These Words Perfectly Describe Our Relationship With Nature, But They Don’t Exist in English
How does language influence how we see our relationship with nature?
As human beings we’ve long had a deep relationship with nature, with it helping us to understand our own lives. This is encapsulated in much of our favourite poetry, with William Wordsworth immediately coming to mind with famous quotations like ‘let nature be your teacher’ (Tables Turned), ‘one daffodil is worth a thousand pleasures’ (Daffodils), and ‘nature never did betray the one who loved her’ (Tintern Abbey).
At the same time, there’s no doubt that climate change is affecting our human relationship with nature. The scientific evidence conclusively tells us that vast increase in the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere we’re seeing is definitely due to human activity. We are directly responsible for the degradation of the planet that we call home. Yet, we also feel a strong need to protect our environment from this growing threat.
As well as Wordsworth manages it, it can be hard to put into words our feelings towards and relationship with nature. But some languages seem to do this with much more nuance than English. So here are 5 words which perfectly describe our relationship with nature, but which don’t exist in the English language.
Unsurprisingly, the first word in the list is Japanese (and spoiler alert, there are more Japanese nature words to follow).
Komorebi is a Japanese word which translates into English as ‘sunlight that filters through trees’. It aptly describes the dappled sunlight which you see when you’re walking through a dense forest or patch of trees.
The German word fernweh literally translates into English as ‘distance sickness’. It refers to the feeling of homesickness and longing towards a location that you’ve never been to before.
It’s often compared to the commonly used term ‘wanderlust’, but it actually has a much deeper meaning to it. Whereas wanderlust refers simply to an urge to travel and see new places, fernweh is a more profound need to be moving around, exploring and visiting new places around the world — otherwise you’d experience a deep boredom with your own life.
Another Japanese term, shinrinyoku is also sometimes referred to as ‘forest bathing’. It refers to the action of taking a recreational trip to a forest, for the purpose of relaxation and reconnecting with nature. The trip will usually focus around a slow, mindful walk through the forest.
Next up is the Swedish word gokotta, which means waking up early to hear the birds sing or appreciate nature. For those who enjoy this early morning ritual, it can be the best time of the day and the perfect start to the day ahead.
This practice of hearing birdcall seems important to Swedish culture. They also have a tradition of going out in nature on Ascension Day (40 days after Easter Day) to listen to the birds for the first time in spring — and particularly to hear the cuckoos. Many churches across Sweden will hold their morning Ascension Day service in the open air to align with this.
Our final word is kogarashi, another Japanese word, which literally translates as ‘tree witherer’. It refers to the withering wind that comes at the start of winter and blows the last leaves off of the trees. It is the wind which is said to mark the passing of summer and autumn, and the beginning of winter — and therefore relates to the changeability of nature.