Every now and then, I come across a word that consumes me the way dark clouds devour the crystal blue sky on a cold, rainy day. It stops me in my tracks and lights up my mind like a thunderous bolt. Language dives into the depths of our sentiments to try and pull apart our emotions and express our deepest feelings. This term that buds a seed in my mind and flourishes into a garden of memories and sentiments is a term I have used many times before. A term I never really thought about until now. It is the Portuguese word “saudade,” which is used to express a deep emotional state of nostalgia and profound longing for someone that you love.
This word is extremely unique and magnificent because it is untranslatable in the English language. The closest English equivalent to saudade is “to miss.” Saudade, however, is not a verb like “miss,” it is a noun; a feeling. In Portuguese you say Eu tenho saudades tuas, which translates directly to “I feel saudade for you.”
Saudade is often linked to “nostalgia,” which is a feeling of homesickness when you miss who you were at a certain moment or in a certain place in your life. When you are feeling nostalgia, you do not miss the person or things you are thinking about; you miss your identity and the person you were at that time. Saudade works much differently.
When you feel saudade, you neither miss who you were nor how you felt in a certain place or with a certain person. You miss the person you once loved and then lost, because you still feel love for that person. It is a feeling of deep longing to be with that absent person. Hidden within this word is an underlying subconscious feeling that you may never see that person again.
Saudade is a recollection of feelings and experiences that once brought pleasure, but now triggers feelings of emptiness and sadness. It is both the dark clouds that cover the sun and the rays of light that shine through the darkness; saudade expresses both melancholy and happiness.
Many writers and artists discuss this feeling like Aubrey Fitz Gerald Bell, in his book In Portugal. He expresses saudade as
“not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.”
Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo describes it as
“a pleasure you suffer and an ailment you enjoy.”
Saudade is memories entangled with the thought that this may never be again, or perhaps, never even was. These memories may not have even happened, but you envision moments and experiences with this person because you yearn for them daily and love them unconditionally. It makes you both happy and sad envisioning these moments. You could be right beside this person and already feel saudade; sadness that this moment will end, happiness that you experienced it, and a deep yearning to always be near that person.
I find it absolutely astounding how one simple word can be loaded with so much meaning and feeling. That it can express the very thing your heart and soul has been crying out, but never found the words to explain. As I prepare for my journey, away from all those that I love, the meaning of saudade settles deep within my soul.
An extremely romantic, untranslatable and soulful word that describes a powerful connection with another being. It is a mantra of reflecting on the past in a positive and hopeful way. Although the memories bring a storm of emotion that drown your soul with tears, the smile creeps up on your face like an upside down rainbow because of the love and happiness that you experienced with that person. Saudade pushes you to love through the pain and helps you realize that in life, que será será.