Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Sitting in the British racing green Volvo rental, parked by the curb, I watch as a wide woman in a black raincoat and red boots, the flower on her hat askew, tries to maneuver two tall narrow dogs on long leads, one on either side of her, the high wind pushing them along.

A young mother in blue jeans, jeans jacket and hair flying, is pushing a black pram, the youngster inside barely visible through a clear window protecting it from the large raindrops.

There is a silver gray Volvo V70 parked just in front of me. An old champagne colored golden retriever sits in the back, his eyes gradually closing, then popping open again. He has one of those magnificent, expressive faces.

The sun is out again. A man emerges from the Royal Bank of Scotland holding two heavy-looking bags. Classic money bags. Perhaps for his business. He is driving a red mini-wagon, not any sort of armored car.

In a few minutes I will leave the car’s shelter and go to the flat above the nearby bookstore for a visit with local author Mary Davies. Last year when I visited, Mary served hot tea and shortbread. We sat in chairs at a window overlooking the Firth of Clyde. I spilled tea all over my lap and her chair. Embarrassing. Today we’re going out to lunch. Somewhere walking, I hope. This morning was my first drive since last year’s trip. I feel dizzy. No breakfast and new, stronger eyeglasses with prisms. That, plus the whole island seems to be rocking in the wind. I feel queasy, as though I am uneasy rider on a boat.

I ring the bell at Mary’s flat. The two wooden storm doors are narrow and a step up over a metal threshold is required. Even a slender person must angle sideways to enter. I step through and inside the second set of doors to properly greet Mary. She has dressed for our lunch in a beautiful long skirt. It looks like velvet, a soft gold color, with a muted print of burgundy colored roses. The skirt is topped with a blouse, sweater, a crystal pendant and amethyst ring. In her mid-eighties, short fine hair fringed around her fine features, standing with dignified bearing at about 5’10”, Mary is an imposing figure.

Mary’s living room and bedroom are up a winding staircase. I notice an electric stair-climbing chair at the bottom of the stairs, attached on a track. She explains that both of her hips are shot, and her doctor could do replacements, but due to a problem with her spine, the surgeries might not effectively ease the pain she experiences in walking up the stairs. As a result, Mary decided to have the chair installed instead. Its metal track winds beneath the polished baluster. She shoos me up the stairs ahead of her, then sits down and activates the chair. It hums quietly. Halfway up it stops, shifts gears with two beeps, then eases up to the second floor. I ask Mary how she felt the first time she rode her new chair, thinking she might say it was a little frightening. But no, Mary clapped her hands together and said “Wonderful!”

Mary has published four books:

The Journey: An Autobiography Spanning Two Thousand Years
and three Arran novels: Quiet Waters, Shifting Sands and The Restless Tide

She tells me the last novel took so much out of her that she feels now that she will not write anymore, but rather turn her attention back to painting. We watch the water turn colors from her large picture window, and wait for another sun shower before making our way to Bilsands for lunch.


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