Our wait is nearly over, and through the shadows and difficulties that beset our lives, we see the glow of everlasting light.
Excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD. Copyright © 2012 by Diana Gabaldon [Please don’t repost or reproduce this blog entry or its contents, but certainly you may link to it if you’d like to! See below.]
Jamie was sitting as I’d left him, alone by our tiny fire, now burnt down to a bed of red ember furred with ash. And yet… not quite as I’d left him. I stopped abruptly, a little way outside the glow of the embers, fascinated by the look on his face.
He was entirely still, still as a waiting hunter, still as the stump he sat on. And yet his face was alive, his eyes looking into the fading coals but somehow beyond them, not abstracted at all. He was seeing something, and I felt the hairs lift on my arms, so slowly that I felt each one rise. And yet, the sense of him was one of absolute peace. The hurry I’d felt a moment before had vanished as I watched him. He might have been alone in some vast wilderness—alone, save for whoever he was talking to in the silence that surrounded him.
I didn’t move. I couldn’t take my eyes from his face. I too stood apart from the chaos of the camp for a moment, and heard silence. Silence filled with presence, a sense of quiet joy.
Then Jamie drew breath and closed his eyes, shoulders relaxing. The sounds of the night and the racket of the camp came back. I drew breath, too, and he heard me, for his head came up, his eyes opened, and he smiled at me and reached out his hand.
“Mo nighean donn,” he said softly, and kissed the hand I put in his, his breath cool on my skin.
“What were you doing just now?” I asked, as softly, and laid my free hand to his cheek, stroking back the ruddy hair behind his ear. “Praying?”
His mouth twitched, but he looked away, self-conscious.
“Och, no. I was just talkin’ to Ian.”
I blinked, glancing automatically over my shoulder, searching for Ian’s tall, rangy figure among the fires and smoke, even as I realized that wasn’t who he meant.
“No, the elder Ian,” Jamie said, smiling as he caught my look. “My friend, aye?”
“Do you do that often?” I asked curiously, sitting down beside him on a convenient rock. He turned toward me, and I saw the puff of white at his shoulder. “You have a split in the shoulder seam of your coat. Take it off, why don’t you, and I’ll fix it. You can’t be going into battle with your sleeve hanging off; General Washington wouldn’t like it.”
He gave a small snort at that, but obligingly stood up and wriggled out of the heavy coat, while I dug the hussif out of my pocket and found a needle threaded with something dark—it was impossible to distinguish black and indigo in the shadows.
“Aye, I suppose I talk to Ian often,” he said matter-of-factly, sitting down again. “Just the odd word now and then, when something minds me of him. But I dreamed of him last night, of when we were in France, so he was still wi’ me today.”
I looked sharply at him. I generally knew when he dreamed—always when he dreamed about war—but hadn’t noticed any disturbance of his sleep the night before. In fact, he’d slept like the dead until the wee hours, when he’d suddenly rolled over, gathered me into his arms, and fallen instantly back asleep, his face buried in my bosom.
“Aye, it was odd,” he said thoughtfully, as though knowing what I was thinking. “The closer we come to—” He waved a hand, encompassing the army around us, “—the more terrible the dreams get. Things comin’ back, aye? And yet last night… I was sittin’ by a fire with Ian, in France, and the rest of the band around us, and we were sharpening our dirks, sharing an oilstone. I kent we were readying ourselves for a fight, but I wasna at all concerned about it, nor was Ian. I was only glad to have him there, by my side,” he added softly.
I’d seen him once, standing in nothing but his shirt at a spring on Fraser’s Ridge, call on Dougal MacKenzie for help, and seeing him now in his shirt, pale against the dark, reminded me. That encounter had held something of the strange stillness of what I’d just seen, but wasn’t the same.
“Did you—ask Ian to… er… come with you?” I asked, cautious, but curious. “Just now, I mean. Into battle?”
He blinked at that, surprised.
“No,” he said, and smiled, half-embarrassed. “It’s—och, it sounds foolish to say.”
“You don’t think I’d laugh, do you?” I asked, smiling too. I stabbed the needle into the fabric of the coat, and took his hand. It was hard, but smooth-palmed, and his fingers curled slowly round my own.
“It’s only—sometimes I find myself at peace, ken. No for any reason; just there it is, the gift of a moment when bein’ alive is all there is, and all I could want. Does that happen to you, Sassenach?” His head turned toward me, features now fading into darkness, but I caught the brief shine of his eyes, heard his beard-stubble rasp softly against his stock.
“Yes,” I said, after a moment. “Yes, it does. Sometimes in the most peculiar circumstances. But not often… and out of the blue.” Like this one.
“Out of the blue,” he repeated, liking the phrase. “Aye, that’s how it is. Ye canna make it happen; all ye can do is live it—and if ye’re lucky, remember it now and then.”
He paused and cleared his throat.
“Sometimes… well, it strikes me sometimes, the dead must be happy and at peace as spirits in heaven, but still—maybe they miss bein’ an animal. What it is to touch, and taste, and breathe and all. And so… I was just sitting here, feeling full of good food, wi’ the taste of decent beer on my tongue, thinkin’ how sweet it was to sit down and rest, and how the night air felt soft on my face and… aye, well. Sometimes there’s a good moment and I… well, I ask one o’ my dead in, ye might say. To share it with me.”
He squeezed my hand gently, let it go, and put his arm around me, drawing me in so that my head lay against his chest. I could hear the slow thump of his heart and the gentle gurgling of his stomach, smell sharp mustard and beer on his breath, smell his sweat and the sun of the day in his skin.
“I dinna always feel them nearby—but tonight I kent Ian was with me.”
I hoped he didn’t feel the seep of my tears through the damp cloth of his shirt, but he did, for he drew back a little and with a small “Tck” sound, cupped my face in his hands, wiped the tears away with this thumbs, then bent and kissed me, soft and slow.
“Ye live in all my moments, Sassenach,” he whispered. “And the taste of you is aye on my tongue.”
[And many, many thanks to Barbara Schnell, my Most Excellent German translator and mistress of the German Diana Gabaldon website, for the wonderful notion of the Advent “candles.” Danke!]
[Second image: “In which Otis Sees a Great Light”]
Copyright © 2012 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
As stated above, please don’t repost or reproduce this post, excerpts of my work, and images, but certainly you may link to this blog entry if you’d like to! Copy and paste this text version of the link (URL):
This blog entry was last updated on Monday, December 24, 2018, by Diana’s Webmistress.
Thank you so much for your words and for sharing them. I’ve read and re-read the Outlander books countless times, but each time is amazing and I’m on a sewing-box’s worth of pins and needles waiting for the next one!!!
Diana! thrilling to read this. I’ve been reading since you’ve been writing and this scene is evocative of something I’ve often felt, but never vocalized — much less seen put into words as well as you’ve done here. “it strikes me sometimes, the dead must be happy and at peace as spirits in heaven, but still—maybe they miss bein’ an animal.” It’s the one thing that reminds me to keep sniffing the herb garden, wrapping myself in the wet morning air, and, yes, eating the strong mustard. I’m looking forward to this release. Thanks for sharing your endless creativity. ~ Abby
OH! lol, forgot to acknowledge Otis who has CLEARLY seen a great light ~ you cracked me up!
Always enjoy excerpts of the new book, I miss Jamie and Claire and look forward to meeting back up with them this fall.
Btw, I have an Otis the Pug as well. Don’t know if he has seen the great light or not!
Thankyou so much Diana,
I’m a huge fan, your books have given me so much solace and joy over the years I don’t know what I’d have done without them. You are a great inspiration to me.
May you and your loved ones be especially blessed this New Year coming.
So glad that the 4th Advent excerpt was Jamie and Claire. (sigh) I was hoping that it would be. Thank you for these beautiful scenes. They keep us in high anticipation of the next book. Happy New Year!
Your books are my addiction. I love your beautifully written characters and I check weekly for updates on IMHOB. I’m sooo anxious to see what happens next, and I can’t wait until the book is released. I’m not going to pester about it or ask because you need to take your time to make it the perfection it will be. I am curious though if anyone has ever asked if you’ve ever thought of bringing Jamie and Claire (maybe young Ian too) back to the 20th century? It would be a very intriguing twist an I often think of what Jamie would make of it. LOL! The letters are great, but I do miss the interpersonal relationships and family dinamic with Brianna and Roger, Jamie and Claire. (I’m halfway through Echo). Thanks again for this truly unique and beautiful series. <3
Yes! Yes! bring them to the present! Jamie can go through those stones. It’s only his tone deafness that prevents him hearing them!
Well, no, it isn’t. And NO, he’s not going to the future. Not everybody is a time-traveler, and he most definitely isn’t.
Happy Hogmany Diana. Lang mae yer lum reek! (Long may your chimney smoke.) May your first foot be a tall dark man wearing a kilt and bearing gifts for health and happiness in 2013.
How lovely and peaceful and so appropriate as I just lost my mother and can hear her voice and talk to her often. Thank you, Diana for your beautiful writing, your understanding and your ability to put into words what many of us feel quite deeply. Happy New Year.
Beautiful excerpt to day, thankyou Diana ! 2013 and we’ll eagerly but PATIENTLY waiting for MOBY. All the best for the New Year to you and your beautiful family and thankyou for being so accessible to all of us ! Best greetings from an addict from France. Christiane
Cannot tell you enough how great your “Outlander Series” is, cannot wait for book 8 to come out. reading this series makes me feel that you are there in time with Jamie and Claire, I could not put any of those books down. I love the question that Julie wrote on brigning Jamie into the 20th Century. I shall wait patienlty for the next book. Best Wishes to you and your family for a great New Year.
I love the Outlander novels. Can’t wait for the eighth book. I am rereading the first seven novels in anticipation of the new book.
I would like to comment on Jamie’s voice. His voice is not deep. He speaks in a tenor voice. The only time he speaks a bit deep is during the calling of the clans and his speech before the fiery cross when he is addressing the militia. I’ve tried to hear him as a deep voice, but his speech is not written deep. Has anyone else commented on this?
I can’t wait for the new book. I’ve gotten the Guide to everything Outlandish, so I can fully understand the nuances. Your research and application of that research is impeccable. Thank you for this wonderful series. I may have to get some of the John Gray books to satisfy my appetite for the time being. Problem is once I finish a book, I don’t want to wait to read the next one. I can’t pace myself till the fall! Can’t wait! You are a genius.
Thanks Diana…that was beautiful. I love shared moments like that and Jamie is right, they come at the most unexpected times. That’s what makes them sacred and forever seared in one’s memories. Have a blessed 2013.
Loved reading this scene Diana. My best wishes for you and your family!
I know I am late to post, but I just read this passage and I am so fascinated with Jamie and his committment to those who have gone on before him. The way you write about this part of Jamie always strikes a note with me. You capture the feeling and express it just as I feel it too.
Thank You Diana!
Happy New Year to you and your family!
Thank you for these lovely excerpts Diana. Here in Scotland the dark of winter is all around and ever present and your words have given a little flicker of much needed light. I hope that you and your family have had a peaceful and holy Christmas and that 2013 has wonderful things in store for you.
Dear Diana – Have just found and read the Advent Candles: such a wonderful idea and a remarkable gift.
I too await MOBY (my library refuses to accept my “order” for a book that is not yet published which I think is highly unreasonable of them) but am learning patience. However, in looking over your notes it occurs to me to ask: is there anything I can do for you? I have time available and would be happy to assist you with anything you might name. Just let me know. Meantime, I have ordered the UK version of Trail of Fire to while away the hours…days…weeks… Sigh.
So confused. Happened across this posting, thinking it was 2018. I love the excerpts. Anyway, I didn’t RE all this passage from the book, so went in search, but am not finding it. It’s a lovely scene. I imagined it coming the night before the battle in which Claire was shot. I searched multiple phrases. And come up empty… dud it get cut?
Well, if you look at the beginning of that excerpt, you’ll see that it’s from the book THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. I’m guessing that you may not have read that one yet [smile]–hope you enjoy it!
A pleasure reading your books. So well thought out and words so perfect for time and action.