Letter to Lorgill

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Dear Sister,

I saw pictures today of your final resting place, where you’ll dip and soar in the steady wind off the sea, where you’ll alight in tiny crevices between the rocks, and into tidal pools that shimmer in the sunlight.  You are now where you always wanted to be.  It makes me sad to think that on many days you will dance alone on the rocks as Lorgill was abandoned long ago by its inhabitants.  You knew that and still you wanted to be there.  Your only audience will be the screeching sea birds and perhaps an appreciateive seal or two.  I am sad, sister.  I am sad, lonely, bitter, mad.  I miss you and I shouldn’t have to miss you because you shouldn’t be gone.

The pictures of that windswept remote place on the Misty Isle caught me off guard.  I’d said my goodbyes to you long ago.  Goodbyes, yes; final words, no.  You lived and died so far away from me.  Had I known you were slipping away from me, I would’ve ..said more.  Do you know your bairns are grown now – your beautiful girl who took you to Lorgill yesterday, her little ray of Sunshine in her arms…your boys – ha!  Boys no more, giant men they are.  Your oldest boy looks just the same but larger, that slightly wary look still on his face, in his eyes. Your baby is the one most changed.  Gone is the cherubic face.  It is now covered in stubble and dust, another soldier lean and hard. I look at him even so and see you.  They are far away from the isle you brought them to.  Are they happy?  Only they can say, they’re boys after all.

Your brother weeps for you still.  He calls and calls but he gets no answer.  He wonders why – as we all do – and gets no answer.  He went a long time not believing.  He announces your birthday, days in advance.  “Never forget her,” he chants.  As if.

How do I paint a portrait of you, wild sister, when all I have in front of me are flat photographs?  How do I keep you alive to those you never met?  How do I explain the fire, the spark, the terrible beauty that was you?  Your niece, who carries your light in her eyes and who looks so like you, looks at pictures and says, “Mama, who is that?”  That my dear, is your Auntie.”  She puts the photo in a pile with all the others, “Oh, the one who died.”  How do I make her see that you are so much more than just “the one who died?”  Your brown-eyed nephew never met you but he’s danced on your shores and tasted the salty October wind on Skye.  He whirled like a dervish in his kilt all night long.  I think how we would’ve danced at that wedding, had you been there.

What of you and me, sister?   I was hard on you when you were alive; I was harder on you still when you died.  I did not understand (still don’t, I admit) the passions that sent you headlong into the night.  Death is supposed to make sense.  It’s supposed to be a closing of the circle.  Yours was a car with no brakes on a hill.  We all stood by the side of the road and watched you hurtle past, powerless to stop you.

Now I feel, looking at the pictures of the sunny day (rare?) at Lorgill, maybe you are at peace.  I confess I am not but I’m working on it.  When people (who don’t know us, who don’t know that you are gone and who don’t need to ) ask, “Where does your sister live?” I’ll say, “Lorgill.”  Where’s that they’ll ask…and I’ll say it’s a lovely, remote village on the Isle of Skye.” They don’t need to know its population is one, and a spirit at that.  Be happy now, Queen of All Banshees.  I will never forget you.  Every time the wind sounds a particularly forlorn note, I’ll think of you.  I’ll close my eyes and see you dancing in the wind at Lorgill.

I love you,

wee banshee

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