green grass in the foreground with the watermark - moonlight casts a shadow on tall trees

2023 Grateful 41: Hiraeth


I’ve a fondness for odd words that succinctly describe key concepts or feelings or situations. Like Hiraeth.

Hiraeth n (welsh) a spiritual longing for a home which maybe never was. Nostalgia for ancient places to which we cannot return. It is the echo of the lost places of our soul's past and our grief for them. It is in the wind and the rocks and the waves. It is nowhere and it is everywhere.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about mortality, death, remaining days on Earth, and such. I’ve been reflecting on the ties I have to various places and people and what will happen when the people tying to me a place die. For instance, is my whole Irish identity wrapped up in my parents still living here? Will I still see the country as home and hanker to come back if there’s no homeplace to come back to?

Yes, I have family and friends in Ireland; it’s not only my parents. I have friends in other places, too. They anchor me to those places, places I doubt I’d ever visit again were it not for them. Like Palm Springs, CA. Maricopa, AZ. Mammoth Cave, KY. Milan, Italy. Slough, UK.

Hiraeth speaks to more than that, though. What comes to mind is the connection I feel to a place that can’t be explained. I have it with India. There will come a time in my life when I will be ready to spend some serious time there, to explore that sense of spiritual belonging I feel whenever I visit. I felt it in South Africa, too. That palpable sense of belonging that defies logic or reason. And although my relationship with Hungary is going through a rocky spot, the village is still the place I hate leaving and want most to come back to. But would I feel that way, I wonder, if himself popped his clogs and went on without me? I doubt it. I wonder then if my hiraeth lies in people rather than places?

No matter. It’s a lovely concept. And there are more. The lovely PL has written about a few on her blog Peg on Pause. For example, the Norwegian Dugnad:

Dugnad (doognod) basically means sacrificing personal desires for the greater good of the community. The concept dates back to the age of Vikings. When a Viking ship would come into the bay, it was necessary for the people of the village to stop whatever they were doing and help to pull the ship into harbor. It was a group effort. The concept was also used during WWII, which required all of the citizens of Norway to ban together and take care of each other, while they waited out the Nazi’s terror across Europe.

She’s also written about the Danish Hygge:

The art of creating intimacy, coziness of the soul, the absence of annoyance, taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things, cozy togetherness, and cocoa by candlelight.

Wonderful, no?

Today, I’m grateful for just about anything that gives me pause for thought.

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