J.L. Johnson, Guest Blogger
I don’t know exactly when or how I came across the Spanish word querencia. Like torschlusspanik and esprit de l’escalier, it simply appeared as one of those foreignisms I’d scribbled down on scrap paper, marking a handy little bridge from feeling to expression that my own language—despite its sprawling infrastructure of a million or so words—had forgotten to build.
Broadly translated, querencia describes a place where you feel most at home. Its literal meaning comes from the world of bullfighting, where querencia refers to “that mysterious little area in the bullring that catches the fancy of the fighting bull when he charges in,” as one writer describes it. “He imagines it his sanctuary … there, he supposes he cannot be hurt.”
That connotation of animal instinct is much of what makes querencia an especially powerful word for me. But instead of a bull in its lair, I think of little Mole in The Wind in the Willows, as he catches the scent of his old burrow while traveling a country road:
[It] suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while as yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again … Home!