the hiraeth of a woman

Today I glimpsed the hills and mist and beautiful old shadow of my homeland. I don't see it often; I live far enough away to make visiting it pretty much impossible. But sometimes I travel to the edge of impossible, and I look out at those hills, and I feel something I feel with nothing else.

Afterwards, I sensed a distinct change within myself. As if I had become fuller, more real. As if some nerve or instinct long dormant in me had been touched awake by the brief view.

I believe we are not just human bodies walking through the world. I believe each of us is made of bone and dirt ... blood and rain ... song and old starshine ... We do not go through nature but are within nature, woven into all the living things, the flower shadows, bird song, willows, ocean tideflows. And some of us shift, reweave ourselves, as we go. And some of us are always deep-rooted.

I may be a gypsy kind of person, but that's only because I can't be at home. I miss my home. I have missed it for forty years without any relinquishment of sorrow. I'm told by wise women to love where I'm at. To make my home where my feet stand, and open myself to all the world around me. But I can't agree with them. I know I ought to, because they are wise, but there's a dirt-voice that goes deeper and demands homesickness.

Where I live right now is beautiful in its own way. I have great sympathy for it. Parts of me shine with sea crystals, sand flecks. I have come to know the sparrows. But it's not my home. And I do not want to give up what is left of my home - my longing for it. My belonging with it. The things that wove around me in childhood are still part of me - or, rather, their absence is. Hill-wind has become poetry tumbling shyly through small books. Trees have become an ache in my bones. If I transfer my allegiance to where I live right now, I lose something of myself.

Why are we so afraid of the darker feelings? Why is it wrong to be homesick? Why must we love everything all the time? Why must we adapt and change ourselves? I am a hill woman. Exile has shaped me over the years. I would write very differently, I think, if I was up there again. Currently, I write for the sake of hiraeth. Maybe at home I would write wonder or trust, or something else.

I believe we should allow deep-rooted people in exile to feel their sorrow. Disconnection is not something that can be healed by just making a new connection. You have to attend to the broken threads, the lost songline, the unworded heritage. You have to weave them into something that will always look and feel like a scar, but that can in its own way be beautiful.

After I sat down today to write this post, I read these beautiful words by Jacqueline, and they echoed what was in my own heart. Sometimes when you say your truth aloud, the world harmonises.


  1. Oh Sarah, I SO know what you mean... I am naturally melancholic, and it's taken me over 50 years to accept that fact of my soul-being. Yes, I can be bright and cheery, but that's not my default setting.
    Indeed, I have come home to a part of myself moving to this wee, unknown-yet-strangely-familiar village, and for that I am deeply glad. But there is always another part that is constantly restless, homesick for who knows where, and I think that's were Poetry dwells...

  2. I read Jacqueline's post today as well. So much beauty and wisdom there … and here, too. And I sympathise with your view. Home is where we are, must be, but it is elsewhere too, and we are homesick for what we don't have, or want back. The weavings of life are always complex, and tangled, but in the weaving can be healing too, the good with the bad, all wound up with every other being in this world. Thank you.

  3. Oh, I know what you mean even if I love where I am now.

    Lovely shots.

  4. I truly believe the universe harmonizes with our inner, higher selves.. wherever we may wander.
    Through my many years, this is the most important lesson I've learned. Yet we forget.
    You shined a light, returned it to me as if on vacation.
    Thank you for this lovely post. ♥

  5. As someone who deeply felt the sorrow, homesickness, and disconnection of exile for fifteen years, this post really spoke to my heart. It took a long time for me to be at home in my new place. It happened when, one day, I realized my old place wasn't the same place that I longed for at all. It had changed. The geography, the people, had all become something that I scarcely recognized and was no longer a part of. Even my old childhood tree-friend was long gone. And so, I discovered that the home for which I longed was a memory--another time and place to which I could never return except within my heart. I think it was at that moment that these haunted New England hills became home.

    1. I was saying to someone just yesterday how my old home has changed so much, its almost unrecognisable in places. But the spirit remains in other places, in small communities there. People have made an effort to hold on to that spirit. The land and its heritage is protected by law. But of course my past experience is long gone - I am homesick for memory. Thank you for your thoughtful lovely comment.

  6. yes, it is wise to be with what is, to be with the feelings that rise to the surface or linger in our depths.

    My sister born to the US and her husband Italian, schooled and worked in the US. They moved to Italy, his home land. For years they longed for the US. Each visit home was happy for them. Then after some years, maybe ten, they both realized Italy was home and no longer felt homesick for the US. Interesting how these things go.