We had come to Scotland to vacation because we loved it, but our main goal was for me to research and Michael to photograph Glen Affric for the book of my heart: Too Deep for Tears. And there we were, staring at the sign that barred us from paradise. We’d had some challenges on this trip already, but nothing to equal this! Realizing there was nothing we could do about it while we were weary and hungry from a long, exhilarating day (or so we told ourselves so as not to sink into maudlin thoughts and gnashing of teeth), we turned back and found our way (somewhat glumly, I admit) to our hotel for the night. It was called Cozac Lodge and it abided in Glen Cannich, the next glen over. I’ve included a photo below to show how lovely the surroundings were. Inside, it was warm and beautifully decorated, and we felt at home the instant we walked in the door. The 60ish owners were friendly and good listeners. After our suitcases were arranged in our room, they sent us off to a restaurant not too far down the road. It was April, but still chilly, and we loved the walls of large stones and the roaring fire. I don’t remember what we ate, But I think it had burgundy in it, and succulently tender meat. And of course, Michael (being a beer man) heartily enjoyed the local brew). By the time we got back to the Lodge, the owners had tea ready, and we sat sleepily by the fire in the lounge, while they asked why we’d come to Scotland and what we wanted to be doing the next day. Michael and I looked at each other in surprise. We had been lulled into such a sweet comfortable mood that we’d forgotten The Tragedy of Glen Affric (I am NOT melodramatic, though people WILL say so over and over). The owner grinned, surprising us a great deal. “Weel then, ’tis no’ a problem at all.” We regarded him skeptically. He went on to explain that he was a warden in charge of Glen Affric, that they were not working this week, and that he was the only one with a key that would open those chains. And, he added, he’d be more than delighted to do so. Michael and I could have the glen to ourselves for as long as we liked. Now, when I made the reservation at Cozac Lodge, I knew it was located in the glen one over from the one I sought, but I had no idea exactly where it was, or who ran it. And yet, there we sat over tea and biscuits, across from the man with the magic key in his hand. I don’t really believe in coincidence; how about you? The next morning, after an incredible breakfast in our incredibly comfortable room, we discovered the owner had already been round to unlock the chains, so we could get in as early as we wanted. Did I mention that we loved Cozac Lodge and its owners? Apparently it had rained during the night, but the sun was reappearing bit by bit as our excitement built. I was both elated and terrified: I had already written a chunk of the story in the glen. What if it wasn’t the place I had described? We had walked in only about a quarter mile when we both stopped suddenly, staring. The air was downright cold, but we didn’t care; we were staring at the river rushing through the pines and hawthorns and oaks as the clouds made shadows on the grass and the peat and the jutting boulders. The light intermittently danced across the water, and we knew without a doubt that we were standing in the heart of the glen in my book. The glen I had described purely from my imagination, later researching the trees and plants. We were standing in the center of a miracle. I have tears in my eyes even now. There were other miracles that day: finding the spot on the river bank where my Scottish heroine, Ailsa, had leapt across, laying an enchantment upon someone watching (see Michael’s photo with me crouching on the bank); hovering with our rain ponchos on as we stood on the slippery floor behind a waterfall; finding the pool at the base of a waterfall (Michael’s photo below)–one of Ailsa’s favorite places to swim and meet her friends and ponder the world beyond the magic glen; and finally, late in the day, discovering a ledge overlooking the whole of the glen, that became a sacred place for Ailsa and others who loved her. That day, alone in Glen Affric, we found my heart and soul, and then I put them down on paper.