I wanted to write something special for this holiday weekend, something new. Some of you may remember a few years
ago I blogged about a wonderful trip Mr. Grace and I made into the Scottish Highlands and onto the Isle of Skye with my sister. The remote place we stayed at while we were on Skye was an inspiration, the place was as mysterious as it was remote. This story is inspired by that place and by my love for classical piano, or piano music of any type for that matter.
I’m not sure how long the story will be, but I’m happy to share the first instalment today, and to ask that you be gentle with me as you read it. Remember it is a work in progress. I hope you enjoy.
Concerto: Part 1 A Little Night Music
I started awake from disturbing dreams that I couldn’t quite remember. In the tight-fitting darkness, it took me a minute to remember where I was. Isle of Skye, a small tatty cottage so remote that the landlady had to deliver me there in a battered Land Rover. To say I was off the grid was an understatement. No phone, no Wi-fi, no transportation until the woman came back for me on Monday morning. There was only me the hills and the sea with storms predicted – a typical bank holiday weekend in the UK. In my whole life I’d never been so isolated. The thought of being alone was a writer’s dream of solitude and inspiration come true, wasn’t it? I’d had neither solitude nor inspiration for a while now, and I was doing it up right. I didn’t care about the rain. I had no plans but to sleep and possibly read. I was exhausted and as empty as the landscape beyond my cottage. Upon arrival, I’d made myself a sandwich, drank half a bottle of Malbec and went to bed.
Sometime while I slept, the storm had passed. Even the sound of the sea seemed muted in the muffled dark of the room. I assumed it was the sea I could hear. It was dark and the storm was already raging when we arrived. The landlady seemed unperturbed by the return journey she faced, as though the storm were nothing. She showed me around the place that had been well stocked for my arrival, since I would be going nowhere for the next three days. She wished me well at the door and left me alone.
And now here I was wide awake with three days of nothing but my own company stretching before me. I was considering watching a movie and grazing through the package of shortbread left on the counter near the tea service. The landlady assured me the ancient DVD player in the lounge worked, and there was a fair sized library of movies. That was when I heard what I couldn’t possibly have heard. There was piano music coming from somewhere close by. I slid from my bed holding my breath as the melody built to a pounding crescendo that reminded me of the storm. The landlady had told me I was the only guest in the converted stone stables that now housed three cottages. There was room for three more, but the money had run out. The stables were all that was left of a summer home owned by some wealthy lord now long dead. The house was in its prime when the Victorians found the Highlands and anything Scottish all the rage. But the place was just too remote and its maintenance too expensive, or so the landlady said. Now what remained other than the stables and a collapsed stone barn was just a rubble heap. Though I could see none of that in the dark and driving rain.
But it wasn’t raining now, and I definitely heard piano music. Holding my breath not wanting to miss a single note, I slipped from the bed and switched on the lamp to find no electricity. The landlady had warned me that it sometimes went out during the storms. There were torches stashed strategically in each room, but my eyes were accustom to the dark, so I moved through the cottage on tiptoes listening to the music that had become more plaintive, full of longing that made me ache in places that hadn’t felt much of anything in a long while.
A peek out the kitchen window left me gaping at the thick blanket of stars where Milky Way spilled across the clear sky. The sky, the music, the feel of the night so close around me made the emptiness inside suddenly more companionable. Without thinking, I threw open the kitchen door and stepped, barefoot, out into the soft chill, barely feeling the wet cobbles beneath my feet. There was no breeze, a calm that I knew wouldn’t last. A glance around revealed the hulk of the collapsed barn and, beyond that, less pronounced heaps of stone and rubble, the remains of what had once been an impressive estate. Once again the music crescendoed and I turned to find the source. Candle light flickered from the cottage at the end of the stable yard and something in the music that drifted from an open window filled the night with the very ache I felt.
I don’t remember moving to the patio of the place by the French doors, the only nod to elegance any of these cottages had, but I will never forget my first sight of the source. The doors were flung open to the night, curtains barely stirring. A baby grand piano filled the space beyond and as the music softened and then crescendoed again, my gaze came to
rest on the creator of such exquisite sounds, a man tall and straight. His eyes were closed, his hands moved over the keyboard as though the instrument were a lover, and the sounds he coaxed from it were very much the sounds of love and all the pain and lust and joy and sorrow that come with.
I couldn’t help myself. I moved forward as though I were in a trance, lost in the music, lost in the intimate weave of sound and silence and human connection. And then, full attention focused on the man and the music, I didn’t see the empty stone planter in front of me until I was doing an inelegant swan dive over the top to belly flop on the paving stones with a breathless yelp.