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Sunday, May 30, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

If I could be amazing at one instrument, it would be the fiddle. Though I’ve spent over half of my life now learning and attempting to play guitar, there is something about the fiddle that I love. Perhaps it’s the emotion the instrument both requires and evokes. Perhaps it’s the versatility of musical styles on which a fiddle can be used. Mainly, I think I love the fiddle because my heart feels most at home in the melodies of Irish and Appalachian folk songs. These songs make me long for something, even though I don't know what it is. They connect me to something deep, though I can't really explain why.

My namesake, the Powers family, hails from Ireland. I don’t know exactly when we moved to America or why, but I know that we originally called the little green isle home. In my life, home has always been a moving target. Growing up the son of a Methodist pastor, I lived in six different towns in eighteen years – all of which were in Kentucky. (So even now when people ask me where I am from, I respond “Kentucky.” When they ask where in Kentucky, I tell them, “Just Kentucky.”)

In high school I was privileged to visit a piece of my homeland as my family and I spent two months living in England. As my appreciation for the Mother country grew, I began to understand why I always had a love for British literature, castles, and tea.

Since graduating from college, I have called Uganda home for a period of my life, as well as North Carolina. Take out that stint in Africa, and there has been nothing but Irish and Appalachian culture in my blood.

So where do I call home? In their own ways, they have all certainly been home to me. They have shaped me, formed me, loved me, and provided for me. I have appreciation and nostalgia for them all. Some say, “Home is where you hang your hat.” This may be true. And it’s probably good to think of it in that way. However, I often think of home as the place I know I’ll miss when I’m gone. It’s the place where, when I hear those old Irish and Appalachian folk songs, my heart will be reminded of.

It is ancient tradition in Ireland that when you come to someone’s home, especially a member of family, they teach you a song. Music was a way to share troubles and joys, to secure family tradition, and to have a sound that one could call home. I don’t know many of my families’ traditional Irish melodies or lyrics, but I do claim a sound that I call home.

And though a blog is not the best place to teach a new song, in honor of my Irish ancestors, I make this attempt by leaving you with these lines from the traditional Irish song “The Parting Glass,” taught to me recently after spending time in the company of an Irishman:

O, all the money e'er I had,

I spent it in good company.

And all the harm that ever I've done,

alas it was to none but me.

And all I've done for want of wit

to mem'ry now I can't recall;

So fill to me the parting glass,

Good night and joy be with you all.

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