Aldourie Castle… An Essay by Hannah Baker

The day my life was changed was the day I first laid eyes on the most magnificent piece of architecture I have ever seen. For me, being in such a glorious place inspired me more than words can describe. I felt as though I was in a dream; like the experience I was honored with, was something out of the books I would read, full of tall tales that test the boundaries of the imagination and transport you to a majestic land where you truly feel like the storybook hero, on an adventure of a lifetime to change the world. How could something so fantastic happen to me in my nearly ordinary life?
I stepped out of the car and felt the crisp breeze that swept off the lake and nipped my face. As I crossed the driveway, my feet crunched the white pebbles while I drug my suitcase toward the entrance. The moment was unreal to me, I was in utter disbelief until I finally zapped back into the distinct reality that this was, indeed, happening to me, I was, indeed, standing in front of Aldourie Castle, on Loch Ness, in Scotland!

The castle was grand, the first thing I saw as I passed through the doorway, abandoning my suitcase, was the hard wood floor. It was caramel colored and smooth looking with the natural groove of the wood visible under the sheen that the light reflected. I was captivated by the gloriously high ceilings and golden chandeliers that lit up the room and the rose colored walls. I noticed that the gold framed artwork hung from the ceiling by gold chains. The chains were attached to a gold pipe that skirted the entire room, right under the ceiling. Some paintings hung by two chains attached to the bottom of the painting above it; it was common to see two or more paintings hung from one another. Each was always a tasteful and unique masterpiece, which added to the luxurious nature of the 18th century castle.

My shoes clicked and echoed as I strolled into the grand room. There was a large fireplace curtained by a soft, tan, marble mantelpiece. In my elation of the moment, I called out to my mother who was sharing the experience with me.

“Mom!” I exclaimed, “Isn’t this amazing?” her blue eyes were wide with the same excitement that lit up her face. Her voice echoed off the white, decoratively plastered ceiling and carried through the vastly spacious room

“This is really cool!” she said. My mom had long, curly, thick, brown hair with few grey streaks the sun occasionally caught. The curls bounced when she walked and brushed across her back when she looked up at the ceiling. She was five, feet two inches and her long-sleeved plaid over shirt was tied around the waist of her blue denim jeans. The sides of it dangled at her knees. She carried a large Canon camera around her neck which she bought specifically for the trip. We were both so excited to be there for my good friend Amber’s wedding.

As I circled the room I was immediately taken by the sight of a baby grand piano to the right of a patio door. I strode over to it and placed my fingers over the smooth unknown white keys; they were cold to the touch. Although I knew they were new to me, I felt as though nothing in this place could be foreign; it was as though the castle was my home, and I had only been away for sixteen years. I began to play a special song that I had taught myself years before. It was an elegant piece that kindled the moment, and deepened the already warm welcoming feeling I had. The music was soft and mesmerizing, it swept me up as the sound of each key, perfectly tuned, rang aloud in the open room. Suddenly, my focus was broken and the tune cut short as I was ushered away from the piano to prepare for the rehearsal of the wedding.

I quickly gathered my things and a host of the castle led my mother and I through the doorway to the right of the mantel fireplace. There we were immediately met with a spiral staircase. The cold, grey, concrete steps looked massive but were only about five feet in width. Naturally, instead of holding the rope railing for the stairs as the others did, I went up on the narrowest part of the stairs dragging my suitcase along with me. I wanted to see how close I could make it before I could no longer walk there. With one hand, I held the base of the spiraling concrete and inched my way up, ducking from the flight above me and catching glimpses of the outside view from the little windows that lined the wall. When we reached the second floor we turned down a long carpet lined corridor that led to our room. The carpet was a vibrant red pattern which was apparently the theme of the hallway, because the ceiling high curtains were also red tartan. The carpet was soft under my feet after just walking up the hard concrete steps.

When we got to our room I rushed to get ready with barely enough time to look around. There was a white stone fireplace mantelpiece and a four post queen size bed. I rushed to the door on the opposite side of the room and opened it to see a huge shared bathroom, with yellow painted walls with black and white pictures painted on them, in the same chain like fashion of those in the main hall. There was a clawfoot tub with two separate faucets for hot and cold water. There was a black and white marble countertop with two sinks. In the corner, there was a toilet with a pull chain flushing mechanism attached to the high tank about six feet up the wall. At that point, I was very late for the rehearsal I was supposed to be present in. I went back downstairs, to tend my responsibilities, but I was sad to leave the castle unexplored.

My first initial reaction to the castle was denial crossed with fascination. I could not fathom the idea that I was actually in a castle in Scotland! It was everything I expected it to be and more. It was a luxury I had never experienced, it was romantic and antique, yet modern and captivating. Returning to my reality seemed absurd after a taste of that life. Normal life was so ordinary compared to the experience I had just had, and I was not ready for it. The events of the two weeks I spent there were life changing for me, and they are ones I will likely never forget. The day I had to leave, I did not want to. The weather felt extra bitter that day, likewise, my heart felt bitter for having to leave. It was only a few days before my sixteenth birthday in September, and I was dreading the day of our departure. I remember watching out of the window of the car as we slowly drove away, refusing to break eye contact for fear it would be our last look. The castle sat warmly lit against the afternoon overcast grey sky, and as we turned the corner of the driveway, I will always remember it for how beautiful it looked in that moment. The image rests permanently in my mind to serve me as a steady reminder that one day I will return.


10,000 Miles


It’s been 3,419 days since you left. How many miles, I wonder.

The morning is weighted with the loss of you.

Countenance relaxed my tears fall into my coffee like great drops of rain off the tip of a dark leaf.  

Here I am dove, my essence is here to greet your memory.

Outside the air is fresh and the birds are arriving to remind me that time moves us forward.

Inside the sense of Normal springs into action intruding on my internal visit to that timeless place where I look for and tryst with you. Go away Normal. I am adept at guarding our time together.

I remember the soft thickness of the hair on top of your golden head and that sweetest of places behind your ear… that one spot where the fine golden hair on your soft, soft skin felt like silk. I stroke it once again loving you, holding you in my arms and smelling your little girl smell.

The tears roll down.. my nose is dripping now too.

No one can ever be here with us. It is always only you and I and my heart breaks again into infinite pieces mourning you while I spend time with your precious/ memory.

The sound of your voice echo’s in the universe of my soul.. a part of me forever your laughter and lilt bringing the image of your eleven year old brilliance blazing back into view as you race to the barn after the red pony that dumped you that day in the tall, autumn grass of your life…

Yes. I am shattered in part… forever that part of me, only to be mended when we are together again.

It is my will

It is my right

It is no one else’s


Hannah’s Puppy

I found this document on my daughter’s computer this morning… Just wanted to share it as it is so fitting. She wrote it when she was thirteen, five years after the car accident. It’s about Shomar. It is unedited 🙂

Hannah’s Puppy

By: Hannah

Once upon a time there lived a young girl named Hannah. Hannah was enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving meal with her family when her parents called her away from her delicious creamy mashed potatoes and gravy that she was beginning to get very excited to eat. Nevertheless, she could not ignore her parents beckon, for they were her parents.

Poor Hannah was in a horrible accident where she had lost her closest sister and grandfather. So Hannah was very lonely growing up, until this Thanksgiving when her parents called her over to talk to her. They began by saying that they knew she had lost her closest sister and best friend; then mom said “And because of that, we want to get you a puppy. We know you are going to be very lonely without Michayla, and we think a puppy will reduce that somewhat.” I was so overjoyed I didn’t know what to say! So they continued. They said it was going to be a Boston Terrior – not too small, but just big enough to be a lap dog .

Hannah was so happy! She thanked them what seemed like a million times and gave them a huge hug, then ran back to enjoy her mashed potatoes which seemed to taste even better than before, all the while thinking, “A puppy of my very own.” They went to pick him up and called him Shomar which means “guardian,” and he lives happily ever after guarding his precious Hannah to this day, October ninth, 2011.


Why I Write


Writing is a vehicle for the impressions, thoughts and feelings generated in my being when verbal expression is somehow deficient. I haven’t written a lot in my 52 years, in fact I didn’t write anything meaningful until the cold fingers of personal tragedy clawed their way into my life, crystallizing the river called my soul.

I have always been one of those people who can’t resist picking up and smoothing my fingers over the cover and empty pages of a beautiful journal, humble composition book or notepad, or opening a book and sticking my nose inside to smell the distinct aroma of words on paper and agedness. Pens and pencils, colored and not,  abound in the drawers of my house and the pockets of my backpack, my favorites relegated to that carefully selected place of honor in whatever form of luggage I am currently carrying.

Even the act of putting pen to paper and forming letters leading to words is akin to an act of worship. I say that carefully as my personal religious beliefs are quite specific when it comes to worshipping other deity’s (lol).  And so you would think that I would revel in the desire to write, after all what an opportunity to gleefully put quill to paper and neatly realize my cravings as part of the process.

I tried. The stack of unfilled journals in my house attest to my sincere devotion to the concept of writing down my soul. The entries are sporadic at best and usually morphed into lists of various sorts (another one of my great talents is list making which isn’t a bad way to put pen to paper).  I just couldn’t wrangle the elusive presentiments roiling inside me into any sort of graceful or witty fashion onto the page. Writing seemed so cumbersome.

After most of my children were out of grade school and making their young adult lives happen, I found myself working which included answering various correspondences. I did that job well enough but nothing sparked my desire to write like a nasty letter. I loved crafting the words to righteously fire back with a defense. I discovered how easy it was to formulate and write using the computer… it was so easy to delete, re-write, cut and paste and having access to an instant, digital dictionary/thesaurus was euphoric!!

I love the CRAFTING of it…  The left side of my brain craves the logistics of it, how precisely I can convey my thoughts and feelings. Words make pictures and the work involved in finding the perfect words and phrases to frame the smears of color I place on my canvas is extremely gratifying. Writing for me is creating art and art is expression and now that I have a tool to build my thoughts with I write!

So in time I will be posting pieces I have written from the past and creating new ones to share. It’s a very personal window into my soul. I hope you appreciate it.

Connie Em


October 26 2015

There are times in life when you wish you could fall down and not get up. Yesterday was one of those days.. the long awaited Oregon rain ruined by the inconceivably cold, hard reality of an irreplaceable best friend and companion mowed down on a careless country highway, cold and hard.

The loss of a family member is a devastating thing, let alone the loss of two family members. And then there is the loss of a family member who saw you through the first losing.. I am noting to myself the proper spelling of ‘losing’ .. it seems no one knows how to spell anymore..

Some beings are full of light and they share that light with you in your darkest hours. The bulldog embodied that light and more bringing his sweet Boston Terrier charm and intuitiveness to help us through those long days, weeks and years of overwhelming grief and mourning.

The day we picked up the tiny, rat-like puppy followed the worst ordeal of our lives. Purchasing the pup was a reflexive act following the loss of my youngest child’s next-older sibling, taken in a devastating car wreck that also claimed the life of their grandfather. The pup was a living, warm, pitiable being that in the helping, assisted us in keeping our focus on something alive… somewhat that is. It is a gruesome fact that when people leave you in this life, despite the memories that act as placeholders in your heart, there is a deafening, reverberating darkness that sometimes threatens to swallow you whole.

My daughter, then eight, gathered up the scrawny, tiny pup and focused. There is something about the face of a Boston Terrier that endears like no other breed and yet there are those people upon whom the terrier’s charm is lost. I once had a friend who claimed he looked like ‘a bat on steroids’… I will admit that in his more comical moments that opinion wasn’t wholly unjustified, but to Hannah and I he was always beautiful.

As I am writing this I watch the geese flying through the fall sky… my graceful fall and winter companions for nine years, their poignant honking through the cool, crisp air, never fails to take me back to those numb days following the wreck. I watch their beautiful flight against the backdrop of an early morning sky and am amazed at the timing of this current loss, also in October. I don’t ever think of myself as old, but as I notice myself in the mirror this morning.. a day later. I look like a tired, old lady. Tomorrow will be better.