Last night we accompanied Forrest, Manon, and Arthur part-way home to Ottawa, going as far as Vancouver where we took them to dinner at a favourite restaurant. Three years ago we went to the same restaurant, with Angelica too, and sat at the same corner table, looking out into the warm room. We ate well, drank some delicious Desert Hills viognier, and came back to our little hotel in a snow-storm. A bottle of Prosecco waited in the fridge for a toast to the season and an early morning departure. A little earlier in the evening, while Forrest and Manon were getting Arthur ready for the bus ride across town to the restaurant, I looked out the window at what seemed like the last of old Vancouver remaining in the West End (though I know there are other small pockets of the past still standing among the high rises…). Snow, light from the storefronts, the prospect of one more dinner with people I love on the last night of the year — all of it transpired to make me cry in front of the window. In my mind, I heard Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis sing the beautiful “Auld Lang Syne” as they sang it once, in summer, here on the Coast during the Celtic Summer Music camp.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
For auld syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
John and I returned home this afternoon to a house emptied of voices. Just the fire crackling. And me, humming “Auld Lang Syne”. Robert Burns wrote the poem in 1788 but said that he’d collected some of it from other singers and shaped what we now know as his version to fit a traditional folk melody. It’s beautiful — as a sung ballad, as a poem, even as a page of manuscript, in the hand of Robert Burns, in the Scots Musical Museum, a publication devoted to archiving the traditional music of Scotland.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.
A watery strait between us and one beloved child, and mountains and prairies to cross to reach the others. A New Year full of promise and hope, for auld lang syne.