Recently, I enjoyed a two week vacation in Scotland. With my mother.
And now you have the same squinchy face that people get when I tell them that. The crinkled forehead that says you're trying to decide between deluded and completely fucking insane.
But, really, it was great. In fact, it was my idea. Oh, sure, there was one day, about 5 days in, where my mom snarked at some Germans in the B&B because they didn't make small talk at breakfast and in fact excluded us from their conversation by speaking German, and later she huffed and rolled her eyes at some blokes who brought a 6-pack of beer onto the train and proceeded to enjoy it, at which point I thought, holy shit, when did my Mom become a crabby old lady? But that was the same day that I snapped at her for pronouncing "Perth" in a Scottish accent, "Pairrrrth", which wouldn't be so bad except it was the only word she pronounced in a Scottish accent, and managed to do so about 20 times within 5 minutes, and if you are going to do a Scottish accent then do the whole fucking Scottish accent, at which point I'm sure she thought, holy shit, when did my daughter become a crabby old lady?
After that we went back to the B&B and had naps and from then on, at least if we were crabby old ladies we were pretty much crabby about the same thing.
At one point my Mom asked, "What will you remember about this? What will stand out?"
Lots of things, but in particular a trip we took to Lunga, where hundreds (possibly thousands) of puffins were nesting. You could stand 8 or 9 feet away from them and all they would do was give you a worried look, which I'm pretty sure is just the default look for puffins.
Puffins are nice and all but we were on Lunga for 2 hours, and that's a long time to stare at birds. So at after about half an hour I wandered off around the side of the island. Lunga was inhabited once, hundreds of years ago, and I poked about inspecting the ruins of the stone crofts and taking some pictures.
I kept walking around the island, away from the puffins and the group of people. A rabbit spotted me and thrashed away through the heather. A bee the size of my palm droned by, interested only in the swathes of bluebells that were carpeting the island.
I followed a path and found myself, suddenly, in a small valley. I could no longer hear human voices, and the ocean was far away and down a cliff. The wind died, and I stopped walking. Complete and utter silence crushed down.
I panicked, almost. You are never that far away from some kind of sound or movement. You don't realize the constant humming, murmuring, clicking, rumbling, whooshing, going on until it's gone. It was like the world ended and I didn't get the memo.
Then another bee bumbled past and the undergrowth rustled and the panic lifted off my chest. But it continued to be so still, so muted, that I stood there for a good five minutes just being. I realized at some point I had started crying.
I kept following the path, around the island until I reached a small sign that said "paths may be hazardous, visitors proceed at own risk". Twenty feet past that was a sheer cliff that plunged into the sea. Just a bit hazardous.
So I turned around, and near the small valley I met my Mom, who had tired of puffins as well and followed the same path. We sat down on the springy grass and had a lunch of oat cakes and mandarins. The sun warmed our companionable silence.
"I could die here," my Mom said, "In perfect happiness."
I felt the same way, but instead I made a sarcastic comment about how much of a pain it would be to get her body back to Canada, because I talk all the time, I never really stop, but when it comes to saying anything that might cut my heart, I have no words.
I'm as silent as that valley.