I just finished reading Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. I enjoyed it, was moved by it, and although it may have been just a tad too long, it was a good read, to be recommended. I read a library copy, so I intend to get a copy for myself for re-reading; for me that is an endorsement of a distinct kind, for few books make it to the “buy soon” list!
One of the things that moved me in the reading was coming across the word “Seledreorig.” An old Anglo-Saxon word, (Anglo-Saxon being the period in British history of the invasion of Germanic tribes, and the actual development of the English Peoples, 400 AD to 1066 BC, which includes the Viking Age…) it means, as best can be described, as “sadness for the lack of a hall.” There really is no equivalent in English – it is a word of pathos and deep longing for a place of one’s own.
The word, and the feeling it expresses is, for me, the definition of a wanderer as well. I have always had a deep wanderlust, unexplainable to me for many years. Currently, living in a small trailer in a dynamically beautiful and starkly haunting place, I am feeling a bit of that “sadness for the lack of a hall.” I have come to much understanding of my personality and my patterns of living over the last 18 years or so, and I know that part of this bout of Seledreorig is because I have very few of my belongings around me.
“Treasures,” as defined here, is of course a very personal thing – one woman’s treasures are another woman’s garbage slag. For me,” treasures” encompass my books, my family photos and mementos, and such things as wall-art, my favorite mug, and small knickknacks that make me feel at home. I have very few of those things with me now – partly because of space restrictions, and partly because most of my things are still in storage in California. Next week, we are taking a brief sojourn back there, to pick up another carload of things, and I hope to get several things that will sustain me and help me recover from this bout of melancholy in residing “in” a place, rather than being “of” a place.
I am happy here, content to live a simple, minimal-existence kind of life. I love the locale, enjoy exploring new places with hubby and the dogs, and in continuing in my personal quest for understanding and enlightenment of self. Yet I feel incomplete, even insecure, in not having things around me that offer some sort of affirmation of my interests, my past, and my ongoing explorations in educating myself in topics of curiosity.
I am already extensively involved in the library here – the local branch is only open 3 half-days a week – and Ed and I have joined the Friends of the Library Board, as co-secretaries. They can get me any book, just about, that my heart desires, and my internet connection can provide me with vast resources for learning and researching. Not the same, though, as having a bookshelf with my own favorites on it; Susanna Kearsley, Jacqueline Winspear, Susan Wittig Albert, Deborah Adams (my favorite authors, mostly mysteries and romantic suspense) or whatever has struck my fancy recently (Peking Man, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for example) that has led to the collection of books on the topic.
Yet books alone don’t provide me with that sense of home and belonging and place. I also need a familial affirmation of sorts – pictures, things that remind me of the giver (the statue of two friends from Kerrylynn, the tiny picture of my grandsons, a small pitcher that belonged to my mother) and tactile things that make me smile. Perhaps it is because of my hearing loss, that small things take the place of being able to hear birdsong, or talk on the telephone with ease, or listen to talk radio.
All of us, I think, want to make our mark – perhaps not in some grand fifteen-minutes-of-fame way, but in a genealogical way, or even in a more immediate parent to child way. I remember my mother’s pithy sayings, and daddy’s humorous asides, and have even been guilty of repeating them to my own children and grandsons. That is why the intimacy of belongings provides me with strands of connectivity, a sense of belonging and family that negates any lingering sense of Seledreorig. It doesn’t need to be a grand, baronial hall, filled with tapestries hanging on the wall, or filled with exotic furnishings and a fireplace big enough to roast a whole cow. It simply needs to be a place of my own, with my own stamp upon it, the whimsical, enchanting, fey sort of style that I am comfortable with, that epitomizes the “me” I know the best. I wish for my readers that sense of enchantment and belonging in their own homes as well, whether it is a funky cabin in the woods, a retirement apartment or a sprawling ranch house!