Paths Cross With the Past On a Highland Road

THAT dear little lady somewhere in western Scotland could never know the number of times she has been a positive force in my life. I've had many teachers along the way - school, piano, ballet, art college, and others - who have influenced me in significant ways, but none so vibrantly as this lady.

I just happened to look out of the car window to my left, as my husband and I parked by the side of the road. We were pondering the Scottish equivalent of an AAA Travel Guide. Should we have turned right instead of left at the last fork?

As I looked, I saw a glow of a person walking toward us. Her hair, apron, and needlework were white; her ankle-length cambric dress was soft blue; and her cheeks were sunrise pink.

It was then that I noticed three small houses way off the road, side by side in an otherwise empty setting. It was a bowl of landscape cradled at a distance by rising highlands.

``Good mor-r-rning,'' she said, or rather cooed. ``Is ther-r-re something I can do for-r-r you?''

She came toward us, crocheting as she walked, with hands held close to her waist.

After recovering quickly from a feeling that I had been suddenly transported to the imaginary village of Brigadoon, I eagerly responded with, ``Oh, yes! We don't know where we are and we don't know how to get there!''

Seeing instantly a need to clarify, I followed with: ``At the last fork, we had our choice of turning right or left to go to Oban. Now we are not sure we have made the right choice.''

The woman said, `` `Ither-r-r way will lead to Oban.''

``Well then,'' I said, ``in that case, which road would have the least traffic?'' (Obviously, in this sparsely settled terrain, a question from another world.)

Then, with a smile and the warmest, most endearing voice, she said, `` `Ither-r-r way, dear-r-rie, ther-r-re'll be plenty of r-r-room for-r-r you.'' And the ``you'' came with a lilting tune.

Then she added, ``You will be so glad that you came this way, for when you go up this lovely cur-r-rving road to the top of the ben, you will see a pr-r-retty sign that says, `R-r-rest and be thankful.' It is a lovely view ther-r-re.'' Her words trailed off in happy wonder.

After a few more moments of pleasantries, we folded our road guide and quietly drove off from that spot of benign encounter. I felt misty-eyed and complete from that interval of love so effortlessly expressed to two American travelers adrift in the highlands. The simple radiance of that meeting, far from village or town, was a transcendent experience. The sweet little lady moved in peace and harmony with her world.

On we went, wending up the ``ben'' until we reached the top. On the left side of the road was the sign, close to the ground, trim, neat, and reverent in its gold-on-black display: ``Rest and be thankful.'' And so we did - and stayed our journey for a lengthy time.

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