Recommended Reading:
The things that save us

Tunes for a Monday Morning

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 Sound & Spiritforced 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.


Thank you for the gift of the Sound & Spirit website. I am enthralled!

When I was singing with the Scottish Gaelic group, we had a fair few songs of exile in our repertoire, and singing them reduced more than a few members of our audiences to tears even when they couldn't understand the words. The sorrow of leaving home and loved ones knowing you'll never see them again, the endless yearning for them, the fear of going to a new and unknown place, all this made these songs heart rending. Knowing that this is what my ancestors likely felt, and what the majority of my fellow Australians' ancestors felt, means it's beyond my understanding how so many people here can show so little compassion for the refugees arriving on our shores now. They were even given a new name a few years ago (by some spin-doctor in Canberra I presume) longer refugees (too emotive perhaps?), not even 'asylum seekers' (clinical, but not negative enough) they are 'illegal immigrants'. It makes me so angry. When I think of what they have likely gone through.........

I think there is also a kind of homesickness that isn't for a physical place that you know or once lived in. It's a kind of yearning for a place to belong, a place you might never have been to, a feeling you've never had. I wonder if we all feel that a little?

Oh, and I meant to add this link. One of my favourite 'exile' songs, about the difference between what Scottish emigrants were told about Manitoba before they left home, and the harsh reality of life there once they arrived. 'O Mo Dhuthaich' by Capercaillie.

A beautiful tune, Christina, thank you.

What did I do before I found your supurbly generous, comforting & inspiring site!

I spent 2 glorious hours lost in 'Sound and Spirit' last night, listening to the embedded file above and the Kalevala episode on the S&S website. Oh what a treasure trove is here! And much more to explore too...wonderful!

The comments to this entry are closed.