But let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all the time Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had…
I was at a wonderful concert last night here in Tracadie (PEI) with the Barra MacNeills, a Celtic folk group from Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. When they sang this song by Douggie MacLean, it got me thinking.
Caledonia. The homeland. The heart’s land.
It’s what we’re all in search of, no?
Anyone who has ever left their homeland carries the hole where it was in the core of their being. It’s the hole we perpetually seek to fill. We seek refuge from that absence.
We seek that place we know and where we’re known.
Really, it’s not even a geographical location. It’s something deep, deep within every human heart, whether we’ve traveled or no. It’s that longing that we carry throughout life. That longing for reunion with – what? With God? There are many things we might call it. But certainly, it’s something bigger than our little lost self. Infinitely bigger. Something big enough to hold everything and everyone…
In these last few days I’ve been afraid that I might drift away So I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs that make me think about where I came from…
And so, I harness myself to my sādhanas, my spiritual practices. I practice yogāsana, Bharatanatyam. I chant. I study Sanskrit. These aren’t that elusive homeland, but perhaps they might help lead me there?
There was a big storm today, the likes of which I have never witnessed before. At its apogée, the rain was near horizontal with the extreme winds. Thunder and lightning. Trees waving hysterically.
In a walk after the storm, I witnessed many trees with their branches violently ripped off and lying on the ground. One neighbour, a horticulturalist, was in tears because of the extensive damage to a well-loved tree in her back yard.
I continued wandering through nearby neighbourhoods, and found myself passing by an older woman sporting rubber boots and a sweater, sitting on her front stoop looking out at the road. I stopped and said hello, making some comment about how dramatic the storm had been.
She walked over and we chatted pleasantly for a time. Georgette told me that she was one of ten children, brought up on a farm. I would have put her age at somewhere in the 60s, and was surprised to find out that she was 83! She invited me to come and see her little vegetable garden where beans, zucchini, radishes, lettuces, and carrots, arranged in neat little rows, had begun to sprout. She was a mother of four, had lost her beloved husband to cancer 30 years back, but continued to live contentedly on her own. Our conversation switched into French at some point as she shared a few of her life experiences with me, and some well-earned wisdom.
Eh bien, if things go badly one day, rest assured, tomorrow will be better.
Just wait – you’ll look back on what worries you today and laugh about it.
You can’t control anything, so why worry?
Don’t think about what you could have done, think about all that you did do.
In the end, everything will work out, c’est certain!
Encountering Georgette was such an unexpected gift. And it fell into my life, as these things so often do, at just the right moment.
In yogāsana practice we often describe backbends as being “heart-opening”.
When someone is feeling discouraged, down, depressed, indeed, the spine tends to move in the opposite direction. A protective, curled position.
Like a comma.
This made me pause…
The heart’s need for connection is so basic, so strong, that when we curl in, another door opens.
The back door of the heart.
And when we see someone in this coiled position, in obvious pain, what is our instinctive response? – to tenderly place a hand just in between the disheartened one’s shoulder blades. (As I write this, I remember the feeling of comfort when my mother gently placed her hand right there, if I was sick or sad…)
When we close that “front door” in the centre of the chest, the “back door” automatically opens. It’s hard-wired into our very physical structure.
I let my body be held, let myself be held by ocean and sink, sink into her depths. My feet touched down and I danced. As we moved together in intimacy I learned how to stand, how to reach, how to use resistance to redefine myself, how to know that we can be two, just as we can be one.
I stood against wind, leaned into his breath, felt his urgent caress against my skin. I danced with wind and learned how to soften, how to yield, how to bend like his other lovers, the trees and grasses. I let wind push me into whirling, stumbling steps, and came to know the creative possibility of surrender.
I let my body climb into the crisp cold of mountain air. I danced with mountain, steadfast in soaring blue. My movement, curbed by the cold, was distilled into one hand reaching, reaching. In this distal, uncompromising exchange, I learned to find my axis, mirrored in mountain.