We have just had a lovely couple of days with my brother Steve, his wife Kate and little Jamie. Lots of sillyness and laughter, too much food and not a lot of sleep. I only wish my sister could have been there too- but life has thrown us all into a complication of geography and distance.
This morning we intended to take a walk through Dunoon, but it was lashing down with rain, so we went to Castle House museum. I have only been once before- years ago- and we were wondering whether they would have any information about our house- who lived here previously, what it was used for etc.
Because here is where we are, and being fully here seems to me to involve an appreciation of connection- with family and friends now, but also with who has been here before us.
I discovered today that behind where we live there was an Episcopalian church- made of corrugated iron, which eventually burnt down. And a little further back into the woods is a mound that was thought to be a Roman Fort.
What we discovered about our house turned out to be a little more than we expected. Maps of the plot of land before the house was built, old land records listing the details of the person who built it, a Robert Donaldson, who seems to have been an instrument maker from Glasgow. We need to go back to dig a little deeper into the copper plate records, but another thing we discovered is that our house used to be a ‘nursing home’- not in the sense of elderly care, but rather a place where people went to give birth to babies, or to recover from illness. It was called ‘St Margaret’s nursing home’ and there are people alive today in Dunoon (and elsewhere) who were born here.
Scratch the surface, scrape back the paint and peeling paper, and there are whole lives laid out before us. The hopes, aspirations, triumphs, disappointments and tragedies of those who used to be here, but now are elsewhere.
It is humbling, but also makes me grateful.
(Not least as this week, Michaela and I have been married 21 years!)