Hiraeth, the word with no easy translation

2014-11-30 006There I was, sitting late in the evening taking care of some (admittedly) very late Christmas cards, when it hit me – the expected feeling of homesickness that nevertheless slams me every year in the most unexpected manner. Arriving with the force of an easterly wind, the feeling of longing was so strong it nearly took my breath. I put down my pen, closed my eyes and for several minutes simply lived in the moment of that achy feeling.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s lived in the same place their entire lives, but those of you who’ve moved from where you’ve grownup will likely understand. It’s as though a part of me still exists in the northern interior where I grew up, and sometimes that part calls me home so strongly it’s nearly impossible to resist and kind of painful. For me it feels like more than just homesickness,and remarkably after sharing this with friends on facebook, one of them posted this:

“Maybe the word you need is Hiraeth: It’s Welsh for the yearning, the nostalgia, or the grief for the lost places of your past.”

Yes. Hiraeth. This is exactly it. It is a yearning for the Christmas’s and winters of my childhood, for everything that was good and magical about those memories. The many nights spent outside watching northern lights in snowbanks created when my father shoveled off the roof – a spectrum of moving,living prismatic colours dancing across the sky as though accompanied by a symphony.

I long for the many wonders of snow in all its incarnations. Soft and yet crisp in the extreme cold, that Styrofoam sensation of really dense snow is so fun beneath the feet, or tossed up in a cold handful into the light of the sun to watch a thousand sparkling crystals fall to the ground. Did you know snow even has a smell?

Christmas trees didn’t come from Ikea but from the forest after a snowmobile ride into the back forty with a sled pulled behind. My dad would knock the snow off of what seemed like hundreds of tree’s at the urging of my mother – cursing the snow that fell down his collar- until at long last he would simply declare: “THIS is the tree!” and we would laugh and go home.

The smell of wood smoke from a fire burning at the hearth…or perhaps the resinous scent of evergreen boughs decorating the stair rails, it’s always the nearly undefinable moments that bring forth this feeling. It’s a blur of scent and sounds, feelings of happiness and emotions full of love from the past and present combined. And it passes,always, but while it lasts the feeling of separation is strong, inconsolable and not without a bit of melancholic nostalgia.

While my home is now here on the coast, I embrace and respect this longing as a sign of how much of me is still very much a part of where and how I grew up, a connection to something bigger and more important. I love the past, but enjoy greatly the present and look forward to the future.

The yearning for Christmas past mingle with the joy and discovery of Christmas new. Old values, new traditions. Change is inevitable but good. Sometimes home isn’t a place,but the people you are with and happiness is found with those you love, be it friends or family. 

To my friends and readers, I hope you find gratitude for the blessings in your life this Christmas, are free from hunger, have a warm roof over your heads and kindness in your heart. There is so much more that brings us together, than keeps us apart.

In the wise words of Roy L. Smith:

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

Merry Christmas!

** In the New Year, I’ll have that new update on a story done earlier this year on Liberal cronyism gone wrong – very wrong. (In fact,it’s a bit sickening) In addition to our first Duel of 2015. I’ll also be doing some work on the blog,so don’t be surprised if you see it down for a day or two, and updating the 100+ Reasons the Liberals Need to Go – please feel free to add new concrete examples to the comments section with a link if you can!

24 thoughts on “Hiraeth, the word with no easy translation

  1. Is is said that you can take the girl out of her home, be it the bush, desert or frozen expanse. But you cannot take the home out of the girl.

    I am not entirely sure where you stand where God is concerned, but you know where I stand.
    I believe that God drops something in our hearts to make it possible to live and be happy anywhere.

    I hope you are truly happy and fulfilled where you are.

    Merry Christmas Laila.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Having the home inside my heart is what makes me who I am Mike. I am happy,my heart is full 🙂 I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday as well!


  2. Yes, it’s where and how you grew up, but also when. Even acknowledging that overall, life here and now is wonderful, and even acknowledging that we’re still facing manifestations of the same trials that confronted us in the past, there is also the matter of when we grew up, the connection being to the temporal as well as the geographical/social milieu.

    So let’s enjoy the twinges of nostalgia and appreciation for what came before, but I’ll gladly join you (at a distance, in spirit) in being joyful
    and thankful that I am where I am, with the people around me, able to have these thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks Laila – I have those same memories of my Childhood Christmas’ up North – trudging through the bush (watching for Moose) to find the PERFECT Christmas Tree. Back when that was legal and when the snow as waist deep. Hot chocolate by the back yard ice rink..We used to play OUTDOORS. Does squeaky snow still exist? Even the ski resorts don’t compare. Yes – Christmas in the North does not easily leave our Memories. Merry Chrismas Laila. And Merry Christmas to all you Blog friends. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes, the outdoor rink… we used to skate on one of the local lakes while parents ice-fished and passed the time of day with friends. One year my dad made a rink on the side yard, lights and all. It was perfection. I hope your holidays were good my friend.


  4. Thank you for sharing that Laila. I also share and understand that feeling well. No warning. It just comes out of nowhere. The ache is strong and sometimes painful but we can reflect and then smile for all the good times we had.

    I appreciate being able to come to your blog and know I am reading posts that are written from the heart and I thank you for that, always. Merry Christmas to you and yours and may your New Year be happy, health and properous!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laila,
    Don’t forget the low key Christmas spirit of some one leaving a parcel on the front fence. Anonymous but a true feeling of Christmas. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all of the very best for the New Year

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had a visit from my childhood today. I’m sort of the grandfather that a lot of kids at a local orphanage never had. Today, the orphanage director, the house mother and the children from a house that I had given a TV and DVD player for xmas came by. Same as my childhood. They sat in a circle, everyone holding each other’s hands, and prayed for my health, a happy xmas for me and a joyous new year..

    My business manager, who is a believer, was holding my left hand as hard as she could. Non-verbally screaming, “Don’t you dare tell them that you are a radical atheist.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Merry Christmas, Laila!
    I also know that feeling of nostalgia at Christmas time, but I always remember that wise old saying: “You can’t go home again.”
    Happy Holidays to all your readers in cyberspace as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, growing up in PG was wonderful, especially being out at the lake both winter and summer. Snow down the tops of boots and frozen popsicle hand-knit mitts were just some of the nostalgic remembrances from a childhood raised with four seasons!
    Merry and Happy Christmas Everyone and I know we all look forward to reading Laila’s words all thru out 2015! B

    Liked by 2 people

    1. omg…. I totally forgot about those frozen mittens..lol.. oh, what a good memory. Whacking them against the door frame to get the ice lumps off and then over the line by the wood heater to dry out so you could wear them later… Now thats a true northern memory! Thank you for that Barb:)


  9. Merry Christmas Laila, and thanks for another year of great information. BTW, I don’t think that the ” 100 reasons ” list cuts it anymore. The reasons must be in the thousands by now.Have a great holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Wonderful feelings Laila and wonderfully written! When our senses were keen enough and our minds grasping all around us and the simple acceptance of peace. You bring us back to times we were so lucky to have, so chosen to experience. The reason I visit your site is not to catch the latest political scandals or corruption. The reason is that I find you are so real and caring yet intune and on track. You are that special mixture of empathy and straight shooter.
    The best to you and your family Laila, may god bless you all.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for all your Christmas greetings – I do love your comments and insight and it’s great when you share other links and stories that are related! So many stories have come from readers, who often become friends. It was two very knowledgeable readers who took the time over the years to teach me everything I needed to know about the Ministry of transportation and how these projects go to bid,what’s wrong with that process and what to look for specific to that. And much of that knowledge can then be applied to other stories.Inside info and industry info is essential! 🙂

    Yes, growing up in the interior was an incredible gift that I never realized or fully appreciated until I was an adult. It’s not that one can’t appreciate the incredible nature of this province as a whole if you haven’t lived or visited different areas – many many do! But to be a part of it and live it every day,how life is in rural BC, the north, the interior… well it’s just an intrinsic part of who you become as an adult. And I think it makes me a better writer and a little bit of a different perspective because of it. 🙂 If that helps to direct better policy in informing the public,it can only be a good thing.


  12. Many of us have grown up in, the good decent democratic Canada. So, this Canada and this BC Province is very hard to take for me. Six members of my family and thousands of our young Canadian boys, served in WW2, so this wouldn’t happen to our Canada.

    Growing up in a northen prairie province, x-mas was wonderful. Dad would cut a Christmas tree, that would reach the ceiling. Without fail, my cat would knock the x-mas tree over. When I was older and my faimily was back from the war, those were the happiest x-mas days. There were nine of us and all of us were musical and sang Christmas carols.Those were some of the happiest years of my life.

    Now I have my little Granddaughter, to enjoy x-mas. She was more excited about Santa’s reigndeer eating the hay, that she and her Dad had put up on the roof, than her gifts. And of course, Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk.

    Have a great x-mas everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If you like “hiraeth” then you would have liked this year’s presentation of Dylan Thomas at the Culch. It – of course – included an extract of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”. Which also often features in the VSO Christmas Concerts at various locations in Metro every year.

    There is also a moment in the Wind in the Willows when Mole, glad to be out of the Wild Wood at last and headed for the river bank with Rat sudden catches the scent of Home.

    The truth, of course, is that You Can’t Go Home Anymore.


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