Hi – The Hi from Hiccup
Rae – pronounced the same as the wry of a wry smile (if you pronounce wry with a rolled ‘R’, but let’s not overcomplicate)
Th – The Th from Think
Hiraeth is an untranslatable Welsh word. It’s often described as homesickness or a sort of nostalgia, but these translations don’t touch on the strength of the feeling.
Hiraeth is a deep longing for somewhere. It is that pull within your chest for a space where you belong. It’s that feeling you get when you smell the scent of home, or when the wind ripples through the grass in the right way.
When I lived in England for more than a decade, I would feel Hiraeth for home. Crossing the Severn bridge would begin to alleviate it. The further I travelled through the hills, over and under the rolling valleys, the further I went, the more I felt surrounded by home.
I have Hiraeth for my memories of standing on a hilltop as a teen; the sea in the distance, the undulating hills, the unavoidable sheep, the threads of different shades of green that slipped from here to there. My home, my connection to the world.
That connection was never through people, it was always deeper. My Hiraeth was in the bones of the land; the rocks of the Cambrian mountains, ancient and layered in their slumber. It was in the skies above, where the buzzards and red kites swooped, and the dawn chorus roared its defiance.
My Hiraeth kept me connected to my land, and it gave me a deep sense of belonging, that people couldn’t provide. I had not found my space in the world of humanity. I did not know why I was out on the edge, and I felt it keenly, but I knew there was a place that was home.
I had another Hiraeth that yearned at me. I needed to belong, and I did not, no matter how hard I tried. I did not have a name for my inner space of belonging.
Not until my autism diagnosis.
My Hiraeth for home, brought me back to Wales. My Hiraeth for belonging, brought me to the autistic community.
I am no longer the lonely traveller banging on empty doors, I am a person who connects in her own ways, with her own people.
Hiraeth for autism is a longing to belong and to be like other people; a deep need to not be alone in your neurotype; the knowledge that you are not faulty, you are different; that people do not respond to your natural communication forms, because theirs have another style, but that there are people who do share yours.
We all need to feel connected. We all have Hiraeth for something. I know who I am, and I know where I am from, and these are powerful things. My Hiraeth was rootless and flailing for many years, now it has another foundation, another connection, another belonging.