Hiraeth is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. Some might say it is a sort of longing with homesickness and yearning or nostalgia. And it is sort of all of those layered in there. A longing, homesickness and nostalgia for a home you can’t return to, no longer was, or even never existed. It can refer to the mourning we feel for the loss of that sense of home that isn’t the same as it once was.
I’m not Welsh so I have no idea what the nuances of this word mean only what I read. But when I read about it this is what it brought to my mind…
To me, Hiraeth is a place in my memory…
That I may long or yearn for, this sense of home, but it never really existed outside of my memory. I am nostalgic for it because I have created the memory of it, from very real fragments, very real emotions and feelings, but by re-remembering many times over my imagination created something that was never real.
The past we create or remember is nothing close to what we lived. Memories are such fabricated things. But the pull of feelings that set that time and place in my mind… those are tangible to my brain. I yearn for that time, place, people, age, space that manifested that emotion in me.
I can’t go back there. That place is gone. What of it that was objectively real. I can’t go back there. That place never existed outside of my imagination. But I feel it. My emotions of those times, those places, those people are very real.
Mourning what no longer is
Of course, with this sense of homesickness, yearning, nostalgia… there is a sense of loss for a place, time, overall spirit of a place/space/being-in-the-world that we can never return to- because that time is gone, that place is gone or not the same, and we are certainly not the same person. Even if we could duplicate everything exactly the same, we are not the same… so we could never get the feeling back. Truly it is all just a memory.
But even the memory is just a fabrication. A RE-membrance. We have thought about it over and over. Our imagination has taken hold of it each time we brought it into focus. And every single time it has been altered slightly. It no longer resembles that actual time, that actual place, the actual people, your actual self.
I yearn for that which never even was.
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