Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heimat (2)

It is one of those untranslatable German words.  The closest English approximation is Homeland, and though it has to do with, amongst other things, the land - fields, forests and mountains - it cannot now be uttered without the contamination of National Socialism.  In this sense, it shares something with Patriotism which is now riddled with uncomfortable resonances.  Heimat carries in its essence an element of homesickness, which is something I often experience.  But for what place?  Where are my people?  Where is the ground that I would stoop to kiss?  I am suddenly and inappropriately reminded of that terrible joke by Tommy Cooper:

Man:  I'm homesick.
Wife:  What you on about?  You're at home now.
Man:  I know, and I'm sick of it.

"The Wanderer has no place to lay his head" (I Ching, see previous post) sounds grandiose, but this one (and the sagging Ridgepole) does come up for me year after year.  Grandiose or not, clearly Jesus Christ and I have something in common, for the Son of Man also had nowhere to lay his head.

There are moments - groups of people, anyone from anywhere - times of companionship (original meaning of companion: someone with whom you share bread), sitting around a table sharing food, words, the flame of a candle; times of blending one's voice with another's - my sister and I singing the songs our mother taught us and still remembers, though she has Alzheimer's now and has forgotten so much.  What remains when memories fall away?  Songs, quite often.  As a child, my mother was taught songs of the Hitler German Youth.  She lived with her Aryan grandparents and passed for one of them. Later she learned other songs - a Hebrew one we used to chant to make the rain come.  I am homesick for my Grandmother picking green beans in her garden, singing the love song of Katrinchen (Ich werde  dich lieben in ewigkeit).  Ich habe Heimweh.

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