I have invited several of my writing colleagues to share an essay in answer to this prompt: “What lingers in your memory about a specific place, perhaps a recent vacation or a place you’ve lived? How did this place, or your travels, influence your creative process?” Tracy Nelson Maurer shares the memories of a recent and long-planned trip to Scotland.
For twenty years, my Scottish friend, Viv, and I talked about traveling to her home country. We finally bought airfare and made the journey this October, just as the autumn leaves reached their colorful crescendo. Swaths of vivid yellow larch and birches contrasted with hilly stands of deep green pines. Ocher moors wedged between mossy green mountains. In the Highlands, bright white waterfalls tumbled down stony ravines. I took picture after picture.
I journaled as we traveled, too. I noted what we saw and where we saw it. The scenery! The history! The astounding reverence for their writers! Sir Walter Scott, the “inventor” of the historical novel, is honored in Edinburgh with the world’s tallest monument to a writer.
We stayed in the historic home where he lived; I drank coffee looking out the same window where this literary legend once did. (!!)
Other writing-related highlights included visiting the Writer’s Museum and the International Storytelling Festival. We drank lattes at the Elephant Café where J.K. Rowling could glance out to the Edinburgh Castle while she wrote. We ventured to the viaduct where the Hogwarts Express churned toward the wizarding school. And everywhere, I took photos—about 400 of them in just 10 days.
Now that I’m home again, I’ve looked at the images and re-read my journal. Together, they conjure memories of more sensory details: the peppery taste and paste-like consistency of haggis; the joyful bark of the sheepdog herding the flock on the hillside outside Viv’s parents’ home; the salty breeze off the Atlantic at Applecross. This trip to Scotland, so full of memories for my friend and so ripe with writing connections for me, inspires me to translate the experiences into words beyond a matter-of-fact record. Perhaps that is what truly special places do.
Tracy Nelson Maurer has written more than 100 books for children and young adults, mostly nonfiction titles. She loves to travel almost as much as she loves to read and write. tracymaurerwriter.com