Political License

So, as I said in my previous post, I’m leaving Canada. I’ve spent the last something weeks in a whirlwind of organising, planning, decision making, packing, scheduling. I’m dismantling a home I’d made for myself here in Kamloops. Over the last 2 or more years I had really settled in and made (I think) a good place in which to be, and in which to welcome others to be. In many ways though I had just accumulated stuff – this house is rented, this home has always been impermanent –  but there have been some very good times here, and this stuff is imbued with those memories now. Most of it is staying here. Gradually being sold off as I whittle things down.

I’ve got very mixed feelings about leaving as I’ve said. Scotland has called to me a lot in the last few years. I’m Scottish, always will be, but I’ve come to realise that I could *also* have been Canadian. That it didn’t have to be a choice, or a giving up of something. I don’t think I’m even close to understanding this country, and there’s a whole lifetime of cultural references and history I simply don’t have, but I know more than I did, and I have a genuine affection for what I know.

I also have a genuine love of the landscapes in BC and I didn’t even get to explore a fraction of the province. I had hopes for a visit to the Kootenays, maybe make it to Nelson for a few days. Spend more time in Vancouver, go further north. In the last year as I’ve travelled away more often I’ve had an increasing sense of coming home to Kamloops. When I see the familiar shapes of the hills as the plane heads up the South Thompson river from the east, or coming back into town from the highways south. The scrubby slopes that surround the house, the deer that walk up and down the streets at night, the coyote in the hills.

I’ve had a very strange sense of dislocation though. Even as I’ve developed affection for this land and place, I’ve felt that it’s not been wholly mine to embrace, and as I head home for Scotland I’m realising that a significant part of this is because I’ve never felt that I had the right to be overly political here. I have Politics, but I don’t have the right to inflict them on anyone, and I feel the precarity of being a resident only. Being disenfranchised in the place you are trying to make a life is an experience worth reflecting on.

As my eyes turn homewards I feel that part of myself re-engaging. Just in time, because I rather fear there will be significant work to do. I am immensley proud of Scotland’s stance in the world in the past few years. We are but a small and insignificant nation, and our hopes have maybe been harder to achieve in practice. But we have been trying for something better and I’d rather try and fail than not bother at all.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation indeed.

And the irony is that Alasdair Gray* borrowed that phrase from the Canadian poet Dennis Lee. Another thread that ties these two places in my heart.

* read Alasdair Gray, especially Lanark. Consume his art. Revel in his beauty and genius. My country of makars.

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