Hiraeth is a Welsh word that translates to mean a deep longing for a place that can't be returned to, or doesn't exist.

Different languages have words for somewhat similar senses of impossible nostalgias. In 2012, American writer Pamela Petro, writing on "Dreaming in Welsh" for the Paris Review, mentions Turkish author Orhan Pamuk's use of "hüzün" as a term for the pain of everything that has been lost; and the Portuguese term "saudade" as "a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist."

Petro herself describes this as the "home-seeking imagination." This connects to the ideas explored by Gaston Bachelard in the Poetics of Space, about our "oneiric homes", or the homes we dream about.

This becomes a way of thinking about how to belong in a place that does not exist, or what it means to belong in a place to which you have no political or cultural entitlement, and yet you feel familiar when you arrive there.

This may also be useful to thinking about what happens when an online environment becomes home-like, even though it cannot exist in the form in which its interface presents to its users.

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Related: poetic space


That dusk was unspeakably beautiful and not a little illicit. It seemed, for a millisecond, as if I were witnessing the earth drop its guard and exhale its love for the sky, for the pungent cattle, the rabbits whose bones lay underfoot, and for me, too. I felt as if my bodily fluids, my wet, physiological self, were being summoned to high tide. The hills tugged on my blood and it responded with a storm surge that made me ache—a simple sensation more urgent and less complicated than thought, like the love of one animal for another. Or the love of an animal for its home.