Hiraeth is a Welsh word for which there is no exact English equivalent, but I know what it means to feel it. ‘Saudade‘ is the Portuguese word for it. In Gaelic it’s cianalas, though less melancholy. It’s like a longing for home, a homesickness without the means to return, or a yearning for a home that never was to begin with. It’s the sense of being so much part of a place – and that the place is a part of you – that to be separated from it leaves you always with a piece missing. A spiritual home, the pull of a homeland, a wistfulness for times past…
Here goes, then, with my interpretation of hiraeth in pictures. I was born and spent most of my childhood in Edinburgh, so Scotland has my heart. I’ve never lived in Skye, but something about it draws me, because I think it has been there at significant times of my life. The magnetic pull of a landscape makes sense to me; even when everything in life is changing, you can return to a familiar place, where the lie of the land is always the same, and almost imagine that time stood still.
Our journey took us on the first leg of the North Coast 500 road trip, an evening through pines and rhododendrons with low-hanging clouds and rain. It was so beautiful.
Hiraeth is like a mist, a curtain that flutters revealing glimpses of something just beyond our grasp. It’s an incomplete, unfulfilled yearning for a return.
It’s a tide that seems to rush to meet us, but slips back beyond our reach. Hiraeth is a feeling that can come in waves, sometimes gently, other times with great persistent forcefulness.
We first came to Skye before children, not knowing if there would be a family; then returned and stayed in the same cottage with 3 small children, and now again with them growing in independence. They’re stepping out on their own and these are each moments I can’t return to, or ever wind back.
We breathed in the elements, touched fossilised dinosaur prints with our bare toes, felt a family bond, sensed what it is to be part of the landscape and the land and the belonging.
My life in Scotland was a long time ago but became part of me. I’m the same and not the same. I don’t know how to go back. Skye is not my home, but yet the pull – the hiraeth – is very strong.
‘Nostos‘, Ancient Greek, meaning home. ‘Algos‘, pain: nostalgia.
This post is part of the 2017 ‘Ineffable Wanderlust’ blog circle amongst a few of my photographer friends. You can follow the links round to see how different female photographers have interpreted the same word. Please have a look at Rebecca’s take on hiraeth; you’ll find her images here: Rebecca Spencer Photography.