A Journey Home
For so much of my life, I didn’t really know you. I looked through eyes that never really saw you, and therefore you never really got to know me. I walked on your green fields, soft Downs, and saw your seas in storm, although mostly with more gentle small regular waves, but I yearned for the Atlantic crash on Granite rocks, a ferocious boom vibrating the land and shimmering air. You are more delicate than the heather-covered moor, with its reaching rocky Tors and hidden bogs. You feel younger, more of a beautiful garden.
My memory searched for a time before you were given your name by a people who, for my whole life, I had been told were violent Germanic-speaking invaders who pushed others to the far west. I learned your older name. Was I a descendant of those ‘invaders’? I continued to reach towards the far-west place of my birth where an old language was being re-learned. Holding on to the feeling of belonging. I did feel at home, but not at home. Home was still the great South West, and for so many years my eyes and ears were closed to you.
It seems the story I had learned growing up wasn’t entirely truthful. The Romans, after hundreds of years, left a political vacuum. People did migrate. They always have, and they continue to do so, but the evidence of a mass invasion at that time is only there in the rare writings of later clerics, who had their own agendas, and the much later Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – written again for political reasons, and not always an accurate historical record – certainly not backed up in the archaeological record.
Caesar wrote, when he arrived on his failed attempt to invade, that he found a land with three languages – Gaelic, Brythonic, and Germanic. It seems that the Celtic tribes of the southeast were already speaking an ancient version of what would become English. Which makes sense – across the channel is where much of the trade would be. Some of the Celtic tribes in mainland Europe were also speaking a Germanic language. I find the story I have been told was very convenient, very clean and uncomplicated. Unlike history, which is mixed up, has many stories, and nuances.
The more I looked, the more holes I found in the narrative I had been taught. And the more holes I found the more my eyes saw you. And the more I saw you, the more I fell in love with you. Stories have power. Myths have power. But we can see very clearly what happens when myth becomes adopted as truth. It separates people, divides and makes people ‘other’. The more I read the more I realised what I had always believed to be the truth was closer to what happened here all those centuries ago. That I am an island dweller. That my Welsh and Scottish brothers and sisters are my kin. That we share a complicated history, and that we all belong. As do all peoples who find this glorious, beautiful land of Albion their home. The story never began, and it will never end. I sit on your Downs, once covered by ocean. I see your forests, once covering the Weald. I see the names of your towns, villages, hills and valleys – Saxon names, Brythonic names, Danish names, and old English names, revealing the incredibly rich and diverse journey of this old place.
I’ve never liked any form of nationalism. Not one other creature on this planet other than a human knows where the borders lie between ‘countries’. Feeling at home is a visceral instinct and feeling. I feel at home when I visit Australia – I have no idea why and it makes no sense logically, I just do. I felt at home on an Italian mountain listening to the cowbells in the valley below. I feel at home on the banks of Llyn Tegid and on the island of Iona. Home seems to me something other than a place of birth. It’s more of a deep connection that is there at a spiritual level. A joining together of the essence of the soul with the land. The more I walk this Path the more labels fall away, and the less I feel the need to have my feelings ratified by history books. If there is one thing I can own it is my Journey – the Journey of my life. More and more I know for sure that this journey is all about connection. The things that unite and let us see through human constructs, whether they be political, cultural, religious, or anything else, and see the human, plant, animal, or bird, as kin.
A journey of discovery, exploring the roots of my locality, helped me drop any thoughts that only one place can be Home. Home is the land beneath me, the air around me, the seas and rivers that help bring that land to life, and I know that land when my soul, and its soul, meet.