I stood looking out at the distant hill. I did not see the jumble of old suburbia inbetween me and the faraway slant of pine trees. I did not even really see the trees themselves. Just beyond that hill was a pallid ocean. And something else. A memory, a desire, a calling forth or reaching back ...
We need a word for this, I thought at the time. A word for the ache of
distances - spacial distances, temporal ones. English is such an earthy,
practical, bull-headed language. We have nothing like toska, saudade, hiraeth.
No specificities for the beautiful pain of yearning. Ours is a language
of farmers and warriors. It does not easily sing us outside of
Or perhaps I simply know English too well. With familiarity comes a loss
of the spirit of loneliness, and of groping towards something that is
at once precise and insubstantial ...
For that matter, do we even have a term for the poignant, dream-inspired
groping through silence? For the wish to pinpoint an exact word and yet
the fear that we will, thereby turning magic into something mundane?
I took a photograph of the distant hill. Later, I deleted it. I'd only
managed to capture trees, ocean, suburban rootftops tangled amongst
bushes and streets. The sense of it ... the sigh from my heart, and
perhaps from the hill itself, looking back at me ... the fragments of
books once read, and childhood afternoons at the edge of school
holidays, and the smell of pine, and the memory of the sea breathing on
me, and the love of the soft-coloured sorrow that made a space between
me and the hill, me and who I used to be ... none of this could be
captured in imagery any more than it could in a word. And that felt
right. To codify the longing, the love, would take away its meaning.