Hiraeth: Homesickness for a Place that Doesn’t Exist. ~ Jillian Locke

I came across this word the other day, and I think it describes my mood pretty well.

For years I’ve been nervous about returning to Seattle, a place where I lived the longest, went to school, and raised my children. The place resonates in my memory in a tangled web of emotions and attachments. My dreams of Seattle have architecture and geography, as well as a rotating cast. They are full of unfinished business – classes not taught, courses missed, incomplete work haunting me. Returning there meant giving waking memory to those taunting dreams. I even considered sabotaging my own trip, finding an excuse to not go.


The Seattle of my dreams, with its memory-skewed architecture and geography, gone. Nothing resonated. To walk across the campus, through the rooms of my classes and the halls of my professors, even to see my old office, touched nothing. The real structures of my reality there had been eclipsed by my dreamscape – that was my Seattle. The grittiness of the city, once exemplified by the Pike Place Market, was now a sanitized marketable version of itself. This simulacrum steeped in the financial excesses of the 21st century relieved my anxiety – I could never muster nostalgia or longing for this place.


I wondered if my dreams of Seattle would end, but no. The unfinished business will still haunt me, but not in the same way, and not so much in my waking hours. It was a door closed, this part of my past.

Though the place has lost most of its hold on me, the important part, the people, hadn’t. I met up with friends I hadn’t seen for years, and found that they were even more precious to me. A four day weekend with a couple of my dearest friends was spent not in Seattle proper, but in a southern suburb, amidst an acre of garden crammed into a postage stamp yard. We slept and ate and drank, played with the dogs and argued philosophy and politics. Another evening was spent with two brothers and their wives. The guys had played at my wedding back 40 years ago, on a river in Alaska. Their wives were also long-time friends. We ate paella around a bonfire in their rural Alaskan back yard, in the heart of Seattle, overlooking the water and the Olympic mountains. I met my daughter’s new mate and his daughter and ate in their overcrowded newly merged kitchen, amidst cats and pots and pans. I ate tacos and drank beer in the embourgeoised fisherman’s neighborhood of  Ballard, and gossiped about other old friends.


The place of my homesick dreams, 1980-1990s Seattle, no longer is there. It doesn’t exist any longer in a way that resonates with me. The relationships that converge there do, even stronger than before for their winnowed numbers. I can now visit there without fear of stirring the painful mud of the past.

Source: Hiraeth: Homesickness for a Place that Doesn’t Exist. ~ Jillian Locke | elephant journal

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