Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm a chicken

In past blog entries I’ve submitted lists of things I don’t like about myself. One of my least favorite, one that I’ve strategically neglected to mention, is that I don’t do well with any type of souvenir. I don’t take photographs (I don’t even own a camera), don’t make albums and don’t keep mementos. Whenever memories assault me – through a song, a scent, any unintended, uninvited occurrence - I feel frozen in place when what I want to do is run.

Take traveling to Mexico to see my family. I love them more than my own life (and I mean this non-melodramatically), and once I’m there I manage, but before I leave I’d rather be going anywhere else. Seeing them, their things, their habits, their spaces, overwhelms me with a sense of loss that knocks the air out of me. I don’t know what to do with a feeling like this.

Regrettably, there is no word in English for what I’m describing. It’s like being homesick at the very beginning of your trip, when home is really far away. It skids, like nostalgia. It’s dark and thick, like melancholy. It crushes your chest, like longing. Empties you out, like sorrow. It’s like an ocean of sadness that feels both full and empty, gray and bleak and somehow sweet. In Portuguese, the word is Saudade. And I think it’s one of the feelings I dislike most in the world, because it makes me feel helpless. And because it hurts like a needle to a nerve.

Based on empirical research, I sustain that I feel saudade more acutely than the average person. (Otherwise, photo-sharing sites would not be the booming business that they are.)

When we’re traveling, my husband always insists that I buy something to remind me of the place. I decline on the grounds that I won’t forget it, but really what I’m thinking is I’d rather not remember. There will be other places. Why cling to the past when the future is so full of promise?

Every year around December and January, Luca spends at least 50 hours putting together a DVD with all the photos he took throughout the previous year. He adds videos and slideshows with music that best represents each place. He has a DVD library by now, and of course I am going to look at it. Tomorrow.

(Photo: history for


Rhona Hamilton Marr said...

Can you share the video with the rest of us?

I can definitely relate to the sense of loss when leaving family. With my mom, she always wants me to call and let her know I'm home safe after I've seen her. It's like we go back in time to when I was living at home and I needed to check in. Or it's because I come back into her life on a different level when I'm at her house and she feels more connected and wants to make sure I'm ok.

It makes me sad as I wish we lived closer and I did get to see her on a more regular basis. And it always makes me wonder why my life's journey took me away from my mom.


Dushka said...

Exactly, Rhona! I wonder that too.

As for the video, Luca put three DVD's together of 2007 - and each one has about 3 movies. I could share it with you, but you'd be sick of us!

Anonymous said...

Please, when I die, don't come into the house and throw away a
lifetime's accumulation of travel
mementos, albums, files, and a
valuable library full of unique books, many of them irreplacable.
Donate them to someone who can put
them to good use.

Patricia Calazans-Ashton said...

Saudade teases with all senses. I sometimes doubt if this is a feeling that anyone can feel it. Latinos seem to be more susceptible, but I've seem people from upstate New York with the same symptoms.

A friend of mine denies Saudade. She explains Saudade is jut another peculiar Portuguese creation like salt cod fish or Fado music.

I see Saudade from a Brazilian-BossaNova-Perspective. Differently from sister Nostalgia, Saudade is about joy and passion. It doesn’t hurt and its after tast is sweet.

It's such a good sensation that I want to keep all pictures and souvenirs from what is (was) worthed for my life. It feels good when Saudade comes.

Great post, Dushka. Loved it!

“Vai minha tristeza e diz a ela que sem ela
Não pode ser, diz-lhe numa prece
Que ela regresse, porque eu não posso
Mais sofrer. Chega de saudade a realidade
É que sem ela não há paz, não há beleza
É só tristeza e a melancolia
Que não sai de mim, não sai de mim, não sai

Mas se ela voltar, se ela voltar,
Que coisa linda, que coisa louca
Pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar
Do que os beijinhos que eu darei
Na sua boca, dentro dos meus braços
Os abraços hão de ser, milhões de abraços
Apertado assim, colado assim, calado assim
Abraços e beijinhos e carinhos sem ter fim
Que é pra acabar com esse negócio de você viver sem mim.
Não quero mais esse negócio de você longe de mim...” (Joao Gilberto e Tom Jobim)

Dushka said...

CM: Well, don't die!
And, what's with the anonymity?

Patricia: I know saudade feels good to some people. I'm not one of them. It's like pain, with a river of sweetness running through it. And, like I said, I'm a chicken!
Thanks for visiting.

Miguel Cane said...

Dear Dushka,

It's not exactly wearing a mask so as to be hypocritical (which you know I am not), but rather, a way of dealing with (and concealing) hurt. It's an emergency resource, you know.

I'm so chicken too...

Much love to both (and CM too!)

PS: I guess the anonimity is because of the redesign of the comments platform, it no longer says "Other" but rather now suggests and "Alias" and/or being "Anonymous". I guess it must be the root of the thing, no?