Saudades

I haven’t posted since Brazil. The last couple months have involved a lot of internal reflection, and there are many fragments I’m still parsing through.

It’s hard to describe the kinds of changes that took place in me while I was in Brazil. Undefinable. Unrestricted. Unexplainable.

I spend a lot of time these days on my hammock, the one I bought in Alfenas, looking up into the trees. The other evening at dusk, I was lying on it when a small owl landed on a branch right above my head. These moments are private, safe, part serene and part tumultuous.

Brazil provided me subtle ways each day to think about who I am without making it some sort of tortured, meta experience. It was gradual like the slow weathering of a rock with the tide. But now that I am separated from the experiences I had there I realize that I see things differently. I see food differently. I see materialism differently. I see myself–my spirituality, my values, my outward person–differently. It’s this internal conflict that makes me wonder about which words to use.

I’m on the edge of something being pushed from many directions. I’m the one being pushed, but I’m also the pusher. At times I feel like I’m in my hammock looking up at the owl and simultaneously the owl looking down at me.

I’m hoping to shift this perspectival turmoil into a beautiful space, but I’m not there yet. For now, I’m sifting through memories from four short weeks and trying to understand a lifetime of who I am and where I need to go from here. It’s partly an effort to know and love myself better and partly an effort to accept each moment for what it is, to not block the tide from weathering the rock but to also not need to understand how the rock is being weathered or what the rock will be in the future.

Brazilians have a word that I love. Saudades. It has no direct translation in English. It means a longing, an emptiness, but also somehow a fullness after an experience. It’s whole-bodied nostalgia, joyful and melancholy all at once. One definition I read online says that it “carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return.” It’s a celebratory, wistful feeling that somehow also sits heavy in your chest.

Following my monthlong journey, the word saudades fills me each day. I use it regularly with my friends in Brazil to express how deeply I miss them. But perhaps the saudades extend even deeper… to the me who I was before the trip and the person I’m unfolding into now that I’m back. Whoever she may be.