This is a Welsh word. Translations vary because it is this way with a lot of languages. Sometimes it seems there is no word comparable in English to describe some of the words I come across. Like hiraeth. What it means is homesickness. But it’s more than that… I’ve come across the word “saudade” (a Portuguese concept) before, in fact I put that word in an archived blog post. Hiraeth is a homesickness tinged with grief over the lost or departed. It’s a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, or wistfulness for a home of the past. In Welsh it could mean, “an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.” (Says Wiki.) Oxford and Merriam Webster define Hiraeth as: (noun) “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was“. Similar words: Brazilian- “banzo,” Turkish- “gurbet,” Galician- “morriña,” Romanian- “dor.”
That being said, I have felt hiraeth over the simplest, most mundane and ordinary things. I saw a child craft book on eBay and hiraeth hit me.
I had a set of these 1972 Childcraft encyclopedias when I was 8. You couldn’t google stuff then. My parents actually bought both the World Book and Childcraft sets from a door to door salesman.
I spent hours sitting at the old nicked picnic table in the gravel yard, planning parties.
There was this one Childcraft book which had a chapter on Party Planning. There I’d sit with an expression something like this one in the photo below… Here I am at 8 yrs. old, writing letters to my deaf Grandma; and absolutely giddy.
Anyway, I was entertained for hours; planning party favor lists in my Scribble pad with detailed step by step instructions on how to use things like toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners and construction paper to fashion lollipop holding caterpillars for let’s say an insect themed party… I planned elaborate themes, clever food presentations and of course games that the ‘guests’ would enjoy. I loved the planning process; the whole creative aspect of it. The parties never happened of course. I never expected or wanted them to take place- it was the process of the planning which I enjoyed so much.
The whole concept of hiraeth comes up because it’s a pang I felt today preparing a bedroom for a son I thought left the nest. He’s returning “home.” But is he? What is home? I’m serious. Define it.
Truth: “you can never go home again.” (said Thomas Wolfe)
I think HOME to him, my son, was similar to what I felt at the picnic table… When I was planning guestless parties.
For my son: Home was a place to read Koenigs books and research the bottles he’d dug up out of the earth in local foundations. Home was the soft place to fall. And think. And just be.
Donna Williams (author, mentor, artist, sculptor, speaker, consultant, friend) said something recently which resonated with me. Here is the gist of it because I don’t have the direct quote: she said
it is easy to get so stuck in the past that one can prevent becoming what one can truly be.
There is wisdom in that. I write a lot about the past to purge; which helps me be present. Simply being is in fact
being at home
with one’s self.
I’m almost at the point where I can write about a book that’s due to be published soon by JKP. The topic is selective mutism. I wrote so personally for that book. Why is this topic so hard to write about? To talk about? Trust me, it is. This book is dearer to me than even my memoir. I don’t even remember what I wrote for this (Carl’s) book, but I know it was gushing to get out of me. I designed an image for the cover based on this picture of a 4th grade me:
I can’t wait to tell you all about the book, once I get a release date.
The stories I tell in the book are of another time and place; as are the pictures here of a child me. The book is important because logjambed words are set free. Maybe they will help readers understand selective mutism. In the meantime, today, tomorrow, my garden is home. My paintbrush in hand means I am home. I’m okay in my skin.