Saudade

I love words. Especially those from other languages that have no direct translation to English.

So when I was trying to put my finger on a word or phrase to describe a growing feeling I have, I was excited to stumble across a Portuguese word that was spot on.

Saudade.

According to Oxford, it means “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia.” But I like the Wikipedia description better.

“…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.”

In other words, saudade “brings sad and happy feelings altogether, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.”

And in doing a little more research, I found that Brazilians believe saudade is sometimes a welcomed thing. It brings you a certain pleasure, even if the pleasure is laced with pain.

Hmmm.

If you follow my blog, you know that before washing up on sunny Caribbean shores, I spent a few years in Seattle. Three years and five months to be precise. Which is less than half the time I’ve lived in the tropics. In the overall scheme of my life, Seattle was but a blip on my radar. As it turns out, a fairly significant blip.

Climbing Mt. St. Helens.

While the area’s notoriously long, rainy winters didn’t do much to keep me from plumbing the depths of depression, the mountains were another story. They always brought me pure bliss – in every season and every weather condition. Rain, snow, clouds, or sunshine – it didn’t matter. Just being there, often alone and surrounded by the vast and rugged landscape, brought me a calmness I never before experienced. I found myself there.

Have you ever discovered a place like that?

Not that I expected the Cascades to grab hold of my heart. Growing up in the landlocked and relatively flat Midwest (and not being well-traveled as a child), I didn’t start hanging out in mountainous landscapes until I was well into my 30s. Being married at the time to a diehard ski fanatic helped dramatically with my introduction to the winter mountain lifestyle. And while I’ve explored different regions including the Wasatch, the Rockies, the Tetons, and the Coastal Range of BC, it was the Cascades that really spoke to me.

Those lush & often mist-shrouded peaks hit me hard. And we had a very good run. Until we didn’t.

Rattlesnake Lake.

I’m not sure what happened, but when I fell head-over-heels in love with Bonaire my torrid affair with the Cascades faded. It wasn’t the mountains’ fault, obviously. There were other factors at play. Some good, some bad, some I’d rather just forget.

Then once I got to the tropics, new experiences quickly pushed aside the memories I had of my mountain adventures. But as it turned out, the feelings that accompanied those evergreen memories didn’t disappear, they just went dormant.

As I discovered when I returned this past April after a very long hiatus. Dormant things can come to life without warning.

After arriving on a late-night flight, I woke up and caught my first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks perfectly illuminated against a rare April bluebird sky. My heart literally skipped a beat. Then I felt an overwhelming and familiar passion fill my soul. The Cascades once again called to me with their siren song. And I couldn’t resist.

Even in the rain, I love the Cascades.

I hiked an old favorite trail. I stood dumbfounded in a shopping mall parking lot when I glanced over my shoulder and unexpectedly saw the sparkling Cascades on full, glorious display. One day I drove for hours just to reach the summit of a desolate, post-season ski area, sat outside my car for a little while, then turned around and drove back home. Along the way, of course, I made many stops to revel at roaring spring melt waterfalls and usually placid creeks turned into raging rivers. The entire time? I felt like it was exactly where I should be.

Which was confusing, because I still feel that way about my little island, too. The place that I fell in love with at first sight all those years ago. The place where I’ve built a life for myself that includes one Island Boy, two dogs, little stress, and a lot of kitesurfing. I am, after all, here by choice.

But still, months and months after that initial mountain awakening, the call of the Cascades still rings in my ears. And it won’t stop. I certainly did not help my situation by recently spending hours browsing all my old Facebook photo albums filled with pictures of my mountain adventures. Note to self, be very cautious with any future trips down memory lane.

Now I’m filled with a curiously melancholy mix of emotions. I want to be here, but I want to be there, too. It’s a strange feeling, yet one I’ve had before. The difference is that before I tried to explain it away. This time, I’m not feeling so inclined.

Somewhere in the Snoqualmie backcountry.

The frustration of not being able to act (at least responsibly) on these emotions is a bit of a kick in the gut, too.

Ideally? I’d love to split my time between the two places that have a grip on my heart. Realistically? Unless I win the lottery (and can figure out how to transport two stubborn island dogs to and from the US from an island with no airlines that handle dogs to the States), I’m out of luck.

So instead, I must sort out my feelings in a more practical way. Hence the search for a word, because writers love to label things.

Saudade.

But now that I have a nifty descriptor for my mixed emotions, the question becomes…

What next?

Nothing, really. I’ll just take a cue from the Brazilians and focus on the joy part of saudade. Even if that joy is tinged with a little pain.


Got questions? Comments? Want to know more about island life? Thinking about making a big life change? I’d love to hear from you.

Check out this post or send your thoughts to hello@theadventuresofislandgirl.com and let’s connect.

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