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by Sara Sheridan
02 February 2023
Sara Sheridan: It’s hard for anyone to understand where they come from, until they step away

Sara Sheridan: It’s hard for anyone to understand where they come from, until they step away

The first time I see you clearly, is the first time I leave. It’s hard for anyone to understand where they come from, until they step away and are lonely for something they cannot name: belonging, perhaps. 

You are too complicated to love, I realise. Love does not cover it. You are beautiful more than half the time. Good-hearted more than half the time too. Intelligent. Hard-working. But you are fractious and bitter and do not always understand the responsibility of tolerance. How to carry kin and clan and class with grace.

Away, I miss the taste of milk from the farm, low-hanging, ripe plums and briny oysters. I miss the sway of the boat to the islands, peppered green out to sea. I miss the wry twinkle of jokes that push the granite edges of familiarity into friendship. But most, I miss the possibility of you, for we are all made of where we are born and walk with the ghosts of that place, hand in hand. The real business of education is learning not to let go of those icy fingers while steering a course ahead.

Coming home, I land in your arms, breathe the air and taste the water. I feast on plump brambles and shots of peaty whisky. The blessings we forget to count are our true treasures. Travel has made me agile and I bend without breaking now, like the machair on a windy shore. I am a writer and words are visceral in my being. We must say what we mean, my love, though it is not simple. How could it be when words define our humanity. Our ability to listen, for ill or for good. 

I fret that if we realise our possibilities, I might not love you as much. If there is only light, will I miss your darkness? If we repent past wrongs surely it will change who we are.

I have seen things done better and things done worse, though, and I am ravenous. In the end I cannot sit still any more than my foremothers. Will you shift with me? Will you flit? 

It comes down, I realise, to imagination. Not some fantastic story, but directed to our day-to-day. We must admit our shame and put manners on it. We must accept our flaws and replenish them better. We must break so we can remake. This is to live as a true participant in the world. I have seen what lies beyond.

Now we must discuss how to carry all of us into what will wash our way on the salty tide. The future is that navigation. It is as well then that we come from dreamers and stargazers, born with a sextant as our inheritance. Take my hand now, my love. It’s time to break the walls of this old castle keep and open our eyes to the view.

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