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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer


I’m remembering walking the mile to my elementary school either by myself or with friends. No fences surrounded the open school. Yes, sometimes we hid under our desks with hands covering our heads, but the drills were abstract. We had no fear of someone coming to our school with a gun.

I feel a sadness thinking about our world today. This brings up other feelings, of longing and absence: hiking in the hills, walking on the beach, my lifelong friends, a chill in the air that lasts longer than the end of February, my recent travels.

As I was driving home from the grocery store last week, I heard a story about words in one language that are difficult to translate into another. They described the Portuguese word saudade; it immediately felt familiar to me. I came home and found this radio program that wonderfully expresses the elusive meaning of the word through music and conversation, Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word.

One of the voices in the radio program said “Every time I arrive and leave Brazil, I have a moment of saudade.” It is heartbreak, feeling blue, a deep longing and both a presence and absence.

I have learned to notice these feelings and not push them away. I hold saudade gently on a silver tray and when I am ready, I set it down on the counter to be picked up another time. The Portuguese poet Manuel de Melo describes saudade as "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy."

Do you ever feel this way? How do you allow it in and also not let it take over your life?

I took the photo above in London at St James's Church. The installation, Suspended, is by Arabella Dorman. "Suspended seeks to highlight the situation of thousands of refugees...fleeing war, persecution and famine for the hoped-for safety of European shores...hung between loss and hope, suspended between a past to which they cannot return and a future to which they cannot move." I found the exhibit extremely powerful.

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