I am grateful for home. My heart has been busy with a bit of longing lately and I’m wondering from where that comes. If I could describe the ache I would have to say I am homesick, but I’m here in my home so how is that possible?
Some years ago I came upon the Welsh word “hiraeth” when I was searching for a prefix for my Welsh ponies. I settled instead on “plentyn”, which translates quite simply to “child”, an obvious good fit for my childhood dreams of breeding Welsh ponies, my Plentyn Ponies, but “hiraeth” stuck with me and became a fixture in my book of words, words that I cherish, words that I call on for strength and for fun and for purpose. There is no easy translation for that Welsh word into English, but rather it is a sensation of homesickness, a longing for a home that never was or a home to which we cannot return.
Maybe we, like the Monarch butterfly and the Emperor penguin, are hard-wired to find our way home, to a place we may never have been before. We brave the long journey across the Gulf of Mexico if we are a Monarch to find the very tree which is calling us home, a tree we didn’t know even existed or that we needed until we found it. Scientists can’t even begin to explain the migration the Emperor penguin follows, a migration that is linked to the penguin’s ancestors, a long journey fraught with danger and risk, but still they go, still they jump into the frigid waters and begin their long journey home to nesting grounds.
Some psychologists consider the concept of home as a feeling rather than a place and I understand that at a cellular level. My home growing up wasn’t the walls and windows that contained me, but rather the sounds and textures and smells of my life: the meadowlark’s summer voice drifting in my bedroom window, the sheets snapping on the clothesline on a windy day, my sister calling my name in a voice that said come on, let’s play, the back door slamming as we ran outside, the smell of freshly cut grass, of a new puppy, of chocolate chip cookies in the oven, the feeling of my face against a newborn calf, of a dandelion tickling my chin, biting into a perfectly ripe plum, a slippery frog inside my cupped hands, the smell of lilacs, the rich earthy smell of the soil turned over in spring, all wrapped up in a single moment that was my sense of home.
And I know the hard truth of those sounds and smells vanishing when my father lay at my feet, his life gone, his time with me over and with him went the familiarity of home, the safety of it, the welcome and the belonging.
So perhaps we wander until we find those sensations restored, until we arrive at a shore we didn’t know we were headed to.