours.
But it wasn’t only the distance. D was a classic blue-collar man. With a motorcycle. I knew this breed of man, I’d grown up surrounded by them. Dads, uncles, surrogate uncles, a brother, cousins. I’d dated them before, too. Never successfully. I’d never been able to do so without breaking their hearts, or having my own broken. The lifestyle of an artist who worked 24/7 for very little pay; the madness of myself, my circle of friends and my theatre family; the instability of my own emotional life – so useful on stage, and so unhealthy at home – clashed badly with a life that came home for dinner at six and weekends off. It wasn’t fair to either side, to try that combo of careers again. But dating people from my own world hadn’t exactly worked out swell, either.
And besides, I was tired of only dating people I’d met in my world, at work or on projects. At networking meetings and openings. I was too old and bad at light banter for the bar scene. I wanted to meet someone to share new things with, someone outside of my tried and true life. But a truck driving, heavy lift operator living in the far north of Scotland? Perhaps someone a little closer to (my new) home, someone a little more familiar with my world, would be best?
And there was the fact that I wasn’t entirely ready for a new, full on, relationship anyway. No matter where either of us lived. I was only months out from facing the reality of my last failure, of the truth that that one was never going to be mended, and that it was best it not be. I was rather looking for someone to ‘hang out’ with, someone to hike or boat or sight-see with. Someone who could fit into the spaces I was trying to make in between projects, spaces I meant to be spending more of outdoors. But someone a little closer to the small town I’d relocated to. The work that goes into a long distance friendship – I know it well, my friends live all around the world – that wasn’t really on my agenda. I already had more of those friendships than I could take good care of. So, not ready for a full-on thing, and already cup-runneth-over with far away friends…
And yet. When I’d seen his picture on the dating site – yes, a dating site, because otherwise, all I ever met were people at work or on projects, and this site encouraged friendships as well as relationships among outdoorsy types…I’d liked his face. Not because he was handsome, though he certainly was. After all, I was in the arts, and had met, worked with, and loved my share of handsome actors and artists. But because I liked his smile, his eyes. The openness of his gaze, as he looked into the camera. There he was, in his working man’s outfit, standing next to his lifting equipment or his motorcycle… The amazing Scottish scenery peeking around his broad shoulders…looking out of the picture with one of the sweetest, kindest faces I’ve ever seen. With just a shade of worry in his eyes, as though he knew I would judge him, and thought he’d come up short.
And then there were these collections of words, included in his dating site bio:
“If you have any interest in Celtic, Scottish, History, Social Democracy and Fairness, Kilts , Tractors, Trucks, Horses, Dogs, Motorbikes, Canoes, Scuba Diving, Tents, Movies, TV, and Books, proper books…..ones you can read when all the power has gone off, DDay and even ( not a deal breaker) Star Trek…”
Okay, the sentence ended by including John Wayne, and I’d left John Wayne in the past that included my father and his politics… but look at that wild collection of interests! How often have you seen a profile that combined tractors and trucks with Social Democracy and Fairness? With books you can read when the power has gone off? With Star Trek, like a cherry on top? I mean, the guy was all over the place! That alone was intriguing, familiar even. With all that, I could forgive the inclusion of John Wayne. After all, everyone has their faults. 😉
And then there was this: “Beyond any consideration of this world, do not covet large or small, do not despise weakling or poor. Semblence of evil allow not near thee, never give nor earn thou shame.”
I googled it. It was part of a pagan meditation that started with ‘Give thou thine heart to the wild magic,
To the Lord and the Lady of Nature,
Beyond any consideration of this world.”
A truck driving heavy lift operator who liked star trek, social democracy, books…and quoting pagan prayers. Now that was a breed I’d never met before.
Where did they make this guy?!? I know, I know…in Scotland.
I wrote to him. And he wrote back.
There were so many reasons, then, to not journey north to meet this man. My attachment to a life I’d spent 40+ years building; the plans I had to rebuild that life in the Central Belt of Scotland; my fear that I’d like him a little more than planned, and have to make adjustments in my plans; my fear that I’d make those adjustments, only to have one or both hearts broken. But fear…fear is something I’ve lived with my entire life, without letting it stop me (very) much.
So I got on the train.
I write this four years later, sitting in my office in the old farmhouse that his family bought 50 years ago this year. They bought it with the monies earned from the sale of his mum’s post office/home, when she, too, felt the call of the Highlands. We are married now, and busy bringing the farm back from its slide into a 30-year period of neglect. A slide that started when his father died young, leaving his mum with two boys, a few cattle, and 100 or so sheep to care for. A slide that continued until he moved back home for a short stay during a difficult break up…then stayed on, when his mother needed him in her final years. A slide that slowed as he started draining and plowing the boggy fields again, and reversed when I joined him, and we harvested our first crops, to feed the first flock of sheep to live here in decades.
And so here we both are. Our lives are radically different from what either of us thought they’d be. When I met him, and realized that he was every bit of the weird and wonderful that his letters implied, and that I wanted him, but couldn’t have him there… I left the city and artist life behind me to join him here. I thought at first it was a sabbatical; I now know it was a permanent life change. We are 100 % Highland Hill Farmers now, though he still consults on outside projects to support it all. We’re an hour from the nearest city. My diet has changed from fast food and takeaways, leaning toward vegetarian (yes, that’s a possible combination, if you live in the city), to bread we make and potatoes we dig ourselves. I’m as far from anything I’ve known in my adult life, as I could imagine: life, work and distance-wise. Mud, sweat, and manure…these take up the space formerly reserved for rehearsals, openings, and negotiating the ego-strewn pathways of auditions and contracts. And I am happier than I’ve ever been. More importantly: I am content, for the first time in my life.
And to think: I very nearly didn’t come here.