“When Holder and I were first coming to know each other, I do not think he clearly understood why it was that, growing up, I had never felt I truly belonged here among the people of Laughing Waters Grove. I do not mean that he could not comprehend it; he is a very intelligent man (even if it often seems to me that, as males are known to do, he sometimes disregards good sense). I mean that, seeing me through the eyes of his love for me, he could not imagine how both the strangenesses of my appearance–my height, my shape, the shape of my head, the color of my eyes and hair–and my ideas had isolated me. And it was hard for me to explain to him, particularly when I had only a fragile grasp on the language of his people.
What I should have said then–and what I have told him since–is that belonging to one person, or to a group of people, is not something one is merely born to, but something that must be tended like a growing seed, or indeed, like a young bloomling new to the world. This Grove did not seem to want me, so I decided that I did not want it–even though I did. Part of the Shaper’s path is carving out the channels of life through which the river of Belonging may flow–for oneself but also for others. I was still learning this when Holder came to me–and, if I am truthful, I am still learning it. The song of Belonging is one we first begin to sing with the cries of a newborn’s lungs, and which we do not truly learn until we stand on the last shores of this life, looking beyond its horizons to the wide reaches of Essei-Khai, the spirit-river, and whatever new sights lie on the other side.”