I’m reading a book that I am really loving at the moment. You know those books where you ration every chapter because you don’t want it to end? It’s that kind of a book, for me at least.
It’s called The Fish Ladder and it’s by Katharine Norbury (whose name I always try to spell with an E instead of the A, which is not cool of me) and it was released a couple of years ago. I spoke a bit about it on one of my “recordings” recently, you might remember, if you listened to those.
Because I have been feeling pretty at sea over the last year or more, I am obsessed with ideas of “place” and “home” and “belonging”. I think when you go through difficult things, it’s easy to feel like an outsider, or a sort of character circling your own life, so I am trying to work out how not to feel like that, and where/how I might feel more okay.
Maybe this sounds like a sort of woo-woo folly, but I really do think we all have a sort of spiritual home or sense of place that acts as a salve and grounds us and reminds us of who we are and where we need to be.
After talking a bit about this a tiny bit on this blog the other day, I promptly arrived at a few passages in Katharine’s book which were also pondering place and a sort of longed-for serenity, I suppose.
“You love it here, don’t you?” he said. I realised that he was one of the fisherman, and that I had never actually heard him speak before.
“Yes,” I replied, and I found myself trying to explain the feeling that just being there gave me; and the odd sense of breathlessness whenever I though off it, like an ache underneath my ribcage.
“It’s love,” said the fisherman, “I feel it myself.” I was amazed. In part because I hadn’t thought one could feel such a thing for place, and in part because I hadn’t recognised the symptoms. Which seemed a tragedy. As I walked back along the beach I picked over the unexpected conversation.
Love. I wasn’t sure about it. But the feeling of longing, or yearning, for something not quite discernible that could almost be nostalgia. A sense that was as acute as hunger, or homesickness, but not necessarily for a place that one knew. Something elusive, unquantifiable, and yet – in its very depth and poignancy – as compelling as desire.
(Katharine Norbury, The Fish Ladder)
I supposed it’s easy to hope that a place can make the world less tipsy, but I am sure that some places really do that for many of us.
Perhaps it’s the place you were born, or where you grew up, or a place from a time before whatever disaster befell us, befell … Or perhaps it’s just the idea of a place that has none of those memories at all, but the promise of fresh feelings and routines and ideas?
That longing – and the hope that things can feel more right and more solid – in the right place, is very real (to me at least!)
Do you ever feel that too?
PS: Katharine is creating an anthology of womens’ nature writing at the moment – called Women on Nature – and is hoping people will enthusiastically back the idea. Find out more here (and enthusiastically back the idea, if you can!)