Thursday, 10 March 2011


This week's theme for 52 of Twenty Eleven is "Vanishing Point". I spend a lot of time in trains, commuting almost four hours every day, so the railway tracks at the station close to where I work seemed to be perfect. There are three tracks but only one is used and there are only about 4 trains an hour, so it is quite safe to take pictures. It was a cold and frosty and also rather hazy morning, providing the right kind of light for the theme.

I was looking for a quote to go with this and in my quote's book found this one by American poet James Oppenheim (1882-1932):

the foolish person seeks happiness in the distance;
the wise person grows it under his feet

I should probably pin this quote to my fridge and read it every day and adopt is my mantra or something like that. I've been dreaming about moving abroad for ages but haven't managed yet to take the steps and more and more I think/fear that it will never actually happen. I must admit that I do tend to believe that my life would be better if I was living somehwere else, that I would be happier. That I would somehow be a different person, better able to be happy. And there are times when I feel that I spend my life in some sort of transit zone, forever waiting for the time when finally everything changes, when my life finally begins for good. But this is probably just a big delusion. We all know (in theory) that happiness comes from within, that it is a state of mind rather than a number of external factors. If we always wait for happiness to come to us from outside, and, even worse, rely on others to make us happy, we'll never really be happy. It's within us and it's up to us. Sounds so simple - but I find it one of the hardest things in the world to achieve.

There's a perfect German word which really sums up this feeling of longing to be in some other place: Fernweh. It's one of these words for which there doesn't really seem to exist an equivalent in English. When looking it up, I found another German term as "translation": wanderlust. Others are itchy feet and the travel bug. But these don't really fit. They all have a positive connotation; a pleasant anticipation of going on holiday, on a journey, to see the world. Something you plan, and then actually do - and return home from happy and content. Fernweh on the other hand has a more melancholic connotation. It's the feeling of longing to be somewhere else but not necessarily ever getting there. It's the opposite of Heimweh - homesickness, though in German, it's not a "sickness" but an "ache". It's this lump in your heart you feel, of something missing, an unfulfilled dream. Which might always remain just that. But it's up to us, if we allow those lumps to get us down or if we choose to be happy despite them.

I'm working on it...

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes, I'm not much of an intellectual so I can't think of an English word that captures that feeling, but I am definitely happy to use "Fernweh" from now on. When I was younger I could always imagine myself living in France, but I think that was just because we started to go on holiday as a family to France when I was just at an impressionable age. Later I spent 10 years living with a French person but in England, but if anything, it made me notice all the things about England that I actually liked quite a lot.

    A little over 2 years ago I moved to where I live right now and had an immediate feeling that I had come home, even though I had never even visited before in my life.

    We all know that we carry physical characteristics in our DNA which get passed down through generations, though they might sometimes skip a generation. I do often wonder whether we carry also memories of places too, which would explain these feelings, and a sense of "deja vu" sometimes - another specific phrase that we use in English, but strangely it is not one that they use in France in the same way!

    The mysteries of the mind and language...