Between the ages of 8 and 10, so from about 1971 to 1973, my family lived in Jamaica. My father was a radiologist and worked for two years at the University Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. As a child, I remember the time fondly. My sister and I went to a wonderful school there and made good friends both at our school and with kids who lived in our neighbourhood. I remember being allowed to stay up late when my parents had parties, standing at the gate of our house (for some reason), listening to music watching everyone chatting inside.
On the western edge of the world, as defined by the International Date Line, it’s Sunday afternoon. I’m sitting at 39,993ft above the Pacific Ocean, according to the screen in front of me, just under two hours out from Honolulu. From there I’ll have one more leg to fly before two days of travel will see be back home in Maui. Though right now I am feeling conflicted by that word ’home’.
Yesterday it was pouring with rain outside, really pouring. The proximity of my parents’ top floor flat to the roof amplified the sound of the falling water. For the most part the rest of the day was overcast, it was humid. Today is the same, perhaps a little clearer. Following my father’s passing away on Tuesday, this weather has been a real comfort to me. I don’t want to venture far from my parents’ home at the moment, feeling safe and comfortable here, while feeling raw and vulnerable in my emotions.
I’m walking to the shops, walking down back streets, residential streets instead of the main road. I find more joy and interest in looking at the houses and front yards instead the busy main street. Houses that I use to pass most every day as a kid. I haven’t been back to Bristol to visit my parents for two years. COVID has been the culprit there. I wasn’t planning on visiting until next year when hopefully COVID might have been a little quieter.
I like this short definition of ’pilgrimage’ taken from The British Pilgrimage Trust website, Pilgrimage (n.): A journey with purpose on foot to holy/wholesome/special places. Of pilgrimage, the site goes on to say, To turn a walk into a pilgrimage, at the beginning set your private ‘intention’ – dedicate your journey to something that you want help with, or for which you want to give thanks.
I find myself sitting in my car on our driveway. It is overcast and there is steady stream of rain falling. The weather looks set in for the day, and likely tomorrow as well. I feel at ease, comfortable, safe. This weather takes me back to weather in Britain that I grew up with. At times it might be weather that the British poke fun at, or complain about. Or it might be weather that visitors tease the country for.
I started writing this earlier in the year while spending a weekend in Hana, on the far east coast of Maui. My wife and I, and a couple of COVID free trusted friends rented a house. I arrived feeling nauseous after navigating the twists and turns of the Hana Highway, and so stayed behind to rest while everyone else went for a walk. I sit watching a bug crawling across the top of the wooden balcony railing.
Sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
By John Koenig and his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, “that aims to fill holes in the language—to give a name to emotions we all feel but don’t have a word for.”
Last weekend was one of unplugging and heading to the beautiful community of Hana on the eastarn edge of Maui. So isolated is the community, that at the height of the recent pandemic lockdown there was a road block established to prevent all but local residents from traveling out there, thus protecting their vulnerability. Along with my wife and a few friends, we spent the day at Hamoa Beach, enjoying its crystal clear waters.
This is a strong image for me, an image from the past, A remembrance - sitting in my bedroom window at Tandderwen. Late at night, silence, quiet, looking out over the world. Tandderwen was the name of my house when I lived in South Wales. It is not unusual for houses in Britain to have names rather than numbers. Tandderwen is Welsh for Under the Oak. I don’t speak Welsh, but when the house was nearing completion and I was pondering what to name the new property, a friend lent me a book of Welsh words (along with their English meanings).