"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
I knew this would happen. It always does.
In my last post I mentioned hiraeth – the Welsh word for a kind of homesickness. Now I need a word for its opposite – the sudden rush of love you feel for a place you’re about to leave, and the people in it.
The Kennet & Avon canal knows I am planning to head north. Like a scorned ex-partner, it is putting on its finest show to remind me what I’ll be missing as I head for the Severn. What has the Severn got that I haven’t got? So at every turn there are flag irises, moorhen chicks, the sweet smell of elderflower in the air, the sound of familiar boats steered by new friends. The bar staff know my name in one or two canalside pubs. The dry dock nearby is full of laughter and conversation, and has become the focus of my little community.
I have a tight knot of new friends here. A few nights ago I sat with some of them in one of the most spectacular settings in England, and saw the moon rise over the Avoncliff Aqueduct. The weir boiled and rumbled, the slow reaches looked like molten glass and the sound of sea shanties drifted across to us from the pub, where the local shanty group (yes, really) gather on Tuesdays. It was a perfect summer evening in good company.
This, friends, is the most dangerous time for a boat-dweller. This is when the voice in your head says; You don’t have to go. Stay. Stay.
So why don’t I? Because…. we don’t live on boats to stay still. Because…. one gets an appetite for more of everything – new rivers, new places, little journeys in the England you can only know by water.
I’m gobsmacked by the beauty of this corner of Wiltshire – in June, its allure is breathtaking and I feel it to the core. I’ve been so lucky to know it. But we don’t lose people, nor places, nor even lovers for that matter, by moving away from them. That particular wealth never diminishes, it only grows. You meet old boat friends in new places, and vice versa. You don’t lose landscapes, like Elizabeth Bishop in One Art; you only gain new ones. The old ones stay with you – and you can always come back. Boating is not like mountaineering or charting new territory; our adventures are small, domestic, slow. It’s not Everest. But you still have to do it – because it’s there. Because it’s here. Because there’s always an elsewhere.
Now – what is that word I’m looking for? A few suggestions in Comments already – add yours, if you like.