The blood of a life past draws me back to a land where early morning heat lifted the load from shoulders and dust between the toes had a comforting familiarity. So pleasing were the figs plucked from roadside trees, as was the turquoise-blue sky overhead as I went to buy the daily bread from a woman with rock-hard hands and a demeanour as mild as the shore breeze. She once had a son and could still remember how he smelt, of milk and vanilla pods she said, as she kissed his nursing head at her breast but another nation’s war had torn him from her like the bread ripped apart between her palms.

And when the last loaf but one was sold she would fold her dark shawl around her and leave the stone oven to smoulder and ride up into the mountains to lay bread beside the bones of her family. Homeward bound she often passed my potter’s stall, her hands in her lap, while the donkey plodded towards the sea, his head nodding. Both would rest in a cave until the fire had been tempered from the sun and the aroma of slow roasted lamb brought travellers to her taverna.

At night I would savour the crunch of silvered shingle underfoot at the water’s edge and listen for the scrape of turtle fins along the beach. Here the night sky, devoid of sickly sodium bloom, cloaked the world with diamante and racing bolts of light and filled the belly with tranquillity until the wings of Morpheus brushed against my cheek. Sleep was a wondrous thing, dreamless—not like now amid the cacophony of wailing metal wolves and late night ghetto blasters. But this is the price of progression from young woman to wife and each day I am that donkey plodding a well traversed route carrying modernity’s load. My arms ache. They feel like the woman’s shawl wrapped tight across my body. They long for the silky breath of sea against skin like a lover’s touch.

Yesterday I heard the old woman was preparing for her long home. Her stone oven is cold and the Taverna doors have closed on the final scenes of a play very few ever saw. And as I sit listening to the dull tick of a plastic clock, mind heavy with Hiraeth, I ponder were I able to find keys to fit the locks would the memory be as true as I supposed it to be.

The small mountain village Loucha, Zakynthos
© Tieme Pool, all Rights reserved.

Hiraeth: Welsh in origin without formal definition. Used to describe longing for places and lives past, real or otherwise imagined.
©Talia Hardy 2014.

2 thoughts on “Hiraeth

    • Hello Shakti,
      Yes you are correct they do gain more power over us when we are nostalgic. That moment in the morning when I plucked figs from the roadside trees was the spur for the piece but travel writing can cross the boundaries into fiction. The old lady might not have existed at all but there where many woman like her. She is, in effect, the everyman-the figure we can all identify with-in the story. You have an interesting blog, a good reference point for me. 😉

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