Hiraeth? Why have I never known of this term until now?

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!

Black Forest Fun!

I heard from a reader of This She’ll Defend over the weekend who told me that she laughed out loud when the family in the novel were in the Black Forest attempting to choose a cuckoo clock. Well, I have to admit that it is funny now looking back on it. But at the time, it was an exasperating experience. The employee in the shop left for a giant beer, I feel certain! Like many “scenes” in the novel, this one actually happened to our family. My son had just completed the “Red Ribbon Week” activities at school, which is fine. I appreciate the education on drugs, alcohol and other issues taught at school. The problem was that each clock seemed to have people drinking beer, hitting someone with a rolling pin, or some other scene from life that involved “substance use or domestic violence”! Kids can be so literal! 🙂 Anyway, for people who enjoyed the scene from the novel, here is the actual clock that we purchased. By the way, I enjoy my clock to this day!


A picture is worth a thousand words? Yep, I can buy that!

The balcony on the back of the house.
The balcony on the back of the house.

One of my favorite things to hear as an author is, “I could picture the story as I was reading it.” I get chill bumps when I hear someone say that, because that is literally my main goal as a writer of fiction. If my readers don’t come away from This She’ll Defend with a clear image of Carmen and Ed’s life in Germany, then I’ve failed them. 

So just for fun, I thought I’d put up some pictures of the actual places around Darmstadt and Erfelden where the majority of the novel is set. I’d love for people who’ve read the book to comment on the pictures. Is that how you pictured Carmen and Ed’s house? 

One picture depicts the balcony off the living room and master bedroom which was the inspiration for a dramatic moment Carmen shares with Ethan in the novel (no spoilers!). 

Namur, Belgium was a hidden treasure that Carmen’s family discovered on a trip. Can you see why she was so enamored with this lovely place?

Chime, in and let me know what you think. Pictures are wonderful, but hopefully you’d formed your own pictures as you read.