Hiraeth: May blog circle

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.

north coast 500 highlands scotland road trip travel photography

pine trees in the rain highlands of scotland isle of skye

spring on the isle of skye lambs in mist on quiraing scotland scottish highlands

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.

rock formations lost in mist isle of skye quiraingteenagers walking into misty quiraing isle of skye trotternishpine tree detail highlands of scotland

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.

detail of waves on coral beaches near dunvegan isle of skye

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.

teenagers walking through fairy pools glenbrittle skye

isle of skye highlands scotland fairy pools with cuillin mountains

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.

red haired girl on quiraing skye scotland misty isle scottish child with freckles

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.

sitting on a hilltop in fairy glen near big isle of skye self portrait

Nostos‘, Ancient Greek, meaning home. ‘Algos‘, pain: nostalgia.

ultimate introvert bus shelter for one on trotternish peninsula skye photographysunset over the minch towards harris and lewis from isle of skye scotland hebrides

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.

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  • Ana - Ah Julie, what a beautiful interpretation, your images never disappoint. I feel your words about the Isle of Skye. I’ve only been there once a couple of years ago and I can also say I felt its “pull”. I am happy to see that you were graced with beautiful Scottish skies 🙂 and I look forward to seeing you again in Scotland this year xxReplyCancel

  • Anna - Julie, your posts never disappoint me. What a beautiful interpretation of hiraeth. And I can imagine that the Isle of Skye is pulling at you…xReplyCancel

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