Eileen’s compelling comparison of her relationship to Ireland and Canada with that of her husband illustrates how people forge and maintain different emotional ties in the process of migration. Her description of her gradual adjustment and growing affection for the host country and Ralph’s continued longing for and attachment to the homeland are framed by activities that both stimulate and express these varied emotions.
In this clip, Eileen mentions that “I guess there’s no place that fills [Ralph] like the way Ireland does.” Visits to Ireland are homecoming experiences for Ralph, more than for Eileen. Migration scholar Paul Basu (2007) examines the Scottish diaspora and is interested in how roots-tourists dwell on and travel in places connected to their heritage. He explains that within diasporic cultures there is a persistent sense of displacement and trips taken to the homeland enable people to “reterritorialize their identity, become more bound by place, develop more authentic sense of continuity with their ancestral past, and recover a degree of cultural distinctiveness.” (28) Being in a space can connect us to a sense of self and a past; it can fill us.
Using a phenomenological approach (the study of experience and consciousness), environmental scholar Mick Smith and his colleagues (2009) argue that the world we experience is not an abstract and vacant space, but a “lived world perceived and produced through our emotionally laden activities.” (11) In this case, visits to Ireland, painting, and driving become emotionally laden when they are connected to a sense of home. Migration intensifies these feelings as ideas of where home is located are challenged and shift over time. Distances, borders, and landscapes are felt, and the places that fill us become central to how we understand and identify ourselves.
Photo: Just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.