My bags were there on arrival, but no one who seemed to be looking for me. Walked outside and then back in. Was standing by a counter to wait when a man approached and searched my eyes with craned neck for several long seconds, maybe a minute, as if studying the contents of an empty tin can. Are you . . . Then he drove like the wind, circumventing Edinburgh, until we reached the narrow country roads that curved past the bridge at Lasswade and the pub called Laird and Dog. Past sheep in pastures and a few horses. Past row houses and a sign to a school,

Then a sharp right turn through an iron gate and down a narrow lane thick with trees. Then the pink stone brick of the castle walls. Quiet. Still. Green. Through a passage and into a garden, where the first thing I noticed was a tall bronze stag.

Up a winding stone staircase, narrower than the steps to the Plath study at Yaddo, round, not square, as if mounting the steps of a tower, to my room at the end of the hall. A plaque on the door inscribed with the names of others before me, Sebastian Barry, Caryl Phillips, and on.

The sash window opens. The sound of the River Esk below and the wind in the trees. A bird call. At midnight the moon broke through the clouds.




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5 Responses to hawthornden

  1. Is the internet not verboten up there? – No, don’t answer that. Enjoy.

  2. Shannon Hopkins says:

    Just found this. I’m supposed to be “subscribed,” but it doesn’t let me know when you post, I guess. So I went looking today. SEBASTIAN BARRY!!!! I love that man.

    Love the description. I hope you’re having a wonderful, peaceful, inspired time. Say hi to the wind and the sky and the smell of rain.

  3. Jill Widner says:

    It’s hit and miss. I think of it as visual speech. One of the fellows is deaf & mute. We communicate at the end of the day in the drinks room and at the supper table and afterwards in the drawing room, passing 2 or 3 notepads back and forth. Check out her collection, Chattering, published in 2011 by Granta. I’ve sen a fox.

  4. Jill Widner says:

    I know he is. That’s why I mentioned it. I am in pure heaven here. My room is up among the treetops. The moon has been passing by every night from midnight to 4. I keep turning away to the dark, and then say, no, Scotland is speaking to you, go to the window, and I do. I couldn’t be happier.

  5. Shannon Hopkins says:

    Thank you for mentioning Sebastian. It makes me happy. Last year he came to read at Elliot Bay this time of year, and I wanted to go, and it just got too nuts the minute school got back in, and I regret that I didn’t go. I will go next time, if I have to take time off and abandon my students and drive alone.
    So so glad it’s going well for you.

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