Last night I found the words to my lullaby.
Every new mother finds herself singing tunes, perhaps tunes that were unexpected, in hope of comforting her crying infant. Night after night these songs are turned to for comfort and reassurance. These lullabies are sung mindlessly, eventually taking on a relief of their own deep in the night when thoughts are incoherent, sleep beckons but your body is needed by a small being, and a soft song is sung to reassure that you both that all is safe and will return to calm.
The lullaby that came to me deep in the night was different from the other songs that I sing to my sons.
Years before I had known a Woman whose entire being embodied warmth and acceptance. There were none unwelcome to her and her presence was magnetizing, people following her billowing skirt and long braid. She was married to a Man whose gentle and firm presence, together with her joy, laid the foundation for a large community of people, of whom they were the nexus.
They were well-loved, and adored each other with an energy you could mop up.
I adored them too, though from the distance of a newcomer, only marveling at the radiance you wonder if perhaps it might be contagious and if so I would need to find more ways to be around them in the hopes I could gather some pieces of wisdom.
And so, I found myself in a makeshift Tavern one summer in Alaska. A happy place with peanut shells scattered across the dirt and old wooden reels previously used for wrapping giant cables around and now re-purposed as tables. There were live skits and singing, a lighthearted affair. At the end of the evening, this Woman and Man emerged with a group of friends and actors and sang a song, haunting and beautiful.
Using my excellent skill for hearing lyrics that only rhyme with the real lyrics, I thought the song was about a woman named Linda Lane and could only gather something about the boys coming home to her.
So when, deep in the night, my exhausted body able only to rock and hum a tune from somewhere lost inside, this was the song I heard myself singing, remembering only “let her go boys” in the lyrics.
Eyes closed, rocking my sleepless infant, it took me back to the joy of watching her expressive face light up, of admiring how after a lifetime of marriage she adored and was adored, of knowing how many lives she and her husband brought sunshine to, and of the boys in the song finally finding their way home.
Her husband died unexpectedly that fall.
My heart hurts each time. I think of how death is indiscriminate of even beautiful love. How impersonal death itself is, but how personal the affect is. And no one else I’ve ever known has adored their wife so openly as this man, and my husband. Knowing she lost her love terrified me. Where then do you turn to for your foundation when the one who gives you worth and life is lost.
Last night I found the song. This post never made it past my throat as I was singing the lullaby to my son last night, who couldn’t sleep. Tonight I am able.
It is about boys coming home. Though it is not to Linda Lane, but rather to the Isle of Mingulay, meant to be sung by Scottish fishermen returning home, home to wives and babes.
This is the group I originally heard sing that afternoon. I was near the drummer, whose rhythm encompassed me and became my heartbeat for a moment.
Now I sing so my sons, who are my heartbeat forever, waiting with love for the day their Daddy will return home too.
- Heel y’ho boys / let her go boys
- Bring her head round / into the weather
- Heel y’ho boys / let her go boys
- Sailing homeward / to Mingulay!
- What care we boys / how white the Minch is?
- What care we boys / of windy weather
- when we know that / every inch is
- sailing homeward / to Mingulay?
- Wives are waiting / on the pier heads,
- Gazing seaward / from the heather.
- Pull her head ’round / and we’ll anchor
- ‘Ere the sun sets / on Mingulay!
- When the wind is wild with shouting
And the waves mount ever higher
Anxious eyes turn ever seaward
To see us home, boys, to Mingulay
- Far behind us hills of Quinlon,
- Soon before us hills of heather,
- And you know, boys, candles glow, boys
- In the windows of Mingulay