Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. (Wikipedia)
Evening rounded the corner and stopped. In the middle of the street, I watched shutters lowering, heard a song being sung, saw houses being lit from within, saw the sky’s lights competing– “You shine brightest.” Warm air deepened the perfume of the purple and red rose bushes in every yard, the lemons on every tree, the sweat from the schoolyard, the bread, custards and cakes at the cornery bakery, hair shampooed with lavender apple rinses. It caught me and said, “Wait, don’t go. Remember this.”
Caçapava: In 2004, less than 90,000 people, one vegetarian restaurant in the center of town where a complete lunch was $3, multiple bakeries, a movie theater that was closed down, a square where fairs were held, a large church, vendors deep-frying chocolate bars, pastel shops, barbecues and beer as the way of life, warm, gregarious locals, long stretches of road with no houses in-between, cows and white butterflies dominating the landscape, pizza and esfihas on Friday nights, riding the bus in one direction to the mountains, in the other direction to white sand beaches.
Dona Natalina. It would be hard to find a gentler woman than Dona Natalina. Dona Natalina standing in the kitchen with her hair pulled back in a low bun, a t-shirt and a knee-length skirt, looking out the kitchen window at the gate. She cooked lunch and dinner every day (breakfast was pastries and bread). For dinner, chicken, beef, rice and beans, vegetables, feijoada. She would make juice– usually, passion fruit or cherry, and for dessert, a large carrot cake with chocolate icing. You could always find her talking to and spending equal time with each of her three daughters and young grandson in the kitchen or hanging clothes on the line. Since, I usually came onto the property last, though I lived in a different house with her daughter Andreia, she always had dinner warm and waiting for me.
A stronger form of saudade might be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.
I can understand why people stay in one place for a long time. The bonds that are built and the connections made must be priceless. For someone to know you without explanation, whether that be a family member, lover or friend, must be special. To gather moss…. Of course, the other side has its rewards– seeing new things, meeting new people, becoming new, learning new things, but it’s only a few layers deep. It seems when you say goodbye enough, you can say goodbye to anything. Complete non-attachment.
Caraguá: Drove to Caraguá with Eric and Alexandra to Eric’s parents house in Caraguá. All the windows were down, and our bodies leaning out to grab the wind. In that town, the sun always rising, miles of white beach, lying back and absorbing every last drop of sun, eating dinner outside, shot glasses of cachaça and large brown bottles of beer. Crispy pork skins sizzling, hot dogs, hamburgers with soft rolls, fish roasting in foil. The stalls at the night market: cotton candy, instruments and toys on display, colored t-shirts with “I Love…” emblazoned on the chest, pastry stuffed with chocolate and sprinkled with sugar on sticks, oversized churros, drummers sitting on wooden cartons, streamers of lights overhead. Where are Eric and Alexandra now?
Ubatuba: On a public holiday, I decided to take the bus to Ubatuba, about 3.5 hours away. My boss was having a barbecue at her house, which she often did, and I was in no mood to go. I booked a room at the Pousada Mariposa (clean large room, white sheets, ceiling fan, big bathroom)–– the card’s still in my wallet eleven years later (a very big deal, because I keep nothing). When I declined my boss’s offer to go to her house that weekend, she told me that I was “too independent.” She told me that often, and meant it is as no compliment.
How I booked a room, I don’t remember; no Portuguese, no Internet, no assistance, no problem. Ubatuba: beach, beach, beach, the beaches, one after the other, never ending. Beachside bars, cafes, boys and girls carrying surfboards, topless guys on scooters, “shoes,” a noun all but forgotten, trees falling towards the sea and pausing in mid-air, skies with doorways to other skies, and roads that give way to mountains.
Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.
The years trickle through the fingers and blow away like the sand of the beaches of Ubatuba. Tapestries of people, songs, scents, tastes never to be seen again. The last bell fading into the wave receding. It was treasured, and brought pleasure, and now it’s gone. I stopped, because the evening stopped me and said, “Don’t go. Remember this.”
In Brazil, the day of Saudade is officially celebrated on 30 January. How special it is that in Brazil it’s important to put time aside for missing.