It was January, 1988. I travelled from Vancouver to stay at our family cabin on Hornby Island for about ten days. It was a mild, wet, west coast winter, which included some doozies of storms with spectacular wind and waves during the short days and long nights. I wrote this song during this stay as I sat at the kitchen table looking out at the weather during the day, and at my reflection in the window at night. I felt like I was in a ship being buffeted on cold seas somewhere in northern waters, lost and adrift.

The outside scene reflected my inward life, as well. I was turning 28 years old that year and was feeling stuck, creatively, and in the “love” department. I was still missing someone who had meant so much to me but whom I was never destined to be with.

My room seems a ship’s cabin, and at nights when I wake up and hear the wind shrieking, I almost fancy there is too much sail on the the house, and I had better go on the roof and rig in the chimney.”

Herman melville on writing Moby Dick from his attic

So, I felt like I was out on a ship in a northern ocean in the winter, pining to return to a safe harbour, but relying on a small strand of hope. Like storms or dark nights, it did pass; a year later I met the person with whom I’ve been together for more than 30 years. A happy ending – just not in this song.

I performed this song once with my band at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 1989, but I never recorded it. It’s a very personal, raw song for me. I’m glad I remembered it when I’d reunited with my music in 2016, and recorded it for the Call It Home album. 

Where I Belong

It’s the fourth of January, it’s cold and dark and wet
The thoughts that I hold of you have not vanished from me yet
I look out on the ocean, the tide is ebbing slow
I wish I could find direction, I wish I could find my way home

It was the first of January not so many years ago
I held you in my arms and felt our fire glow
You were soft and sweet, your touch was everything to me
Now ghosts are all that I meet, it’s one big mystery

I’ve been on this ocean for oh so long
Lost all my bearings, my compass is all wrong
I seek a warm harbour where the winds aren’t so strong
I long to sink in someone’s arms where I belong – where I belong

I have my critics, they’d like to criticize
The kind of love that I in my lover’s eyes
But I guard my secrets like a king guards his gold
And treasures die slowly when they’re left out in the cold

The arctic winds whistle, the frozen rain steals in
There’s ice on the rigging; it screams your name again and again
Leave me alone please, be damned and be gone
Let me get on with my journey, with my life let me move on

Chorus

Maybe one day by chance I’ll run aground
You’ll find me happy with a new love I’ll have found
Until that time comes I’ll do the best that I can
I’ll hide the tear in my eye and I’ll walk just like a man

Looking North up Lambert Channel from Shingle Spit, Hornby Island (photo by John McLachlan)