Do you ever find that some of the most beautiful words are those that do not have an exact equivalent in your mother tongue? As complex as the English lexicon may be, it has its limits. Although I love to tinker with words and spool them into twine, I know this to be an absolute truth: there is no English word to describe how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks.
But there is one in German: Fernweh – the concept of feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been.
Friends, let me to you, I have been experiencing fernweh up the wazoo!!
Fernweh for the desolate woods of northern Sweden, the endless expanse of snowy tundra in Norway. I miss the activities I have never taken part in: picking wild lingonberries in midsummer, testing the very limits of my physical endurance by ice bathing in a lake during the tail end of winter. My soul is swaying to the ethereal echoes of a Nordic lullaby I have never heard in person.
This intense case of fernweh began a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon Swedish blogger and artist Jonna Jinton’s YouTube channel. Born in the city of Gothenburg, she moved to the tiny northern village of Grundtjärn over ten years ago when she yearned for a stronger connection to nature. A university student at the time, her choice to quit her studies and leave was a bold one, but to her, the call of the North could not be muted.
As Grundtjärn is her mother’s birthplace and her ancestral home for centuries before that, her move there was in many ways a grand homecoming. And when she shares her life in her tiny village with the rest of the world on YouTube, you can see how much she flourishes there.
Jonna Jinton’s vlogs, composed of sublime cinematography, soothing narration and lovely sentiment, are fireside chats for my soul. Watching her trudge through mounds of snow in the darkness of winter always leads my thoughts to the light, shrouding them in the warmth of a life lived simply.
A lover of winter and woodland walks, I find myself yearning for a candlelit breakfast by the kitchen fireplace in rural Sweden. Despite the scarcity of light in the winter, I could imagine how fresh the atmosphere would feel, how inspiring the tiny art studio by the forested lake would be.
Through Jinton’s vlogs I discovered another great YouTuber in Scandinavia – Leena Henningsen. A German who moved to Norway for many of the reasons Jinton did – to escape the city, to grow into herself – the artist within Henningsen has clearly bloomed in her desolate surroundings. Much like Jinton, she also has a great Wifi connection and a photographer’s eye so when she shares her day-to-day life on YouTube, it affects people like me deeply.
Although I am quite certain that even an introvert like me would start to miss the lack of human connection, sometimes I wonder if I, along with my fiance and future dog, am meant for that kind of environment. Maybe I would feel most at home making paint pigments from the barely touched earth and capturing the enrapturing polar night on film. Maybe this foreign place is distinctly familiar to me after all.
When I watch these ladies’ videos, I see the poetry I first discovered in childhood in the Scandinavian snowbanks; I hear the mellifluous echo of a familiar wind passing through a foreign place. In the lingering orange leaves of autumn coated in ice, I see the fortified bond of nature in all of its personifications. The seasons speak their own distinct dialects, with endless variations across Earth’s tundra, but the emotional translation, in all of its complexities and nuances, is universal.
And played out so beautifully on the small screen, it feels like a grand homecoming for me too.
So I greet fernweh as a familiar friend, knowing that while lost in translation, my soul has found its way through the many doors left ajar somewhere way up North.
Follow your fernweh,
PS: Have you ever experienced fernweh? Let me know in the comments!