Ecology and the Language of Home

‘Ecology’ from the Greek oikos and logos
seems to suggest there is a logic to our home.

And ‘home’ from ham (like in Penwortham),
from the German heim, from the Norse heimr
‘abode, world, land,’ is so much more than a haus.

Hiraeth is the Welsh word for the longing for a home.

Do the Welsh gods want this English awenydd
to untangle the threads, to follow this longing back
to when she started asking questions about her home:

“Why did only one group of snowdrops from the hundred
bulbs we planted in Greencroft Valley ever come up?”

“Why did the bluebells take so many years to appear?”

“How do the crocuses spread around the garden?”

“Why do the starlings disappear come back greedier?”

“Why did the mouse come in May and make a nest of my feathers?”

“What is it with spiders and September?”

Do we ask science to explain
because we are no longer able to talk to
the creatures because we have forgotten their language?

Because we have forgotten how to speak and share our home?

Did we know the answers to these questions long ago
when we were more at home rather than longing?

Is it the ecologist’s task to call us home

with all the words in her repertoire –
Anglo-Saxon, Brythonic, Latin, Greek?

In the Norse myths
Heimdallr guards against
the threats to the home such as
invaders, Ragnarok, the end of the world.

One blast on his horn will blow a warning.

Is it the ecologist’s task to be a horn-blower?

To sound the alarm and call us back?

*This poem is a series of reflections on my transition from working many miles away restoring the Manchester Mosslands to my new job as a Graduate Ecologist much closer to home. I am seeing it as a form of homecoming.

3 thoughts on “Ecology and the Language of Home

  1. Greg Hill says:

    I think too of the Welsh word for home : ‘cartref’, made up of ‘car’ (kin) – but also related to ‘caru’ – and ‘tref’, the modern word for town but originally ‘homestead’ and then any settlement. So a loved place, one that is dear to us, and where those close to us are.

    But then think of those who are not at home, who are displaced by famine or war, who carry hiraeth with them but might find another place that they become attached to, that their children will love and belong to and feel it belongs to them.

    So people have ever moved, and then settled; remembered old gods and discovered new ones. On this dear Earth which is home to us all.

  2. Tiege McCian says:

    Very nice! I particularly enjoyed the Part I, delving into etymology with poetic grace.
    ‘What is it with spiders and September?’
    I don’t know but I vote for no more Septembers ever again if it keeps the spiders away! 🤢
    Congrats on the job of moss land recovery!

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