I saw a pin the other day that defined the Welsh word "hiraeth." Though it has no direct English translation, it generally means a deep nostalgia or longing for something you loved that once was or is no longer. The word exists in a few different languages. The Portuguese have named it saudade, the Galician, morriña, and the Romanian, dor.
I think the word so perfectly captures that odd feeling that sometimes flits through me on late, anxious evenings. When I smell the scent of hot rain on pavement. Or when summer breezes blow through the apartment. The sound of someone's voice that seems familiar. The taste of passion fruit. Things that fill me with a rising tide of sadness that seems to surge and then dissipate. I suspect it's nostalgia for places that were home, for familiar things that were a part of my life and are no longer. Some nights those feelings bottle up inside me and I can't even go to sleep for I am thinking of all of the apartments we once inhabited, all the boxes we have packed, the people and the cities that we have traveled through.
Last night I was scrolling through my own Instagram feed remembering different moments in my digitally-encapsulated life. There are so many things that we'd easily forget without our phones (as much as they are constantly slammed for taking us away from the present, they also capture and maintain the past) - champagne and strawberries in an orange dish on a work-day, a view out the apartment window of a lightning storm, a dark restaurant on a Wednesday, a pair of summery shoes in the elevator on a hot day.
My feed made me experience that sad nostalgia, that hireaeth. Looking at my life packaged up in snapshots and remembering so many individually insignificant, but together, entirely significant moments. There's certainly a merit to documenting our lives in all of these miniature filtered photos - it becomes evident when looking back at them all published together. They signify the trajectory of our lives. One bottle of champagne on a Wednesday is nothing. But the progression of champagnes, of champagne buckets, of glassware, of people we're sharing them with, is a miniature story on its own.
The images - a white sand beach and my toes, of an engagement ring and growing fingernails, a basket of fries shared with a far-away best friend - may fill me with longing, with an unknowable sadness for that which was and is no longer. But I think it's important to recognize that experiencing saudade, morriña, dor is quite possibly the happiest sadness possible.