Thursday, 15 November 2007

thoughts on home

when i was wee i lived on an island in the far north of the country, far enough north that they properly don't consider themselves part of the mainland. i didn't get taught mainland history but instead learned the sagas, tales of the folk who lived under the sea and where the stones had come from. in my head it's a place of red rock, lone stones, scattered rings, abandoned brochs and everywhere the sea. i've been back, after a long gap, and it doesn't look the same, the beaches are smaller, the town has grown but at night when i think of it i spell the place names like a rhythm until sleep finds me.

when i was wee we lived in what was then a big house, a house that still has a piano in it, though the animals are gone and the trees i planted with my dad are so tall as to make me feel my age. i remember the sound of the wind in the shutters, the peat fire, and the practice, practice, practice on the piano which at the time was the only music that existed for me. i used to sit outside sometimes, out in the air, and i'd look in at the rest of them through the moisture on the window, talking,playing the accordion. i'd hear the sounds and i knew even then that home for me was going to be the distance from other people

it took me thirty years to go back. i'd lived in many places in between, gone from the country to the city and back again. i kept a careful stock of things and when i stopped long enough to unpack i'd have brief moments when i surrounded myself with them and i remembered who i was. i had made this place and i could feel my hands on it. but i kept thinking about the place i'd grown up in, kept turning up evidence of it, creeping out of my pen when i wasn't looking. so i did go back and i met the grown up versions of the children i went to school with and we talked a lot and we drank a lot and we ended up outside singing, not a just a bit of singing but a lot of singing. i couldn't join in because i missed that bit of childhood and i was too drunk to play the guitar so i slumped against the wall and bathed myself in the sound, women's voices out in the darkness.

eventually someone asked me what it as like to be back. everyone is interested i said, everyone is so welcoming. and this man who i hadn't seen in so long and who i'd barely known anyway, he said to me, you know why that is, don't you? you've come home

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