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Melrose high street, © Robin Simpson

June 30 – Deep in the Heart of Scotland
Leaving Torwood Lodge

7:30AM and it's time for Ettrick and Yarrow to pass by on their morning constitutional. I look at my watch and smile, sighing as they appear. Bye dogs, I think to myself. The bus whooshes by on its way to Galashiels; Corrie returns home from his paper route and goes to the kitchen for breakfast before heading out to school. My bags are packed and by the door in my room upstairs. I'm torn emotionally. I've found a home here in Melrose and I don't want to leave, but there are other places down the road that I've longed to see for years.

We linger over breakfast (where I succeed at emptying the black currant jam pot) as we plan to visit the Abbey, which doesn't open until 10:00, before leaving Melrose. Knowing that Yvonne has the cleaning up to do after us in the kitchen we finally head back to our rooms and begin the task of getting our luggage down the stairs and into the trunk of the car. I can't begin to lift my weight-gaining suitcase and think that whoever came up with the innovative idea of putting wheels and retractable handles on luggage certainly deserves however much money they received.

Some rearranging is called for in the trunk – it has shrunk somehow since we arrived in Melrose. Yvonne appears in the car park just as we've finished up, smiling and wishing us safe journey. She looks at Dana with a mock frown. "You're in trouble." Uh-oh, what did Dana do? We all laugh, noticing that Yvonne has Dana's hostess gift in her hand. She's begun a walk through of our rooms to make sure we didn't forget anything and has found the small package on the bureau.

Leaving a token gift with our hosts is something Robin had mentioned months before we left on this trip and I'm so glad she did. After much thought and debate, I decided on suncatchers, round stained glass designs featuring magnolia blossoms, – a tree that is native to my area – hoping that our hostesses would hang them in a window and think of me when beams of light give birth to mellow multicolored rays.

Hugs and smiles and farewells all around, and we're off to the bank in town so I can replenish my once again depleted stash of cash. The clerk who handles my request today is a youthful lad who starts off with a strictly business demeanor, but ends up blushing furiously and smiling when I compliment him on his very neat handwriting.

Around the corner and down the hill we drive, parking very close to the same spot we had last night, but with a major difference: Last night we could have parked anywhere we wanted; this morning the lot is almost full, even though the Abbey is not yet open. We don't have much time to kill though, and while Robin returns to the post office to mail more postcards, Dana and I poke around a small gift shop that is very nearly hidden away at the back of the car park.

There's a Gordon Setter lying by the door of the gift shop, an abandoned pet that has been adopted by the very kind man who owns this shop. She's a bit of a loner, the man says, almost in apology for the dog not greeting us with more than soulful eyes. The circumstances surrounding the man's acquiring of this dog contradicts everything I've noticed about the relationship between the people of this land and their pets.

Everywhere we've stayed, we've been introduced to the household pets as if they were part of the family, and this simple act has endeared all of our hosts and hostesses to me.

Dana spies and examines a clock with a pewter Celtic-knot case, and debates only a short time before deciding it will look perfect on her desk when she returns home. After having experienced profound weakness in denying myself books over the past several days, I walk through the shop, forcefully turning a blind eye on the wonders to be found here. There are many more wonders across the road – it's time to go explore the abbey.

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