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There Is No Such Beauty as Where You Belong

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/11/2015 Dana McKenna
THE ISLE OF SKYE © Sara Winter via Getty Images THE ISLE OF SKYE

"The Road Home" by Stephen Paulus, is one of my favorite songs. I first learned it when I was singing with a church choir, and although it may have its roots in the religious, it has a secular -- yet spiritual -- meaning for me. It describes certain feelings I could never fully explain on my own.
I learned the music after I had just returned from my first trip to Scotland and the rest of the British Isles. To say I was entranced by northern Britain is an outrageous understatement. I had been looking forward to visiting, but I never expected the wave of intense emotion that swept over me as I approached the port of Stranraer on the west coast of Scotland:
It was an early ferry departure from Belfast, Ireland that foggy morning. As we left the port, though, a shimmering rainbow arched over the city. A promise for certain. I dozed on and off during the 2+ hour trip across the North Channel which connects the Irish Sea to the Atlantic.
At just about the two hour mark, I came awake completely, but couldn't figure out why. We still had a good portion of the trip to make, so I decided to walk about the ship. My meandering took me to the prow, and I still get goosebumps when I recall the memory: straight ahead, there was a stretch of grey-green, slightly hilly land, seemingly floating between the grey ocean and the grey sky. The hairs on the back of my neck rose, and I suddenly felt like crying, but they were happy -- almost relieved -- tears. My breath caught in my chest, and I stood there on deck, really and truly transfixed by the beautiful coast coming into clearer view. We entered the channel leading into Loch Ryan... and it felt as though I was being enveloped by welcoming arms. I felt like I was home. It was almost overwhelming, this feeling of instant, unquestionable belonging.
That feeling intensified over the next week, from the moment I set foot aground to the moment I boarded the plane heading back for the U.S. I cried upon arriving in Stranraer, and I cried again when leaving, as the plane climbed in altitude, and Scotland grew smaller and smaller, eventually obscured by the clouds, like a gauzy curtain being pulled across the small window I had my nose pressed up against.
I didn't go looking for it, but I was gifted with that extraordinary feeling, one I can never forget. I've been back once since then, and I took my son, Z, with me, for a much longer visit. I felt that familiar tug on my heart as the plane circled Edinburgh to land; and when we left three weeks later, I cried again. It seems as though I leave a part of my heart each time, and the longing to go back is stronger the longer I'm away. To me, Scotland is the most beautiful and magical place on Earth.
That first trip to the United Kingdom was transformative for me: I learned that the people in England are so kind; Wales is the epitome of "pastoral"; Ireland was created with every color green known to mankind; and Scotland is my heart's desire.
Although I have family who lived there, the Drysdale family sept of the Douglas clan, most of them left in the early- to mid-1800s to escape the failing economy of the times. They sailed from Glasgow to Ontario, Canada, where they found a new calling as inn keepers -- probably catering to those who followed them over the Atlantic, also searching for a new life. I can trace my Scots ancestors to the mid-1700s, in and around Lanarkshire, near Glasgow.
Maybe each time I leave, I relive their sadness at watching their homeland disappear in the cold, choppy waters of the ocean. Receding farther and farther from view, until it was just -- gone. To my knowledge, none of them were ever able to return to Scotland. It had to be a great heavy sadness for them, although as the successive generations lived through a new century, that sadness probably receded, like the coastline, during their family's exodus.
I don't know when or how, but I will go back again, maybe for an even longer stay. I will cry as we come in for a landing in Edinburgh; and I will cry again upon leaving. I can't explain why these feelings are so strong in me. Thankfully there is music that comes close.
"The Road Home" by Stephen Paulus
Tell me, where is the road
I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost
So long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh when will I know
There's a way, there's a road
That will lead me home?
After wind, after rain,
When the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream
In the gold of day,
Through the air there's a calling
From far away,
There's a voice I can hear
That will lead me home.
Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.

Sláinte bha!

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