Above, the Irish folksinger Cara Dillon performs a traditional song, "Craigie Hill," accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra. Below, the great English songwriter Ralph McTell performs his now-classic song "From Clare to Here" (which some of you may know through the beautiful version recorded by Nanci Griffith).
Both songs pertain to the subject of Irish emigration: In the first, a young man says farewell to his native land as he sails off to America, full of hope for a better life ahead. The second song portrays the reality of that new life as many experienced it: hard, and full of longing for the land and people left behind.
While only a few us share the experience of making one's home in a foreign land, I would imagine that all of us can relate to the subject of homesickness, for surely we've all felt its bittersweet touch at one point of life or another. These days I am often caught out by waves of homesickness for the Arizona desert -- for although I'm happily rooted on Dartmoor now, and have adopted this land as the home of my soul, there's a part of me that will always belong to the Rincon Mountains that lie east of Tucson. Yet for me, the pain of homesickness is mitigated by the fact that my emigration was voluntary. What must it be like to be forced to leave a beloved home -- by war, politics, economics, or circumstance? The ache of that loss must be painful indeed, and I often wonder how people can bear it.
My good friend Ellen Kushner has explored the subjects of Homesickness and Exile on her absolutely brilliant radio series Sound & Spirit. (Follow the links to listen to them.) If you haven't encountered S&S before...well then I envy you, dear Readers, for you have many happy hours of listening ahead. Don't miss the show on The Kalevala, or on Friendship, or the one I was involved with: Surviving Survival, or, or, or...heck, they're all good.