My thoughts return again and again to the old world, to the lands across the sea that my ancestors abandoned long ago. Well, not so long ago in fact, when my father left Germany to immigrate here to the U.S. As for my mother, God rest her blessed soul, she never knew the half of her own heritage. The Scottish, yes. But little did she know how many of her roots were settled in those ancient lands. And in England and Ireland and Germany and France.
I wish sometimes I could share with her all that I have learned. I wish I could take her hand and show her how large her world had been, this woman who dwelt so comfortably between four walls, so long as she could provide for her two sons. So long as she could make a safe and happy home in that small space. Little knowing how eagerly one of her own bairn would seek out the past she had lost.
She is only eight years old now, but when my dearest daughter arises to claim her life in her own voice, with her own hands, I pray she will abandon these walls and seek the world wide to find the life that suits her best. If it means leaving all this behind, my darling princess, then so be it. Create the life you will, and I will always be proud of you for it. For having found your own voice.
As for me, what time remains in this body still, what rhythm yet this heart may beat, what verses this mind may yet compose, I know it will not be here. My father left his home in the old world and hardly looked back to the heritage he had left behind. My mother barely knew hers. I will not die on these shores. I will afar. As far as this life may yet take me. And in the old world, in the company of true love, I pray I will at last find peace.
This, by the way, is the remarkable Julie Fowlis, and these are the words to this song, which I have copied from her website:
Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach (A sheiling on the Braes of Rannoch)
Gur e m’ anam is m’ eudail
chaidh an-dè do Ghleann Garadh:
fear na gruaig’ mar an t-òr
is na pòig air bhlas meala.
O hi ò o hu ò, o hi ò o hu ò,
Hi rì ri ò hu eile
O hì ri ri ri ò gheallaibh ò
Is tu as fheàrr don tig deise
de na sheasadh air thalamh;
is tu as fheàrr don tig culaidh
de na chunna mi dh’ fhearaibh.
Is tu as fheàrr don tig osan
is bròg shocrach nam barrall:
còta Lunnainneach dubh-ghorm,
is bidh na crùintean ga cheannach.
An uair a ruigeadh tu ‘n fhèill
is e mo ghèar-sa a thig dhachaigh;
mo chriosan is mo chìre
is mo stìomag chaol cheangail.
Thig mo chrios à Dùn Eideann
is mo bhrèid à Dùn Chailleann,
gheibh sinn crodh as a’ Mhaorainn
agus caoraich à Gallaibh.
Is ann a bhios sinn ‘gan àrach
air àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach.
ann am bòthan an t-sùgraidh
is gur e bu dùnadh dha barrach.
Bhiodh a’ chuthag ‘s an smùdan
a’ gabhail ciùil duinn air chrannaibh;
bhiodh an damh donn ‘s a bhùireadh
gar dùsgadh sa mhadainn.
It was my love and my treasure
who went yesterday to Glengarry,
the man with hair like gold
and kisses that taste of honey.
You suit your clothes
better than any man on earth;
you look better in your garments
than any man I’ve ever seen.
You look better in stockings
and comfortable laced shoes,
a dark blue London coat
that cost many crowns to buy.
When you arrive at the fair,
you’ll bring home my gear,
my small belt and my comb
and my little narrow fastening
My belt will come from Edinburgh
and my marriage head-dress from
we’ll get cattle from the Mearns
and sheep from Caithness.
And we’ll rear them in a sheiling
in Bràigh Raithneach,
in the brush-wood enclosed hut of
The cuckoo will sing
its song to us from the trees,
the brown stag and its roaring
will wake us in the morning.