OK, in all fairness the word is Welsh. I don’t spend a great deal of time in that part of the world. But still! It perfectly sums up the way I feel about some places that I’ve lived, or even visited in my life. Pronounced Heer-eyeth, the word basically sums up that wistful nostalgia we experience for those places of our past that were special to us. My grandparents lived in a grand old 1800’s farmhouse in Sautee, Georgia. Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains about 5 minutes from Helen (home of the Georgia version of a good old German Oktoberfest), Sautee is one of the most lovely places I’ve ever seen. And the house! A sprawling two story with heart of pine plank floors and a porch that goes ALL the way around the house. Rocking chairs and swings were placed on all sides, but there wasn’t a bad view from anywhere. When I read Cynthia Rylant’s book, When I was Young in the Mountains, I cried like a baby. I totally got it! That is Hiraeth!
In my adult life, our time spent in Germany would be my Hiraeth. There was just something magical about living in a place that looked like it had sprung to life from the pages of a picture book. Our village, Erfelden, had half-timbered houses, a footbridge across the river, a beautiful church with a pipe organ from Worms, and so much more. The charm just oozed from it, and I had to pinch myself every day that we really lived there!! The friends we met there still mean the world to me. Thank goodness for Facebook! It keeps me connected to them beautifully.
People who’ve read This She’ll Defend and haven’t lived in Germany, have told me that they were able to experience living there through the book. That makes me incredibly happy! Because it was such a special time for my own family, nothing is more fun than to share it with others! But now, I’m left with that feeling of Hiraeth. Oh Germany, how I miss you!
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life here. I am experiencing a wonderful sense of fulfillment through writing. It has been a wonderful experience. But hiraeth is a term I “get” completely. I think I’ll add it into my vocabulary and pull it out every now and then just for fun. How about you? I’d love to hear of the place that creates this feeling in you. Let me know!