Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Apparently he had been circling our table for a while, but we hadn't noticed.

[He found this increasingly frustrating.]

But I am ahead of myself.

After making absolutely SURE that the Loch Ness Scotch would never be seen again, Deana and I hitch hiked to the north eastern coast of Scotland and took a ferry to the Orkney Islands.

[Known for their disturbingly small ponies.]

After spending a lot of time at the wharf pretending that the ferry horns were the sound of my mighty wind escaping, we found our way to the local pub.

It was 10:30 p.m., but we were so far north that outside the windowless bar room it was still quite sunny.

We did not yet know that drinking (excessively) in an establishment without windows in the far north of Scotland would result in the eerie experience of stumbling out to broad daylight at midnight only to find yourself surrounded by a swarm of short, fat ponies.

[Effing scary Shetlands.]

Anyway, Deana and I were in the bar talking to each other about the year 1066, the Battle of Hastings and the awesomeness of flipping ones bean, when we failed to notice the tall, lanky guy circling.

Finally he gave up and came up to our table.

"When are you guys going to notice me?" he asked.

[Some line, we thought.]

"Seriously, I've been trying to get your attention for an hour. I'm by myself. You have to adopt me," he said.

He was really tall.

[He even had really tall arms and legs.]

His face kind of reminded us of Howdy Doody... if Howdy Doody had grown up to be handsome.... and really, really tall.

"I'm Hal," he said, "from Idaho."

Deana and I were from Chicago and neither of us had ever met anyone from Idaho.

Idaho was an idea as far as we knew.

Hal pulled up a chair and spent the rest of the night introducing us to his many charms.

When we finally left the bar, we saw the northern lights for the first time.

[Beats the HELL out of those weird little ponies.]

Hal traveled with us back across the water to the mainland and then down the length of western Scotland.

He parted with us at the road to the Hebrides, at which point Deana and I set out for London. I had to meet my family who were coming to spend a few weeks in Europe.

Hal met up with me in Rome and traveled with my family throughout southern Italy.

He and I parted with them in Pompeii and traveled on to Greece where I was scheduled to meet my friend Sophia.

Corfu, Athens, Santorini... Hal was there for all of it.

There was never anything romantic between Hal and I, nor Hal and Deana, but a deep and lasting friendship was created that summer.

I guess I'm thinking of Hal and Deana this morning...

Five days ago Hal and his wife had their first child, a son named Calvin.

Then, yesterday, my friend Deana put her dog Cosmo to sleep after thirteen years of loyal companionship.

Hal is elated. Deana is devastated.

Maybe it's the proximity of these happenings, birth and death, joy and grief, that remind me of the night we all met.

The sun too blindingly bright, too late, followed by the magic and mystery of the northern lights seen for the first time.


Vodka Mom said...

now that was damn nice...

Deb said...

Beautiful in every respect.

Kyla said...

This was gorgeous. I like the way your mind works.

(should I send Hal some lube? I don't want to be discriminating between your real life postpartum friends, you know.)

Assertagirl said...

It always fascinates me the way joy and pain can be subtly intertwined this way...

furiousBall said...

i bet a rodeo consisting of those little horses would be pretty boring unless the cowboys were children

AnotherMomCreation said...

breathtaking picture!

Freaky tiny horses!

we_be_toys said...

GREAT shot of the northern lights! I'm still oohing and aahhing over here.

Rachael said...

Great post.

liv said...

there is always a mix, huh? the beauty and the sadness. nice post.

Shannon said...

Hey, what a nice story that was - with the exception of Deanna's dog, I mean. Very pretty.

Ali said...

this was such a nice post..but i'm so distracted by the damn ponies...

Guinevere Meadow said...

I clicked on your "adoptic" snippet- what a great story! (And yeah, that must have been WEIRD- tiny little ponies in broad daylight in the middle of the night...STRANGE!)

Sugar said...

It's amazing how those little miracles of meeting strangers so far from home turn into life long friends.

Mandy said...

A wonderful shot to end your story on.

Am I doing okay? said...

I've got tears in my eyes. I wish I was there. Can I meet Hal?

lildb said...

breathtaking, Jess.

thanks for the (much-needed) perspective.

Beck said...

Best wishes to Hal. And poor Deana.

And EVERYONE on my grandmother's side of the family (it's not a branching family tree. More like a vine.) comes from the Orkneys, and they are much like Shetland Ponies themselves.

bzybead said...

Thanks for the memories and making me cry out of love and friendship. I didn't know Hal had his baby. . . that makes me smile.


foop said...

I love this post. Reminds me of a zen saying that says: If you are very unhappy, be patient; if you are very happy, be patient.

Is it weird that that makes me happy?

Never mind.