Grandpa Jim

He came to me last night
And stood quietly by my bed
A tall man, broad shouldered
Straight back
Wearing a peaked wool cap
Long coat of finest
Harris Tweed
Just like the ones so many men wore
When I was but a child

A think it was my Grandfather
The Ship’s Engineer
His first name was Jim
And I remember him so vividly
When sitting on his knee
And looking at his hands
Especially the gold and sapphire ring
He brought home from his voyages
To India
And he would recite the alphabet for me
To learn Hindustani
I would look into his worn face
Teeth stained brown from Tobacco
And at the same time
Repeat the words I still recall
From long ago

He avoided company
Would quietly cross a room
Slide up the window
Climb out to retreat to
The dim, cool silence
Of his garden shed
I guess we all thought him ill mannered
But now with time and losses of my own
Remembering him sitting smoking
In his favourite chair
I think he really wasn’t there
But back aboard his ship
Feeling the constant rock and sway
Storms, or stillness, or salty spray
Upon his weathered face

He came to me last night
And stood quietly by my bed
Saying nothing, only breathing deep
While I in sleep
Recalled him….a solitary man
Heart torn apart with longing for the sea.

I think he wanted to tell me
He understood
For I too, am sick with it.

MargaretArlen ©️
For Jim, my Grandfather and for my children and their children……
Just now, from mind to fingers to IPad.

In Essence

And there are times
To simply hold you close
Be still
Breathe your breath
To know you live
To know you’re mine
To know you love me
As I do you…..

Deo Gratias
It is enough


For Jamie and Claire


He was rain soaked
Blood smeared
And wounded
When we dismounted…..
The chill air came down
Engulfing me
For we had been riding
Through long nights and days
I had already become used to the ways
Of him
His voice, his smell
The heat of him….
And lowered my eyes
That he might not see
My wanting him.

For despite the strangeness
Of this time and place
I could hardly bear to feel the space
That now separated me from him…..

He was rain soaked
Blood smeared
And wounded…..
And I could barely wait
To lay my healing hands on him
To walk through that grim Castle door
And feel once more
The heat of him.

MargaretArlen ©️
For Jamie and Claire




Everybody loved him
Claire, the heart and soul of him
Knew him for who he was
Needed to be

A bloody man
A warrior born and bred
But at home, at rest
He was kindness itself
Husband, Father, Chieftain
Provider, Protector

But to the children
Who he sat upon his knee
He was simply “Granda”
As he told them stories
Wiped away their tears
As they vied for his attention
As they plaited his hair

As he lifted one upon his shoulders
Held the smallest girl’s hand
“Oh aye”, he said
To each of them
Crowding all around him
Handing each a sweet
Teaching them to swim
To hunt
To fish

Then looking up
He sees Claire watching
From her Surgery window
Lovelight in her eyes
Her secret smile
Feels himself quicken
Still burns for her
A sudden need…..
Returns the smile….with interest

“Oh aye”, he says again
“Now off wi’ ye and play
Yer Grannie needs me”
They turn, running, tumbling, squabbling
But he hears nothing
But her soft, steady breathing
As she reaches up
Removes the spectacles from his tousled auburn head
Takes him by the hand
And leads him to their bed.


MargaretArlen ©️

Summer, Central Victoria, Australia 2019

IN A HEARTBEAT…..a message from him…..

“I have a few free days, I’d like to see you….want to see you. Meet me by the lake, late afternoon. Will you come?”

“Yes”, simple as that.

She will go, and with palms outstretched, take what is offered.

Let this be clear, perfect, understanding….this, is what there is.


Driving down the road, her inner dialogue begins, and seeing it, hearing it clearly, speaks firmly.

“I will NOT compare myself with her….a young girl who looks as though

 she has just changed out of school uniform. I am absolutely NOT going there, or I will turn the car, head straight back home and shut the door on him, on all of it.”

But the door stands open and she will go, let herself accept what is.

Arriving, leaving her car parked by the tiny cabin, she walks towards the lake….. its still surface shimmering.

Sits down absorbing the peace.

Dragonflies hover in the late afternoon sun. A fish leaps then disappears leaving circles expanding. Masses of tiny birds swoop and dive over a stand of rushes, their voices a high excited peeping as they hunt clouds of insects, hatching. 

And then his hand is on her shoulder, a sudden heavy warmth….he must have walked in from the road, she heard no car.

He turns her to him, and quietly against her mouth, “Sorry, I am sorry,” kisses her, softly, then an arm around her shoulders, they sit in silence….adjusting themselves once more, one to the other, their breathing easing, slowing, as the light begins to fade, as shadows from the blue green trees throw patterns on the lake. Light and shade upon the water.

She wakes, deep in the night, still held in his arms.  Moonlight streams through the open door, a holy benediction. Reaches up, touching his face, the graceful sweep of eyelids, his thick closed lashes lending him a childlike innocence, bathed in light and shadow. Breathes deep the strong male smell of him, mixed with the sharp tang of their sex. He comes quickly awake , so close he can see the gold green colours of her iris, the pupils hugely dilated, and pulling her to him falls and falls deep into their colours as he enters her again, as she takes him deep, her hands cupping his buttocks, as they rock each other, slowly, still gazing one into the other, mouths tasting this shared blessing, rocking to a rhythm entirely their own…..bringing each other home until once more they fall asleep.

Morning comes, bright clear and icy cold.  Clothing themselves quickly, they go out to gather kindling, arms of chopped firewood, neatly stacked and sheltered from the weather.  Soft rain begins to fall, wetting their hair, their shoulders as they hurry inside, drop the wood by the stove, turn smiling, wiping droplets off each other’s faces.  An unspoken agreement to speak only of themselves, each other.  If he wishes to tell her about the girl, she will let him, but for now, cocooned in this early morning joyfulness, there is no one in the room but them.

And sitting at the table with thick brown toast, marmalade, fruit and good strong coffee, they speak of simple things, sharing good plain food and conversation, constantly touching.  She feels her pulse slow once more, as they  reach that point of peacefulness.  And the rain quickens, falls heavy on the small tin roofed cabin, a drumming heartbeat as he stands up, pulls her to him……”come back to bed”, he says.

The flames glow in the wood fire stove, and rekindled once more in them.

A thousand years of pain, of loneliness, of living, fall away…..she is once more a child, a girl, a young woman…..rebirthed in this narrow bed, her hands cradling  his head , gazing into infinity.



THIS IMAGE, THIS MOMENT in First Wife has stayed with me from the first viewing, and with each revisit, I am left with the same strong emotions.

AT ONE STAGE, further along in the story, Bree asks Claire what Jamie is….Laird, Chieftain, Warrior, Soldier…..does he know what he is? And her mother, busily pounding herbs for a tincture, says “Oh yes, your father knows. He is a Man…..and that is no small thing.”

This scene was written for Television….it isn’t in VOYAGER, and it’s one of those perfect additions that compliment Diana’s Story….in fact adds to it, in such a beautiful way.

HERE IS A MAN torn apart by conflict, with his second wife Laoghaire, and the love of his life, his heart and soul, Claire, his newly returned to him, First Wife.

We all know what has gone before these photos….the shock, anger, both blaming the other, rage, passion, betrayal and above all else, fear….fear and misunderstanding.
Jamie is SO afraid of losing Claire again, and yet, when wee Joanie cries out “Da”, “Ma”, her face contorted with anguish, Jamie walks away from Claire, and we see him here…..putting his fear aside, to tend to wee Joanie.

“Who’s that woman?” she asks of him, and he stands there, answering her.
“She’s my wife, my first wife Claire…. I thought she was dead, but by the grace of god, she returned to me.”
And wee Joanie, brilliantly portrayed by Layla Burns, lifts up her face to him, asking.
“Wha’ about Ma?” Those words, the sorrow on her face, pierced my heart.
And Jamie tells her, gently, patiently “Your mother and I didna have a bond, that keeps two people together.” And she says to him “And you do with this woman?”
“Aye”, he says, “I do.”

THIS IS WHAT MAKES A MAN…..this ability to put aside every raging emotion that burns in his gut, his terrible fear that his soul mate will leave him, and comfort this small child.
This child he read stories to, took fishing, embraced with love, as his own even though she was not his kin. And as he tells her to go find Marsali, he drops down onto the stairs,sitting for a moment, catching his breath. The little girl walks a few steps, then turning, flings herself into his arms, and he enfolds her against his big body, once more, comforting her.

AND THEN, ONLY THEN, does he return upstairs to Claire.

AN ACTOR HAS TO DIG DEEP, and this is to me what Sam Heughan is.
Yes, he’s acting, but drawing from the deepest core of who he is, this rare, lovely, big hearted human. It is my belief that you cannot Act with this level of emotional integrity unless it’s a natural part of who you are.

A MAN !!!

MargaretArlen ©️
Spring. Central Victoria Australia 2019

Photos belong to STARZ


TIME TRAVEL, The all pervading sense that it’s real, that in another space and time my Ancestors exist….that they live, going about their daily lives unaware that they are dead. I am in a constant state of emotional turmoil….my head cannot grasp the concept at the same time as I am buying into it completely. We all have, haven’t we?

AND THERE’S THAT BOX OF LETTERS ….Sent from Jamie and Claire across the span of two hundred years, where they finally arrive at Jamie’s old home Lallybroch, to be read by Bree and Roger, and eventually to their Grandchildren. An act of Faith.

Listening to An Echo in the Bone a few days ago, I once more felt the sharp sting of tears as I hear Jamie’s voice speaking across the void of time…..December 31, 1776
“My dear daughter, as you will see if ever you receive this, we are alive.”
And yet, as Roger reads this to Brianna, we all know they are by now, surely dead.
Those letters, some written on the paper Bree made herself with tiny inclusions of an insect’s wing, a small flower petal or leaf, still in good condition, real, held, touched with love and awe, and read as we do the books, over and over again.
Bree sometimes feels the need to open the box when Roger’s away…..just to touch the same paper her parents have touched, to hold them close, sure as she opens the box that a soft whiff of medicinal herbs floats up and out through the opening lid….knowing the painful difficulties her beloved father has to endure to write to her specifically, with his maimed right hand.
“It is the Feast of all Saints….pray for me.”…..and her tearful response…..”Bloody man, I knew you’d make me cry.”

I cannot wrap my head around how those letter arrive in the Twentieth Century, I understand the concept, I believe they have arrived, yet no matter how many times I hear or read this story I am left asking the same question….”how did that box of precious letters travel through time???”

In a phone conversation with my eldest son today, he asked as he always does, what I was doing….so I told him I’d been searching for photos of handmade paper and an appropriate box for the piece I was writing tonight. That got us, mainly me, talking about Ancestry….about the very few precious details I have found out very recently.
And mentioning Outlander and the idea of time travel, I found myself too choked up to speak….I was trying to tell him that because of this extraordinary story, I feel my Ancestors near me, in a way I never had before. I suggested to him that perhaps they still exist in their own bubble of time…..My Grandmother and Great Grandmother, Little Tailors in London…..the three generations of Scottish Sea Captains…..of course I carry them with me, they live on through me…..but I meant more.
Are they still doing what they did, even though I’ve read the dates of their deaths.
I couldn’t go on, as my son spoke gently to me, patient, perplexed, puzzled.
He’s not been seduced by this strange, mysterious story…..that asks so many questions of us….leaves us caught up in its perfect, elusive mystery.

THE BOX OF LETTERS is an ongoing Enchantment.

MargaretArlen ©️
Summer, Central Victoria, Australia 2020

Random excerpts from An Echo in the Bone
By Diana Gabaldon

Photos of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are property of STARZ


Time Flies, Somewhere Somebody Dies…..

Bracing myself
For the terrifying ravages
Of daily life
The deep dissatisfaction
Of food shopping
Account paying
Who will
If I don’t
Yet, where is there time
To dream
Live life fully
The bed needs fresh clean linen
Weeks ago
Days of dishes
Piled neatly in the sink
No time for Art
For writing the words
Cluttering my mind
Like a swarm of bees
As I think…..

Soft grey clouds
Of shed hair
From cats and dog
Drift about the floor
While I dream of
Culloden moor
Jamie and Claire
How will they fare
And Iris’s want gathering
To plant before
Night falls
My heart calls out
In desolation
For maybe rather
A wild nesting place
Than this domestic socalled grace……

Nick Cave mourns in
Deep soft tones
His heart ‘s love’s
Long Black Hair
And I care
For all and every living soul
While dwelling in
My prison hole
Of hard won security….

Why me
Who’d live like
Beloved Ravens on the wing
Harsh voice broken
As I forget to sing
For daily duty calls
I sip a fiery taste
Of single Malt
Butt out my cherished
And get up
Go out the door
Armed with Iggy Pop
And Lust for life
To fortify me
Against mediocrity
And so
Food shopping
Accounts paying
Into the car
I go

MA. ©️ Winter 2016

More stories 💚💚💚


circa 1993/5 Living beneath Mount Alexander, on a farm feeding out onto narrow dirt roads leading to Apple Orchards, it was the perfect environment for Gracie Rose to ride her pony, Star. If there were no other riders on any particular day, she would ride ahead, with me and our dogs, Sophie and Winston, following slowly behind in the car. Safety measures….you don’t ride up the mountain alone….ever. And so, she would trot off ahead, long hair streaming out behind, arms stretched out either side, like a bird, practising balance, posture and leg work. Such a sight. Then we would separate, she taking tracks up and into the forest, me, sticking to the road….meeting again at the top…..perhaps exploring the Oak Forest (strangely stunted with overcrowding), but lovely nonetheless. There was also a practical side to these ventures. Old hessian feed bags packed earlier, would be collected once we reached the pine forest. There, she would dismount, tether Star, while the dogs ran free and we filled the bags with pine cones….fast burning fuel for our fire, beneath the red gum or yellow box we added later. On this particular day, having loaded the filled bags, Gracie rode off, heading down the mountain towards home…..and I decided to walk, dogs beside me, up to a lookout nearby….. Continued…. IN THE PINES…. I’m remembering this was around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, the horror of it seeped into everyone’s consciousness…..that insane, mindlessly brutal slaughter….just because!!! To make matters worse, I had just finished reading “Red Dragon”, by Thomas Harris (more horror….don’t ask, I have no idea why, but the gruesome story stayed with me). The dogs and I stayed at the lookout, looking out….all the way beyond the patchwork of orchards below, to tiny Harcourt , outwards to Castlemaine and way beyond to mountains in the distance, the air filled with a lovely blue haze. As we turned back, towards the car, some 300 feet away, I saw him……a slender, long haired young man in check shirt and jeans, walking uphill through the Pines towards me, carrying a rifle. That, in the circumstances would have been unsettling (I was completely alone, away from any houses, any other people), but what was so chilling was what he did….there was a brief moment of realisation….we saw each other, and then he simply stepped behind a tree, hiding himself. Adrenaline coursed through me, and so full of fear for myself and the dogs, I called them in an urgent whisper, walking fast (wanting to run, but also not wanting him to know how afraid I was), thankfully with the dogs running at my side, instinctively obedient , we reached the car, climbed /jumped in and drove away…..and thankfully he, the shooter, stayed hidden. All the way back down the mountain I gave thanks to the god I don’t believe in…..a mantra of gratitude…..for our safety…..our lives. And back home, immersed in daily practicalities…..rugging horses for the night, herding ducks, chooks and geese into the safety of their pens, feeding them all, I thought about it!!! WHY DID HE HIDE??? and, if he hadn’t, and continued walking straight up towards me, carrying a rifle….would that have been any better??? Probably not. All these years later, I think he was possibly a kid out shooting rabbits, without a license…. or???? I will never know……but I’ll be very pleased not to ever go through that experience or anything close, again!!! Continued….. IN THE PINES…..ON ANOTHER DAY, and a short, sharp moment of Acute Embarrassment !!! Way up there, away from everyone, everything, with just the silence of our feet padding across thick layers of pine needles , the soft soothing murmer of wind above whispering through the big dark trees…..the comfort of shelter underneath ….and a sense of privacy. Fortunately it was a time of loose fitting, layered clothing, long skirts and boots….and having filled our bags with cones for the fire….Grace and the dogs meandering somewhere nearby, I squatted down, lifted my skirts and started to pee….why not, nobody to see. Caught midstream, while I was scrutinizing the ground at my feet, three cyclists whizzed right past me….literally inches away from my small, squatting vulnerability. I MEAN…..WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO??? Unable to stop, to move, I simply kept my head down, flaming cheeks hidden by my hair, and pretended under the cover of my skirts, that I wasn’t there. Later, much later, it seemed very funny….
MA© AUTUMN 2018 To be Continued MA© AUTUMN 2018