Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Harboring hiraeth

All that was good, all that was fair
All that was me is gone

I’m back out here on the porch on the last of the dreaded summer holiday weekends.

It’s very quiet on our cul-de-sac right now. I can hear the neighbors’ pool circulating, the hum of bugs, an occasional bird, the sporadic bark of a distant dog.

Further off, there is the dull thrum of traffic on I77, like an ever present white noise, and faintly, the siren of an emergency vehicle which grows louder, then fades.

Sometimes I'll hear the sound of an edger, or a chain saw, but not today. Today there is no sound of people.

I wonder if everyone is indoors, playing video games or watching television, or maybe they’re all out on the lake, Off in the mountains or at the seashore.

We have another hurricane off the east coast, Dorian. Originally predicted to make landfall in Florida, Dorian has been drifting northward, and North Carolina is squarely in the cone of uncertainty. Since the hurricane has behaved unpredictably thus far, I’m postponing concern until landfall is more imminent than five or six days away.

Still the irony does not escape me that Hurricane Harvey held us hostage in Houston exactly two years ago, and that Hurricane Florence battered the Carolina coast less than one year ago, on the first anniversary of our arrival in Charlotte.

Once more, I’m sitting on the edge of the Slough of Despond, the swamp of despair. I’m not exactly in the pit, but nor am I at a safe distance. I have absolutely no reason to feel the way I do, other than the fact that it’s another family-oriented long weekend and I’m living in a family-free place.

Neil of course is family, family and lover and best friend all in one. He’s also the reason I’m here in this place, but I’m not angry at him for that. Because really, I don’t know where I’d want to be if not here. I don’t want to go back to Texas.

Honestly, I would have stayed in Texas, but going back wouldn’t be the same as staying. Having gone to the supreme effort of pulling up stakes, packing up a lifetime, feathering a new nest, and setting down small roots in our new city, I want to bloom here. Some plants take a longer time to fruit, maybe I’m just one of those.

If I can just surrender myself to swaying in the soft breeze while waiting for my roots to become better established, there’s a sporting chance that I’ll thrive and flourish.

I learned a new work this week. Hiraeth.
Hiraeth is a Welsh concept of longing for home. 'Hiraeth' is a word which cannot be completely translated, meaning more than solely "missing something" or "missing home." It implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person - including homesickness for what may not exist any longer.
It’s a concept that I make my home within. Not by choice, but just because it is how I feel most of the time. I’m happy, I’m content, but it’s always there, just beneath the surface, this sense of longing for ... I don’t know what. It’s something like home or family but it goes beyond that in some undefinable way.

And now that I know that it’s a thing, can I make peace with the knowledge that it will always be there, that longing, that sense of missing something?

Anything is possible. But some things are less probable.

In the meantime, I’ve developed a small obsession with Outlander.

I know, I know, I started out reacting without enthusiasm to the series, which I characterized as “fucking and fighting loosely interspersed with narrative elements.” Some of the explicit sexual violence was hard to watch and we fast-forwarded a few scenes. Neil bailed at the end of season one, but I’d gotten interested enough to push on.

Season two, I think, is much better written an acted than season one, but it may just be that I’ve fallen in love with the love story between Claire and Jamie. The idea that there’s a heart connection between people that surmounts both distance and time slays me.

I also love that Claire is four years older than Jamie, mirroring the age difference between me and Neil. I still don’t love the more extreme sex and violence but there definitely are more narrative elements. Whole episodes have little more than a kiss and a cuss word.

Another thing that amuses me is how 20 years pass (after Claire returns to 1948 and Jamie fights at Culloden to somehow live another day), yet somehow when they reunite, they look exactly the same. Of course the actors are the same age or a year older, but Claire at 50 is much like Claire at 30 in appearance. Her skin is like ivory, like white velvet, like pearl.

Claire and Jamie in Season 2
And in Season 3 (20 years later)
Well, I was almost 49 when I met Neil and I still felt as youthful and beautiful as ever.
48 years old in 2002
I finished season two on Netflix and had to pay for a one-month subscription to Starz for seasons three and four. I’m resisting the desire to binge watch episodes, because I’ll be sad when I’m done, at least until February, when season five is due out.

To console myself, I’m planning to read the books. Some time back, Neil started reading the first book to me, but we both found it heavy going, and quit, which is rare for us. I recently started it over and I’m mystified about why we lost interest. It’s totally keeping my interest now.

Of course, it’s not the first time that I’ve wound up really loving something that I was put off by at first.

And crazily, Jamie and Claire wind up in North Carolina.

Just like we did.

49 years old (2 months or so later)
Hope I look like that in 2022!

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye

Billow and breeze, islands and seas
Mountains of rain and sun
All that was good, all that was fair
All that was me is gone

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye

(Steven L. Kaplan, Bear Mccreary, Gavin Keese © Tv Avenue Music Inc.)