There is a sense in which places are like lovers. Not all places are forever, just as not all lovers are forever. Sometimes we find ourselves in places (or with lovers) only for a while – because they have something to show us, or teach us, and we have something to show or teach them. And then we must leave them behind, and move on.
In that moving on, there is always mourning. No matter how right and how necessary the moving on, a part of yourself stays behind with each place that you leave. And so, as I return now for a while to Lewis, I remember that every welcoming move that I have made towards the river is laced with the loss of the sea. The joy and the mourning are interwoven, inseparable. As I slowly shed my sense of belonging to this croft and this place like an old skin, I find that the new skin beneath it is raw, sensitive, thin: I haven’t yet grown into it. That old skin may have become calloused and wrinkled but it was hard-won; it represented years of learning and being. And no matter how necessary the shedding, the freshly glowing skin beneath has been born of it, has grown out of it: its very existence depends on it.
Not all leaving is rejection: neither the leaving of lovers, nor the leaving of places.
One day, far in the future, caught between the boulders on some storm-ridden Breanish beach, a strange leathery sack-like object will be found. There will be no way into it, no use will be found for it, and it will be tossed aside to crumble eventually into the sand.
But all that it once nourished and protected will live on, growing and transforming and shedding in turn.