There is a scene in Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon where Jamie and Claire go for a boat ride to get time alone. It is plain that Jamie has been thinking about their future. It is after Stephen Bonnet has robbed them and they have arrived at River Run destitute. Jamie is feeling the sting of being the poor relative come a begging. He is a proud man and his pride has been hurt. He wants to give Claire the world, but as he pounds his fists in frustration he acknowledges that he doesn’t even own the clothes he stands up in. He knows that should he give in to his Aunt Jocasta’s machinations he will be able to give Claire a great deal of what he hopes to give her, but he knows that life at River Run no matter how prettily packaged or presented would mean putting his ability to live his own life and make his own decisions in jeopardy. The taste of being his own man and making his own way is too new and too sweet to be given away lightly or so soon. However, the alternative is to take Gov. Tryon’s offer of land and literally hack a new life out of the wilderness of North Carolina where he once again might place himself on the wrong side of history. Jamie is frustrated, disheartened and a bit ashamed. He wants to give her the world and yet all he can offer Claire is a life living under someone else’s leave or more hardship. He feels like a failure.
Claire let’s him know it has never been nor will it ever be about what he can give her.
“At last I took one big, callused hand and slid forward so I knelt on the boards between his knees. I laid my head against his chest, and felt his breath stir my hair. I had no words, but I had made my choice.
“‘Whither thou goest,'” I said. “‘I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.’ Be it Scottish hill or southern forest. You do what you have to; I’ll be there.”
She marvels that he really thought giving her “things” mattered.
It is one of those moments between this couple that defined for me who they both were as individuals and who they were together. There are many such moments in the later books and the look they give us into what it means to be married and what it means to love. As thrilling as it was to watch Jamie and Claire fall in love and reunite, the real love story can be found in the everyday. It is not the big moments that keep love alive for years, but the small moments and gestures and sacrifices that are made in the mundane. Diana Gabaldon knows this fact and wrote us a wonderful adventure of people who do the work it takes to keep a marriage healthy and how they reap the joy and comfort of knowing they are two who are now forever one. I was happy to see that the show seems to be picking up on this change in Jamie and Claire’s relationship and as Sam Heughan said in a recent interview, I think we will see “the beginning of the real story” this season.
Despite absolutely amazing and realistic sets by Jon Gary Steele and the once again brilliant story telling and character development in the costume designs of Terry Dresbach, the episode wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the acting or the writing or the changes. For the first time, I was bothered by wigs and green screens and that song took me totally out of the story, I was checking my computer to see if I had accidentally left on YouTube or something, LOL! But, the song and the episode did what they were meant to do …set the stage. And, what a stage, Colonial America in all its flaws and glory…”a dream for some …a nightmare for others”.
America the Beautiful
It was hard not to watch a show about America and not think about well, America. I could not help but see parallels between the America of the past and the America of today. In simply watching this story, as an American, I can see all of our stories. Claire tells Jamie about the American dream. It is true that people did come from all over the world for the chance of obtaining that dream, a place where the only limitations were a person’s own abilities and commitment to work. It would be lovely to think that we all had and have an equal chance at that dream, but the show reminded us that there are two sides to every story. The slave trade and the genocide of the native people were definitely the other side. It was not and is not a level playing field. Race, religion and ethnic background did and still do make a difference in accessing the American dream. And, yet when I looked at Claire’s glowing face as she looked at the horizon of never-ending trees, I got what she was feeling…wonder. America welcomed the huddled masses, the weary, and many can trace their roots to Ellis Island and to the feet of the Statue of Liberty. We were reminded that backwoods men lead resistances, a movement against unfair treatment by the government that led to a revolution and the birth of a nation whose stated guiding principle was the belief that all men are created equal. And yet, we owned slaves, the repercussions of which we still feel today, we still struggle with equality. Our history is complicated and our country is not perfect and yet, I saw the hope of that perfection in the story of the riverboat captain and his navigator, a slave that saved the man who enslaved him, a slave owner who freed his slave, both working side by side. I appreciate that the show is honest in its portrayal of our shared and complex past.
A new phase in the union of Jamie and Claire
After watching the show, I’m always left with images and words that linger. This week the image that kept coming back to me was the medicine chest and the word that rattled round my brain was “gift”.
What gifts really matter to Claire
One of the things I love about the Claire of the books is her seemingly total disregard for possessions. If they have clothing, food, and each other she seems happy. You never hear of Claire pining for more of anything material. The Claire of the show seems like-minded. I would be hard pressed to name any physical possessions that Claire valued save for four items. She valued the pearls Jamie gave her. She does not value them for the pearls value, but rather the value they have to Jamie and the meaning behind his giving this prize to her. The pearls represented his commitment to her as his wife at a time when they barely knew each other. She was moved by this gesture as were we all. The next gift Jamie gave her was the ring. Both book ring and show ring were laden with significance, Jamie goes out of his way to make the ring special and Claire treasures it for the thought Jamie put behind it.
My husband has brought me gifts over the years some unnecessarily extravagant ( a particular ring comes to mind), but I like to remind him of my favorite gifts and why they are my favorites. He showed up after work one day with a large bouquet of wild flowers. I recognized the purple blooms because they grew by the side of the road near our home. The mental picture of my big burly husband seeing these flowers, thinking of me, stopping his car at the side of the road, getting out in his shirt and tie to pick me posies while the traffic watched made them priceless to me. He thought about me and what I would like. Every woman wants to know her man thinks about her and wants to please her without having to ask or give hints! Jamie’s gift of the medicine chest was a gift more costly than rubies. He saw the chest and thought of Claire. In this single gift, he validated his belief in Claire’s gifts and her desire to heal and help. He wants to support her, she is his other half, his equal. This gift above all others tells Claire that he gets her and accepts all that she is.
The fourth item she has yet to receive, but I find it wonderful and telling that the “things” Claire values are all gifts. Jamie may want to dress her in frills and lace, but Claire doesn’t really care. It isn’t that she doesn’t enjoy fine things, it’s that she doesn’t need them. Claire truly does know what is valuable in this life, to help others, to love and to be loved. I think the show is getting this part of Claire right and I love that we get to watch a show with redeeming characters worth emulating.
What gifts really Matter to Jamie
The best gift anyone could give Jamie is family and purpose. How my heart has ached for him over the last three seasons. A man constantly denied the things he treasures, the people he loves. He is a man who has been living “with half his heart” and filling in the space “with whatever mortar is handy”. What I saw in this episode is the hope that Jamie will finally get to be who he was always meant to be. The first image we have of Jamie is one of determination as he tries to find a way to save Hayes who has been with him since Ardsmuir. In the end, he comforts Hayes and respects his last wishes. He is MacDubh. This scene with Hayes reinforces that Jamie has always seen people to care for as a gift and a responsibility, as does his fatherly guidance and love of Ian in the graveyard. We are also reminded that Brianna and I’m sure Willie are never far from his mind when he talks of making this land a good place. The scene of them all sitting around the table at the tavern making plans reminded me how rare it was for Jamie to be surrounded by folks he loves and cares for. The look of pure joy on his face when he finds that Marsali is pregnant was gift for all of us. He knows the emptiness of a life without people to care for and he wants the gift of a place to call his own, to be a husband, a father, protector and friend, the things that will make his life full and give it purpose.
The greatest gift of all
“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours, Claire? I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”
The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sun-warmed stone and cool water, and the sharp, musky smell of his body next to mine.
“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”
“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.
“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”
They are together, no matter what befalls them. They know that not even death can seperate them. Yeah, I think I saw the beginning of the real story.