Dunkeld Christmas preparation


24th December 2022


15th February 2024

Earlier in the year, we booked a dinner-bed-and-breakfast deal for Christmas Eve’s eve, as much for corporeal as spiritual health. Before he knew what was happening, the cat was dropped at his aunties’ place and we were in our favourite winter woodland. The intention was to unwind on the approach to Christmas Day; to hit pause on the processes of work, study, shopping and the rest. It worked a charm. We didn’t book the suite we had when we were married at the Dunkeld House Hotel but our room was enough for the purpose.

The Hermitage Fuji X-T2, Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens.

There was plenty of time to enjoy a slow wander around the Hermitage before check-in. We took cameras, but not the usual paraphernalia of tripods and filters. Very soon, the life-giving oxygen of the trees respiring reached our lungs and Mother Nature cwtched us both. That feeling never gets old and before long we were on speaking terms with the residents again.

Notices seem to have discouraged the previously trending habit of visitors forcing coins into any tree stump. Like most popular excesses, it’s neither healthy nor tasteful, like those repetitive memes you see. I’m glad the coin habit seems to be on the wane, even if the endless banality of social media is anything but. Oh, look, there’s yet another New Year’s resolution.

The soundscape on a walk around the Hermitage trail is varied, especially in the winter when the River Braan is swollen with meltwater from the recent snow. I didn’t record it: it’s white noise in a browser. Perhaps the picture will help you hear the rushing of the whitewater over rocks on the fall by Ossian’s Hall.

On the other side of the A9, the Tay wanders beside the hotel, altogether a more dignified spectacle than the its manic neighbour, the Braan. Alongside that river is the “dookit” or stone structure where we were married in the gentle Perthshire rainfall, with poetry and music and prayer. We walked down to remind ourselves and renew the feelings of that day. It was beautiful, of course.

So, now, I write this on the “other side” of the Christmas celebrations we were preparing ourselves for; the joys and excesses, catechisms and exchanges of gifts, avoided topics, revelations and ghosts of those departed. That one night away, to worship in the cathedral of nature, to enjoy someone else cooking, to be ourselves for ourselves, was not only the perfect preparation for the bacchanalian feast, but also a shahada for the year ahead.

Nature’s Cathedral Fuji X-T2, Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens.