It’s Not About the Vase and Other Outlander Life Lessons

Outlander is full of love and adventure. It’s also full of life lessons if you look for them. These are my favorite lessons from Seasons 1 and 2.

This article, in its original form, was posted on May 12, 2017 at

I’ve got a confession to make. I read too much into things—everything really. That mole on your leg? I’m pretty sure that it has changed color and shape since yesterday and that you need to have it removed stat. Your kid’s runny nose? It’s your town’s first case of measles since 1968. I know they said it would only take three weeks to renovate the kitchen, but my gut tells me it’s going to take a lot longer than that. And that waiter was totally just flirting with me. You saw it. Right?

Maybe it comes from my overactive imagination or maybe I’m always looking for a story to tell. Whatever the reason, I usually take more away from conversations, books, and movies than other folks. As I reflected on my first read-through of the Outlander series, I began to see many applicable life lessons. I will share them with you, but only if you promise not to make any actual life decisions based on them. If you promise, then please keep reading. If not, you need to take a few moments and ask yourself why you would accept life advice from a lady writing a blog post from her couch while her kid parades the cat around the house like Simba and Rafiki from the opening scene of The Lion King.

Don’t Buy the Vase
In the opening scenes of the first episode, we see Claire standing at a shop window admiring a vase. Her voice-over says “…I realized I’d never owned a vase. That I’d never lived in any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing and how at that moment I wanted nothing so much in all the world as to have a vase of my very own.” 

After a nomadic childhood and an equally nomadic stint as a combat nurse, Claire desperately wanted a house and all it represented: stability, a place to be still, a place to set down a vase and let it collect dust. What Claire didn’t realize until she accidentally did the time warp through the stones is that what she truly longed for was a home. She found that home in Jaime and, if you’ve watched Dragonfly in Amber (S2 Episode 13), you saw what the loss of that home meant to her. 

Outlander life lessons

What’s my point? Don’t get caught up in the vase. The vase, the house, the mantel will never light your soul on fire like a tall Scottish warrior on horseback…er…I mean true love.

If it’s Calling Out to You, Listen
In the first episode, Claire returns to Craigh na Dun to pick the flowers that she spotted with Frank the day before. She found the forget-me-nots, but she heard something, too—a buzzing that seemed to be coming from the largest rock. What should have frightened her away actually drew Claire closer until the moment she touched the stone. Had Claire run away, we would have been left with a terribly boring story that alternated between scenes of Frank waxing eloquent on his ancestry and Claire begging him to have sex with her (sorry Frank fans this is personal). Allowing herself to be drawn in changed the course of Claire’s life and lots of other lives, too. Imagine the love and adventure she would have missed out on if she hadn’t let her guard down.

Outlander life lessons

We need to give ourselves permission to be swallowed up by something. You’re reading this and that means there’s a good chance that you got sucked in by Outlander (or you are a member of my family), but what else is out there? If you’ve been ignoring the buzzing rock, maybe it’s time you listened. Who knows what adventure awaits!

Don’t Call Attention to Smallpox on the Comte St. Germain’s Ship
Soon after landing in France, Claire diagnoses a man at the docks with smallpox. Did she whisper it into Jamie’s ear? Of course she didn’t! Everyone within earshot heard it. Claire’s heart is in the right place. She knows how deadly and contagious the disease is and she wants to avoid an outbreak. What she didn’t know is that the harbor master would order that the Comte’s ship and its cargo be burned. This was a considerable financial cost to the Comte and it triggered a chain of revenge-fueled events that led to the Comte’s death in Season 2 Episode 7.

Outlander life lessons

We sometimes think that everything is our responsibility, and in trying to master everything we do nothing well and quite often make a terrible mess (oh wait, is that just me?). Granted, our over-eagerness usually doesn’t result in the death of a rival, but it sucks the life out of us all the same. The next time you’re tempted to get wrapped up in some business that isn’t yours, ask yourself “What Claire Would Do” and then, maybe, don’t do anything at all.

Always Take a Murtagh with You
I didn’t count the number of times Murtagh followed Jamie into harm’s way or was dispatched by Jamie to protect Claire. We all know it was a lot. Murtagh embodies friendship and loyalty. He is there for the big stuff: beheading a deranged Duke, covering for Jamie after he killed Dougal, and professing his willingness to die beside Jamie on the battlefield. The great thing about Murtagh, though, is that he is there for the little stuff, too.

Remember The Gathering when everyone was speaking Gaelic and Claire had no idea what was going on? It was Murtagh who stood beside her and served as interpreter and tour guide. Later, it was Murtagh who suggested to Claire that she stop giving Jamie grief about Leg Hair because what he needed was a woman (hint hint) not a girl. It was also Murtagh who served as best man for the wedding, securing Jamie’s fabulous Highland ensemble and calming Jamie’s pre-ceremony jitters. Murtagh is always there, working behind the scenes to pave the path and make Jamie and Claire’s lives a little more bearable.

Outlander life lessons

If you’ve got a friend like Murtagh, hang on to him/her and nurture that relationship. Those people don’t come around all that often. If you don’t have a Murtagh, I’m always available, but I must warn you that I’m not handy with a sword, I’m not willing to die, and murder isn’t really my thing.

The Best Gifts Come from the Unlikeliest of Places
Days after Jamie and Claire’s wedding, they sat atop a hill trying to put words to their feelings. Their verbal gymnastics were interrupted when an incoming arrow landed near them. Apparently, arrows in 1743 were highly personalized and Jamie knew immediately that it originated from the bow of a beggar and friend named Hugh Munro. Hugh greeted Jamie and Claire and, upon hearing of their nuptials, gave Claire a wedding gift of a rock. With the face a woman who had just been given a macaroni necklace by someone not enrolled in a summer camp or a nursery school, Claire managed a smile and a half-hearted thank you.

We all know that it wasn’t just a rock. It was a piece of amber with a dragonfly captured inside. It was the very symbol of Jamie and Claire’s life together. We see the amber again in Dragonfly In Amber [Season 2 Episode 13] when Claire finds it in a display case at the Culloden museum and then again as she recalls the events leading up to her return through the stones. In their last moments together, Claire gives Jamie the amber to take with him into battle. It was all that Jamie would have of Claire as he marched to a certain death. Gulp.

Outlander life lessons

You never know what will be meaningful next year or 20 years from now. Treasure whatever gifts you receive and honor the spirit in which they are given. Time will sort the rest out for you.

When You Can be a Witch, be a Witch

Claire wasn’t altogether comfortable with the witch moniker given how close she came to a date with the stake at Crainsmuir. However, at Wentworth she told Black Jack Randall that she was, indeed, a witch, and she cursed him with the date of his death. That, my friends, is a handy party trick. In Paris, Jamie floated the idea that Claire was a “white witch” to his brothel buddies. Claire wasn’t amused, but as time passed she realized that it might serve her well. It saved her from being raped during the attack on Mary Hawkins, and it saved her again in the Star Chamber scene with the Comte. Claire went all Eminem “I am whatever you say I am” and decided that if people were going to call her a witch she might as well be one.

If someone suggests that you are a witch (or any number of labels), maybe just smile and nod. Alternately, you could quote Claire and say “witch I am” with that creepy, passively violent tone that Claire affects when she’s trying to kill someone or save someone from being killed. That should freak them out sufficiently to leave you alone for awhile.

Scars Tell Part of Your Story; the Way You Live Tells the Rest

There is really nothing I can tell you about the scars on Jamie’s back that you don’t already know. On one hand, they are a testament to the depravity and pure evil resident in Black Jack Randall and a visible reminder of the danger faced by the Scots.

On the other hand, the scars are a testament to Jamie’s resilience and to his deep sense of honor and compassion. Jamie could have allowed the floggings and torture to turn him into a monster. He didn’t, though. Instead he used those scars as a reminder to be more compassionate and to protect those closest to him even more fiercely. He took a beating from Rupert to spare Leg Hair the embarrassment of public punishment. I don’t really like it either, but it’s what makes Jamie, Jamie. When he rescued Claire from Fort William, Jamie could have killed Black Jack Randall, but he says that he couldn’t kill a defenseless man. Think about that. Even with all the pain and suffering that BJR had already inflicted on Jamie and his family, Jamie still couldn’t kill him when he was unconscious.

Outlander life lessons

Not everyone has a back marred by public floggings, but we all have scars. Some are visible. Some are not. Some are still tender to the touch. Some have toughened with time. When people want to focus on your scars, go ahead and let them. Just make sure they know that your scars are far less important than the lessons you learned from them.

If You Have to Sleep with a King to Free Your Husband, Go Ahead and Take the Orange on Your Way Out

After Claire had physically recovered from the loss of Faith, her thoughts turned to Jamie and how to free him from the Bastille. She found that she could petition King Louis by offering herself to him. She got a little more than she bargained for in that she also got to kill the Comte and save Master Raymond in the fantastic Star Chamber scene. After Raymond and the Comte meet their various fates, Louis escorts Claire back to his bedroom where he accepts her payment for Jamie’s release. On her way out of the room Claire stops, picks up an orange from the bowl, and carries it out with her. We then see her walk the long corridor with her head held high and orange in hand.

Outlander life lessons

In our lives we sometimes have to do terrible/disgusting/immoral/annoying things that we don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s for ourselves and sometimes it’s for the people we love. There are times when we feel belittled by the favors we have to ask or the promises we have to make in order to solve the problem. When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, go ahead and do whatever you need to do to extricate yourself or your loved one. While you’re at it, don’t think twice about taking a small bit of pleasure for yourself. You earned that orange.

Wear the Red Dress
This one is for the girls. Guys, I’m sorry but I can’t think of a male equivalent. When I saw Claire descend the staircase in Season 2 Episode 2, all I could think was how much I wanted that red dress. It’s not at all practical and I would love to see the face of an Uber driver as I tried to stuff myself into the backseat of a Prius while wearing it.

The impracticality is kind of the point though, isn’t it? Claire had no intention of doing surgery in that dress. She was wearing it to be noticed, to announce the Frasers’ presence at court. And then there were the looks on Jamie’s and Murtagh’s faces. They were in awe of Claire’s beauty and probably aghast at the idea of repeatedly trying to defend her honor.

outlander life lessons

No, you can’t wear the red dress every day. There is more to life than being seen and looking pretty. However, there are times when those are exactly the things we need to do. Don’t be afraid to step out of your yoga pants (I know it’s scary) and put on something a little too short with a neckline down to your navel that will raise eyebrows and turn heads. And if your guy tells you that you’re going to need a larger fan, just smile and reach for his hand.

It seems like life has lessons waiting for us wherever we look. However, it’s fun to find them in the stories that have captured our hearts and minds. What about you? Did you find any life lessons in Outlander Seasons 1 and 2? I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. […] also desperately looking for levity. I have written several installments of Outlander Life Lessons (Seasons 1 & 2, Season 3, and Season 4) and this morning I realized that I had one more in me. The characters in […]

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