Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”
My saudade sighs are for England.
In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.
For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.
I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.
I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.
Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.
I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.
Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.
England has changed tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.
Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.
I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.
If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!