Abandoned at age seven, left on my own, cut adrift, denied both roots and destination, unable to find my way back to anything familiar…

Despite and still, I did not just grow up. I raised myself under the intermittently watchful and negligent eyes of compassionate strangers – rebels, loners, bohemians like me – unconventional, balancing freedom with responsibility, concealment with invention, honesty with reality.

I learned to speak when I entered a room; to say please and thank you; to respect my elders, all elders; to give my seat to seniors, first, then women, with or without babes in arms, then girls; to say yes, ma’am and no, ma’am; yes, sir and no, sir; to offer to help in the kitchen, to prep as required; to do the dishes and clean up after a meal; to lend a helping hand, to anyone in need; to be kind to animals and to children; to protect and to defend those who could not protect and defend themselves; to hold the door for the person behind me; to look back when I parted from someone; to love people for who they are, and not for what they could do for me, not for what I could get from them.

I made a lot of mistakes along the way, to be sure. Many of my choices – uninformed by the experience of parents and relatives – were reckless. When choosing between two evils, amongst the many alternatives present, I chose always the evil yet untried. If anyone could have it, I didn’t want it. If anyone could do it, I wouldn’t do it. If everyone thought it, I wouldn’t think it. If everyone wanted it, I wouldn’t have it. I was fearless, because I had no other choice. From the earliest age, disembroiled from the ravelled, choking maze of caution, I confronted head-on whatever came my way.

Hiraeth summoned me early and often back to my home of origin in Wales, Anglesey. Ancestry honoured ordained whisky* alone to soothe, to assuage, to lull in times of frequent internal tempest. In every place, in every time, a wildness and a wiseness, worse than I was, and better. My comedies all vice, my tragedies all horror of vice, my truth but a desperation of extremes; balance, the ever-elusive striving.

The girls and the women in my life taught me lessons. If I wanted something from a boy or from a man, I won it in battle. I listened and talked to the females; I wrote poems to them, for them. With the males, I fought, with fists, not words. Was I a threat? Perhaps, but only in the ambiguity of my multi-gender appearance and demeanour.  Who was he who was both poet and warrior, with hair to his waist, heart stronger than his hand, yet hand more fierce than that of any other boy or man?

In all that and towards all whom I have encountered, this wisdom more than any other has prevailed – Be as you appear; appear as you are. A vast surrender – the willing acceptance of destiny, both favourable and ill, is my only strength.

*This November third, fifteen days from today, eighteen years sober; the change granting change, whisky taken to heart, to soul, to extreme, now but fond recollection.