There are days, even for me, when a blank page is intimidating. Most of the time I just seize the idea in my head that’s bouncing up and down with it’s hand up, and listen to what it has to say. Not today though. I was going to write about taxes. I know that sounds boring but actually, historically and in some of its applications, it isn’t. I don’t feel like it though. Today instead, you get a free for all and I hope you’ll meander along with me.
What’s on my mind on this sunny Monday is homesickness, the idea of home and the reality, and how, just when you think it’s behind you, it surprises you. The first year of being in Canada I was energetic and working hard to make a new life. The next year the ‘sickness’ hit with a vengeance and interestingly, it also corresponded with my whole family being physically ill, on and off. I couldn’t listen to Scottish music without crying (not me at all usually), one song in particular just felled me – it’s called Caledonia. I grieved for my home and inevitably; it took on another shape in my head. I became a little bit ridiculous, hanging on to every shortbread tin with a west highland terrier or some tartan on it, clung to every Scottish word and tradition and fortunately, tartan trousers would have looked terrible on me or maybe I would have worn them too. In some deep way, I fought being here even though I’d chosen to do so.
The following year, the third one was significant as the ‘annus horribilis’ of the immigration experience. For Queen Elizabeth who memorably used that phrase, 1992 was her horrible year, but for me 2011-2012 was a new low. Not a year to look back on with undiluted pleasure for me either. I had accepted my situation but had sunk into a kind of depression, the outward resistance now turned inward. This type of depression is anger by another name, and particularly, impotence directed within. Just four or five months ago I finally took control back, as Winston Churchill called it, from the black dog. Piece by piece I gathered the scattered pieces of myself and put them together. That’s what it felt like. Remarkably, nothing much in an outward sense had changed. My circumstances are still much the same, I continue to wrestle with some of the same problems and as before, I do not have funds to send this family back to Scotland for a visit. Yet, my whole world is transformed by taking charge. Significantly, I have found a kind of home.
What is home though? I imagine you could ask 20 people that question and receive 20 different answers. The dictionary defines home as: the place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household. The answer is simple then, Canada is my home as it’s where I reside with my family. Not so simple though. I think that definition is missing at least 50 shades of grey. There is subtlety here; it’s not just where you live but where you feel you belong, maybe if you’re fortunate - where the voice of your being sings in harmony with its surroundings. That place is Skye, for me. When I put those fragments of self back together I found that I had expanded. Try putting the items of a tightly packed box back in after emptying it, and you’ll be asking yourself, ‘but how did they fit?’ I had expanded to incorporate two different types of home; one that was the place I grew up in and had returned to. The other was my adopted home, the home of my heart, the home of my soul.
My island home is with me wherever I go but in a way, a part of me is still there too. Maybe it’s dipping into the world of quantum mechanics but I believe that’s possible. In an essential way I live on in those I left behind, love and still share my life with, albeit at a distance. This brings me back to homesickness. Today I spoke to my friend on Skye. There’s 33 years, eight hours of time difference and a lot of land and water between us but as always, when we spoke I was right there. I was sitting in her sitting room, having a blether and doing what we like to do, putting the world to rights. We had a great chat, and not for the first time I found myself thinking how much better my life is with her in it. She’s just one of those people. After our long chat she said the words, the words that were like a tardis for grabbing me by the heart, and yanking me back to Skye in soul, with my uncooperative body left behind. Her words were, “Come back soon.” That was the surprise and you know surprises can be more potent from those we love. Oh, the warm melody in those words…
It’s over three years on since the big immigration adventure. Home is not one place and is not contained within one definition, but at least two. I dwell in the land of my birth and my heart is not heavy, there’s room for more. I’ve expanded to accept this reality and in doing so, I can hear the words of my friend for what they really are – words to sing me home.
© S. Marian, Aug. 14, 2012