“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” – Fernando Pessoa
If memory is the original fiction, then let me remember the women
whose warm hands, stained with vegetables,
tended to Sunday stock, who were unknown
except to those who ate what they offered,
and who made what they offered in a haven
unknown to cameras and reviewers and stars
of achievement. Let me remember the thrill
of running along a Normandy coast,
after mussels when blond wheat covered
the fields before they gave way to corn, concrete,
plastic; when necessary meant bread at a midday meal.
Inspired by this morning’s sighting of Madeline Kamman’s When French Women Cook, a book I discovered about a decade ago in a used bookstore. It’s descriptions of a French countryside that no longer exists created a strange sense of longing, one that I have come to associate with a word I happened to discover around the time I discovered this book. The word, hireath, is a Welsch word with no exact translation in English, was presented to me originally as “longing or homesickness for a place you have not directly known.” It resounded, in an instant, as one of the dominating feelings of my time on the planet.