I’m in the midst of writing a (difficult for me) teaching on grief, and while taking a break, I found this wonderful and relevant essay by James Paris, Sehnsucht, in which he talks about the concept of a deep longing for a lost home or person—possibly even somewhere or someone or something that may not exist or may never have existed. Yet, the sense of longing is deep and abiding.
As I read this I thought first about how this is a form of grief, and also how we can never be happy if we cling so tightly to what is not there that we cannot enjoy what we do have. And I thought about how we reconcile this split or fail to do so, and how much our happiness depends on succeeding in finding a balance in life that works for us.
I know exactly where my “home” is! It is in the magical, misty, and mystical West of Scotland, inhabited by the fae and the Ancient Ones, spirits two-legged and four, winged and finned. It is as far from the modern Scottish Highlands and Islands, filled with tourists, bright sun sparkling on the water, or mountains soaring from the sea, beautiful though that is, as it can be. Another world, you might say.
My Scotland is only found in the almost silent moonlight, the dark and moonless night with the deep roar of a waterfall, the birdsong of the breaking dawn, the mists of the twilight. It can be heard in the sound of distant bagpipes, the lifting tenor melody on the hill, and in the wistful song of the cuckoo. I do love to be in the ordinary (as if it could ever be truly “ordinary”) daytime West of Scotland—and there are always the unpredictable moments and glimpses of that Other, flickers in the corner of the heart’s eyes, and the faint touches of unseen fingers.
I miss it, I long for it with a deep heartache at times. The longing is never far from me. Yet… I’m happy where and as I am. I can’t be in Scotland—the climate was killing me, quite literally. But I found another place with water and mountains, forests and islands, the myriad shades of green, the bright blues and soft grays and the singing notes of the wildflowers. This place I live has a very different magic of its own. It is not, and never will be my Scotland. But I can live here, and I can be happy with the little daily miracles of life in this place. And in my dreams and in the twilight, I can open the portals just a crack and invite my own world into this one.
Someday, I’ll step happily across that boundary and not return, but for now, this world is also a much beloved joy.