'Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.'
These lines from a poem, Walking Away' have been in my head over the last few weeks. It was written by Daniel Day Lewis’ father, Cecil Day Lewis, for one of his other sons Sean. It was sparked by seeing Sean, as a 12 year old, play a rugby match, and realising he was growing up.
I was 12 myself when I first read this poem at school. I was the one doing the ‘walking away’. It was a few months before I headed to the Gaeltacht for the summer for the first time. As one wise-cracking neighbour quipped at the time, the Irish College was where you went to learn ‘the rudiments of courting and bad language… any Irish was incidental’. While not strictly true, it was definitely a coming-of-age step.
Now I am the one watching as my own kids walk away. (It’s hard to write a sentence like that without hearing chorus of Elton John’s Circle of life ringing in my ears.) Now it’s time for me to identify with the writer and not the child.
I used to love the mornings we walked or cycled to school through the park, when we lived in Dublin. Now they go by bus. The prospect of the bus was hugely attractive, in some ways a pre-requisite to make the move to Donegal work. In hustling for it, I didn’t realise that I’d miss the excuse to be with them in the morning.
I have more time now. Time I have craved. And so perhaps the selfhood that begins is not just theirs, but mine, again… as there’s time now to sit with what these freer hours might bring…