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A Dream Becomes Reality

My interest in the medieval history of Scotland and England traces back to a movie, the title of which I can't recall, on television after my bedtime at age eight.

It was the Vietnam era; my father was a Navy pilot and was flying transport in and out of the war zone at the time. Earlier in the day, my mother received a phone call reporting that a fellow pilot, who completed flight school with my father and subsequently became a very good friend of his, had been shot down in a rice paddy. I had never heard of Howard Rutledge at that time (he spent nine years as a prisoner of war and later wrote a book entitled In The Presence of Mine Enemies) and pictured a rice paddy as something to eat. It didn't sound very appealing.

I was young and didn't really understand the tension that filled the house that day. So there I sat alone in a darkened room, the images flickering on the screen, long after I should have been in bed.

Armored men, castles, the surrounding countryside, the bagpipes all viewed and heard for the first time aroused my imagination, sent me off on flights of fantasy – but even at such a young age, always with realism: I was never the princess in the tower, nor in the clutches of an evil sorcerer; there was no slain dragon littering my doorstep. The movie brought to light an inborn connection, an abiding passion to learn about where and how these people lived, how they communicated, how they viewed their world.

I dreamed of visiting the UK someday. The sights and sounds – the accoutrements – that defined England and Scotland fascinated me, mesmerized me. Tapestries, Celtic music, knotwork, illuminations, stained glass, folk songs, rolling green hills shrouded in mist – I couldn't get enough of them. Being the pragmatic sort though, I never believed that my dream could become reality. It was too far away, it cost too much, there was reality to contend with ... and after all, dreams are just dreams.

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