I parked Penelope’s car at the curb in front of the house, and got out quickly to see Bree pelting down the front stairs toward Jamie, who had stepped out of the ‘49 Ford he’d pulled carefully into the driveway. He’d been doubling back to come greet me, but hearing his daughter’s squeals, he turned and crouched down in the grass for interception.
Bree, however, was far more excited about the new car. Instead of flinging herself into Jamie’s arms, she made a sharp left and thudded herself into the front passenger door with both hands. Liking the sound immensely, she began pummeling the door further, jumping up and down and shrieking with giggles as she did so.
“No-no-no, a nighean,” Jamie said sharply as he reached her and grabbed both her hands away.
Bree jumped, startled and horrified by his harsh tone. Jamie was so unfailingly gentle with her, always, that for a moment, I thought she was going to burst out into tears. Jamie realized this, too, and quickly released her hands, laying one of his own against the gleaming paint of the car door. “Now, wee Bree, ye mustna hit our Bonnie. Ye wouldna wish to hurt her feelings by thrashing her about, aye?”
“Bonnie?” I laughed, incredulous as I came to stand with Mrs. Byrd, “Is that its name??”
“‘Tis her name,” Jamie said with dignity, though I could see the corner of his mouth twitching. To Bree, he encouraged, “Can ye say ‘hello’ to Bonnie Blue?”
Without missing a beat, Bree took a step back and waved at the car. “Hiiii-lo, Bobbie bloo!”
We all laughed and Jamie kissed her cheek. “Aye, that’s right, cub. We all must be verra gentle and sweet to Miss Bonnie so she lasts a good long while.”
Bree looked pensive for a moment, considering, then walked forward to lay an unutterably delicate kiss on the driver’s door.
“‘Inna laff-me!” she scolded as we all did. She pointed a stern finger at Jamie, then the car. “M’kissie, Da.”
Jamie opened his mouth to decline, then removed his hat and laid a soft kiss on the handle. “How’s that, cub?” he asked Bree with a grin.
“’S’okay,” she said with a curt nod, rising on tiptoes to peer in the side mirror.
Jamie laughed, standing, “She’ll keep a man verra humble, one day, that one.”
Jamie was like a bronze statue behind the wheel, impeccable and sure in his movement. It was the deliberateness, the same steeled concentration in his eye that he’d used in battle. At the wheel, he used it to be cautious, careful, erring on the side of slowness for the sake of accuracy. Still, while we were puttering along at about the same speed as an octogenarian on foot, the set of his jaw made him look so…
“Damn me, but you do look sexy doing that, Jamie.”
“Oh, aye?” he said, not taking his eye from the road, but the corners of his mouth crooked downward: a suppressed smile.
“Indeed, you do,” I confirmed matter-of-factly, scooting closer to him on the wide seat and reaching out a delicate finger to trace his arm. “Positively rakish.”
“More so than when I’m about other activities?”
“Oh, in terms of sexiness, this is ranking in your top five activities, to be sure,” I said, with mock solemnity.
He snorted. “Not that I’m no’ sensible of the compliment, but I canna quite see how turning a steering wheel should be at all rousing to ye.”
“Welll….” I kept my face intentionally composed, tracing the tendons of his right hand, feeling the strength in them as they grasped the self-same wheel. “Do you…happen to know what the kids do, when they ‘go for a drive’?”
“Other than getting to their intended destination, ye mean?”
“The destination is everything,” I said dramatically, walking my fingers up his arm. “They find a secluded spot to park the car…” I leaned forward and breathed in his ear, “…and then set about to…. not enjoy the scenery.”
He shivered at my touch and his fingers tightened a bit on the steering wheel but he didn’t seem in the least bit shocked. “Aye, seems reasonable, there being fewer cow byres and springhouses to which the youngsters might secrete themselves.”
“Oh-ho! And just who was young Jamie Fraser secreting with in cow byres, might I ask?”
“And I might just as easily inquire with whom it was that ye *didna* enjoy the scenery,Sassenach…” he said sardonically.
“Oh, really!” I swatted him, making him laugh and playfully swat me back. “Teenagers didn’t have cars when I was at the cavorting age, you oaf! Movies,” I drawled, seeing his puzzlement. “Lovers’ Lanes are common spots for young people to—” Ahah, how to explain this one? “—get murdered in gory films.”
“Jesus CHRIST, Sassenach,” Jamie said in alarm, taking his eye from the road a moment to give me a look of deep revulsion. “Folk enjoy seeing young couples getting—killed?”
“They’re not all about people getting—Oh never mind, I will get you to the cinema eventually, but anyway, I also happen to know more about driving dates than I’d wish because I have the joy of being a compulsory member of the debriefing committee for Della O’ Malley’s courting escapades.”
“Ah, our wee Della,” Jamie sighed ruefully, turning right. “She must get herself marrit, soon, or she’ll end up so entangled she’ll need to be pruned,” he laughed. “So…whereabouts is the ‘Lovers’ Lane’ in these parts, then?”
“Oh, there are many, I’m sure. But Della’s favorite was in a huge copse of willow trees near the big creek off of Plymouth Tra—”
And before my eyes, not two seconds later, the car rattled merrily onto none other… than Plymouth Trace.
“What was it ye were saying, Sassenach?”
“Why, you presumptuous wee bastard! How the bloody hell did you know?”
The wee bastard in question grinned devilishly, chancing a glance away from the road. “The lads at Fernacre as about as eager to crow about their escapades as Miss O’Malley. I figured it would be fitting to take our Bonnie here on her first trip.”
“You talk bout her like she’s our child,” I giggled.
“Dinna listen to her, Bonnie,” Jamie crooned, patting her (“HER!” pah!) fondly on the dashboard. “You’re part o’ the family now.”
We pulled into the arbor, carefully, slowly and came to rest between two of the trees that stood close together. I couldn’t help gasping as I opened the door and tripped out between the fluttering curtains of yellow-green. There were perhaps twenty willows, scattered around a lazy bend in a wide, sweet creek; tall ones, with their fronds waving gracefully in the late-afternoon breezes.
Della liked this spot, I knew, for the seclusion it provided in the dark of the evening. In the afternoon, with sunlight dappling between the leaves, though, it was—
“My thoughts exactly,” came a soft, low voice at my shoulder as his arm came around my waist.
“Flatterer,” I grinned.
“No,” he whispered, pressing me back against the side rear of car, his eyes dark with feeling.
I melted into him, reaching hungrily for his mouth as he reached for mine. I could feel the sun-warmed panels hot through my skirt as he pressed me into them, his mouth, his hands, his entire body insistent against mine.
I could feel my body rising to his, my blood pounding furiously in every vessel, crying out to him.
Jamie. My Jamie.
“Does it ever stop?” I panted, “the wanting you?”
“No,” he whispered with a soft laugh before taking my mouth again. “Never.”
A long, fevered string of moments later, Jamie’s hand left my neck (though the other continued to roam freely. A moment later I heard the springing CLONK of the rear door latch releasing. “Get inside,” he whispered hoarsely. “I’ve got to have you now.”
“In the…? I thought we were supposed to ‘be gentle to Bonnie.’”
“Oh, aye, wi’ Bonnie I’ll be gentle…. Wi’ you—” He latched his mouth into the crease of my neck and chuckled darkly as I groaned with the rush of sensation. “Now… get inside.”
I had his trousers down around his ankles in a jiffy, leaving him exposed. “Kick off your shoes,” I whispered urgently. He tried but got tangled up, and had to bend down to extricate himself. I took the opportunity to spread our picnic blanket over the back seat and clamber in.
Jamie joined me a minute later, bare-arsed, pulling the door shut behind him. He knelt before me on the floor, running his hands up under the skirt of my dress. He was smiling, but I could tell he was done with kidding around.
“You’re wearing far too many clothes, mo nighean donn,” he whispered, nuzzling my thighs, “far too many.”
While my vision was obscured by my dress flying up over my head, he set to work between my legs, eliciting a moan that surely shook the vines surrounding us. “Oh….Jamie….”
I heard—no, felt—him laugh against me, not slowing his pace one bit. It seemed hardly moments before I cried, “Ja—Jamie—I’m going—to—”
And I did, my vision going lilac with energy as i melted under his touch.
He didn’t wait long. With remarkable economy of motion, he pulled me down against him and whirled us around so that I was sitting astride him on the seat. My head almost brushed the roof but that hardly mattered. I was dizzy, spinning as I was curling my entire body around him, bending my head to him, needing more even as I throbbed.
We slid together with a sigh that seemed to emit from us both. I could feel the car rocking softly back and forth with us as I rode him, hard and desperately.
“Sassenach….” he moaned, his head pressed hard into my shoulder as he gripped my hips so hard I knew I would bruise and moved me harder, deeper, faster. One hand slid further down and used his thumb to bring me to the brink again and we were crying out together, pulsing against each other to get one more moment, one more bolt of our common magic.
When we were both spent, he let his head fall back and I slumped against him, wrapping my arms slowly around his neck, both of us one sweaty, quivering heap. The sun beamed through the rear window, bathing our still-one flesh in blissful warmth and light. I took the opportunity to study him while his eyes were closed. His hair was short and arranged, and his clothes, wherever they were, were different, but he was still the lad–the achingly sweet, caring lad–who had slept outside my door to keep away brigands in the night. So pure and loving…so…exquisite. The lines of his face; the hollows of cheek and temple; the smile that tugged at his lips even as he heaved with exhaustion. Glowing in the sunlight, he looked so beautiful, I truly wanted to cry.
I opened my mouth to tell him so, but just at that moment, he spoke. “There’s a good lass.”
I thought he was addressing me, so it came as quite a surprise then he thumped not my bare arse but the seat beside us. “If this be the time we conceive, we’ll keep ye in mind when we name the bairn.”
“You’re ridiculous,” I murmured against his mouth, barely managing it, widely as I was grinning.
“Aye,” he laughed, a little sheepishly, wrapping his arms snugly around my hips. “I’ll try to be more dignif—”
Giant chief or king of a group of supernatural creatures known as the Fomorians in Irish mythology and who may have been a god of droughts and blights.
He is also referred to as Balar, Balor Béimnech, Balor Balcbéimnech and Balor Birugderc and was known to have had an eye on his forehead that when opened, wrecked destruction. In other tales, he also had an eye on the back of his head that could petrify anyone who looked into it.
His front eye was so destructive that no army could withstand it and was also so heavy, it took four people to lift its eyelid. Later folklore said that Balor wrapped his eye behind seven cloaks to keep it cool.
When the first cloak was removed, ferns withered and died. When the second was removed, the grass reddened. On the removal of the third, wood and trees began to heat up. The trees and wood began to smoke, when the fourth cloak was taken away. When the fifth cloak was removed, everything became red hot. Finally, on the removal of the last two cloaks, the world caught fire.
He gained the eye as a child when noxious fumes from the cauldron of a druid entered it, giving him destructive powers.
Balor was the son of Buarainech and the husband of the prophetesses, Cethlenn who told him that he would die during a battle against the Tuatha Dé Danann. A later prophecy given to Balor by a druid said that he would die by the hands of his grandson leading to the giant to lock his own daughter, Ethniu in a tower on Tory Island, so that she could never have children.
His downfall came when he stole the magical cow, Glas Gaibhnenn from the blacksmith, Goibnui. According to the version written by Lady Gregory, Goibnui’s brother Mac Samthainn was tricked by Balor into giving him the cow, by disguising himself as a young boy.
When the third brother, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh, also known as Cian, heard of the trick, he met with the druidess, Birog who told him that as long as Balor lived, the cow could never be recovered. She then transported him atop Ethniu’s tower where he seduced the woman, leading her to give birth to triplets. Upon discovering this, Balor had a messenger throw the babies into a whirlpool to drown. However, the messenger accidentally dropped one child into the calm waters of the harbour, where he was rescued by Birog who took him to Cian who asks Goibnui to raise his son, who is named Lugh.
Years later, at the second battle of Battle of Mag Tuired, Balor was disarmed by Ogma and either beheaded or blasted the opposing Nuada with his eye. In retaliation, the now grown up Lugh killed Balor with a sling or a spear made by his foster father and used his eye to destroy the Fomorians.
In the tale of ‘The Gloss Gavlen’, Balor hired the blacksmith, Gobán Saor, to build him a castle so that he could boast to his fellow men. In order to make sure that no-one could either hire the blacksmith again, he attempts to have Gobán Saor killed, who only survived thanks to Ethniu’s warning. In revenge, the blacksmith had Balor’s son captured unless he was released by Balor. When Balor agreed, Saor sent a second blacksmith, Gavidjeen Go to finish his job so that they can take Glas Gaibhnenn as a reward.
However, Balor tricked the pair by not giving them the byre rope, that made sure the cow did not wander off. In order to make sure the cow did not stray, the blacksmiths hired travellers to watch the cow. One traveller, Cian, let the cow wander off and was due to be executed. He escaped with the help of the sea god, Manannán and found Balor’s daughter locked in her tower. The pair had a child, driving Balor insane. Worried, the pair gave the child to Manannán who raised the boy to become Lugh. At the end of the tale, Lugh tossed a dart at Balor as he sailed by the shore, killing him.
In another tale, it was Balor who took the cow from three brothers, killing one, Mac Kineely and two of his children when he learned that Mac Kineely had seduced his daughter, who had given birth to triplets.
Eventually, the surviving grandson grew up to become Balor’s apprentice, who let slip the truth of Mac Kineely’s murder. Enraged, the apprentice took a burning rod from a furnace and killed Balor.
Legends also say that when Balor was decapitated in battle, his eye burned an enormous hole into the ground. The hole then filled up with water, creating the lake of ‘ Loch na Súil.’
“What if we just erase 2016. What if we pretend it never happened. What if we just cross it out of the history books and tear it out of all the calendars.” - Bystanders, New York City, 2016 AD
“May this year not be placed in the reckoning of years! May it’s number be taken down from its peg in Enlil’s temple, and may its name be unspoken, to far off days, to other days, and to the end of time.” - The Lament for Ur, Ancient Mesopotamia, 2004 BC
This is the gift of being human. That across the unfathomable expanses of time, we can speak and be spoken to, hear and be heard. Across four thousand years, this writer whose name we will never know can tell us that he understands, that they have been there, that she cares.
“The sense of that country vanished- the people mourned. The country’s reason was swallowed up as if by a bog- the people mourn… My goddess of reason, your country weeps for you, your land like a child lost in the streets searches for you! Be off like an oxe to your byre, like a sheep to your fold, like a young child to your chamber, return to your people! Oh my goddess, to your house, so that the the King of the Gods may say “Enough of this madness! And restore you to your place in the world!”
Four thousand years ago, this person asked themselves how the world could ever go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. Four thousand years ago, this person asked what was even the point in human decency and goodness and light anymore when such terrible things could happen anyway. And their words, their cry for light in dark; those words have outlived every war and every battle, every call to arms and every empire, every conqueror and every conquest.
This is how far humanity can echo. Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light, and this is how long a light kindled in darkness can burn. This is the true power of the written word and of the human voice laid bare before you, This is a gift to you, written in the tears of all your ancestors who believed that day would never come again. Across the abyssal void of time, it is written, in tears and in clay and in papyri and in ink and in a hundred million voices who awoke each morning and felt and wept and dreamed and loved this world every bit as deeply as you do, “This is not the end. I have been there. You are not alone. So long as you are human, you are not alone,”
Jamie stood quite still, feeling his heart beat, watching. It was one of those strange moments that came to him rarely, but never left. A moment that stamped itself on heart and brain, instantly recallable in every detail, for all of his life.
There was no telling what made these moments different from any other, though he knew them when they came. He had seen sights more gruesome and more beautiful by far, and been left with no more than a fleeting muddle of their memory. But these—the still moments, as he called them to himself—they came with no warning, to print a random image of the most common things inside his brain, indelible. They were like the photographs that Claire had brought him, save that the moments carried with them more than vision.
He had one of his father, smeared and muddy, sitting on the wall of a cow byre, a cold Scottish wind lifting his dark hair. He could call that one up and smell the dry hay and the scent of manure, feel his own fingers chilled by the wind, and his heart warmed by the light in his father’s eyes.
He had such glimpses of Claire, of his sister, of Ian…small moments clipped out of time and perfectly preserved by some odd alchemy of memory, fixed in his mind like an insect in amber. And now he had another.
For so long as he lived, he could recall this moment. He could feel the cold wind on his face, and the crackling feel of the hair on his thighs, half singed by the fire. He could smell the rich odor of trout fried in cornmeal, and feel the tiny prick of a swallowed bone, hair-thin in his throat.
He could hear the dark quiet of the forest behind, and the soft rush of the stream nearby. And forever now he would remember the firelight golden on the sweet bold face of his son.
“Deo gratias,” he murmured, and realized that he had spoken aloud only when the boy turned toward him, startled. “What?” “Nothing.” To cover the moment, he turned away and took down his half-dry plaid from the bush. Even soaking wet,
Highland wool would keep in a man’s heat, and shelter him from cold.“
DRUMS of AUTUMN- Diana Gabaldon
Beltane, one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals, is the Celtic May Day. Historically widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, Beltane used to mark the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures.
Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth.
Special bonfireswere kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire, or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí (spirits). Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire.
In some parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness.
All hearth fires and candles would be doused before the bonfire was lit, generally on a mountain or hill.
In the 19th century, the ritual of driving cattle between two fires was still practised across most of Ireland and in parts of Scotland. Sometimes the cattle would be driven “around” a bonfire or be made to leap over flames or embers. The people themselves would do likewise.
In the Isle of Man, people ensured that the smoke blew over them and their cattle.
When the bonfire had died down, people would daub themselves with its ashes and sprinkle it over their crops and livestock. Burning torches from the bonfire would be taken home, where they would be carried around the house or boundary of the farmstead and would be used to re-light the hearth.
From these rituals, it is clear that the fire was seen as having protective powers. As a matter of fact bonfires were meant to mimic the Sun and to “ensure a needful supply of sunshine for men, animals, and plants”, but they were also meant to symbolically “burn up and destroy all harmful influences”.
Food was also cooked at the bonfire and there were rituals involving it. Everyone present would take an oatmeal cake, called the bannoch Bealltainn or “Beltane bannock”. A bit of it was offered to the spirits to protect their livestock (one bit to protect the horses, one bit to protect the sheep, and so forth) and a bit was offered to each of the animals that might harm their livestock (one to the fox, one to the eagle, and so forth). Afterwards, they would drink the caudle.
It is a tall erected wooden pole around which maypole dances take place.
The practice had become increasingly popular throughout the ensuing centuries, with the maypoles becoming “communal symbols” that brought the local community together: even poorer parishes would join up with neighbouring ones in order to obtain and erect one.
As revived, the dance consisted of pairs of boys and girls (or men and women) stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merry-makers meet at the base. There are also more complex dances for set numbers of dancers, involving complicated weaves and unweaves.
In some regions, a somewhat different Maypole tradition existed: the carrying of highly decorated sticks. The sticks had hoops or cross-sticks or swags attached, covered with flowers, greenery or artificial materials such as crepe paper. Children would take these hand-held poles to school on May Day morning and prizes may be awarded for the most impressive. This tradition is known as garlanding, and was a central feature of May Day celebrations in central and southern England until the mid-19th century.
Allt Easdal, on the southern slopes of Bentangaval, Eilean Bharraigh (Isle of Barra), Western Isles, Scotland.
People have lived in this now deserted valley for about 5.600 years. The excavation showed evidence of human occupation in Neolithic, Iron Age and 18th/19th century AD. It’s still possible to see the remains of a neolithic work platform (4000 BC) made by forming a retaining wall and then levelling a space with lots of small rocks. About 80 metres from the platform, but high above it, there are two circular stone structures. In the larger structure an almost complete pottery beaker dating the occupation to around 2500 BC. Less than 100 metres from these structures lie the remains of an Iron Age wheelhouse built around the first century BC or AD. Close to the neolithic platform there are the remains of a late eighteenth century blackhouse built on the platform with a byre and a drying house beside it.