The power of chance

It’s the end of a year and time to review. First, a recipe for the Scots new year drink, Atholl Brose. One story says that in the late 1400s the Earl of Atholl filled a well on his property with whiskey, oatmeal and honey (in right proportion) in order to waylay his thirsty enemy, Iaian MacDonald, Lord of the Isles. The traditional recipe for this nectar is here.

My Scottish dad, James Dobie (1929-2002), used to make Atholl Brose from time to time at New Year’s, which my parents called Hogmanay. They would have big parties, I mean BIG parties. His recipe was different from the Earl’s: strain the whiskey through the oatmeal and proceed from there.

A few years after my dad died I started making Atholl Brose using his recipe, with involuntary variations every year, mostly to do with what whiskey I had in the house. I tried blended whiskey and single malt (BTW, those peaty Islay malts make a brew that few can stomach). I tried cream and no cream. I tried heather honey and good old Bee Maid.

Now the Atholl Brose has morphed into my own secret formula that involves the garage, a silver spoon and half-and-half cream. I’m getting close to a nectar of the gods.

This year, however, I started late, used Irish whiskey, and found the first-stage product mysteriously upended, leaving a whiskey-smelling pie plate full of soggy steel-cut oats on the tool chest. I was upset until I realized that it was a clear signal that I need to a) clear out the garage and b) get a little more organized about my special treats.

So there was no Atholl Brose to bring in 2015, but something even better: a renewed appreciation for the role chance plays in our short lives.

Back to the review: Chance brought me things I didn’t expect this year, including some of the world’s most interesting and talented writers for my editing business, a renewed appreciation for friends and family, and a fresh understanding of what makes it easy for me to start and finish writing projects. In other words, a great year.

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