Mom, author, nurse, teacher . . . reading the world around me

Tag: Hiraeth

Since I’m on a vocabulary kick…how about mizpah?

So, a few days ago I blogged about Hiraeth, the sense of nostalgia one feels at remembering a former home. I thought it was a beautiful word, and I easily related to it. Today, I saw another word pop up on a Facebook share. It is Mizpah. You pronounce this one just like it looks, “Miz-pa”. Unlike Hiraeth, which is Welsh, Mizpah is a Hebrew word. It describes a deep emotional bond between people, especially those separated by distance or death. 

I have so many friends with deployed husbands, who miss them terribly. Here is an ancient word that describes that deep bond they feel even while separated by a great distance. Then the last two words of the definition came to mind…or death. Oh how I know that pain! I had a tremendous bond with my grandmother. Her death when I was thirteen left me an emotional wreck! 

So here in the course of a week, I’ve come across two formally unknown (to me) words that perfectly describe the feelings I have when I think of my grandma. Hiraeth for the yearning for her home in the mountains. And Mizpah for the incredible bond I feel with her even after her death. 

I think I’ll have to start hunting for these old words that we don’t use often in everyday English communication. They somehow capture my feelings more than our modern words!

I’d love to hear what you think on this. Mizpah? Does it bring anyone to mind?

Hiraeth? Why have I never known of this term until now?

OK, in all fairness the word is Welsh. I don’t spend a great deal of time in that part of the world. But still! It perfectly sums up the way I feel about some places that I’ve lived, or even visited in my life. Pronounced Heer-eyeth, the word basically sums up that wistful nostalgia we experience for those places of our past that were special to us. My grandparents lived in a grand old 1800’s farmhouse in Sautee, Georgia. Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains about 5 minutes from Helen (home of the Georgia version of a good old German Oktoberfest), Sautee is one of the most lovely places I’ve ever seen. And the house! A sprawling two story with heart of pine plank floors and a porch that goes ALL the way around the house. Rocking chairs and swings were placed on all sides, but there wasn’t a bad view from anywhere. When I read Cynthia Rylant’s book, When I was Young in the Mountains, I cried like a baby. I totally got it! That is Hiraeth!
In my adult life, our time spent in Germany would be my Hiraeth. There was just something magical about living in a place that looked like it had sprung to life from the pages of a picture book. Our village, Erfelden, had half-timbered houses, a footbridge across the river, a beautiful church with a pipe organ from Worms, and so much more. The charm just oozed from it, and I had to pinch myself every day that we really lived there!! The friends we met there still mean the world to me. Thank goodness for Facebook! It keeps me connected to them beautifully.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my life here. I am experiencing a wonderful sense of fulfillment through writing. It has been a wonderful experience. But hiraeth is a term I “get” completely. I think I’ll add it into my vocabulary and pull it out every now and then just for fun. How about you? I’d love to hear of the place that creates this feeling in you. Let me know!

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