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’.”
For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of love for 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.
While I lived in Beaconsfield, almost every day my neighbor 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, or vice versa. 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 suburban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration they’ll never get around to.
Sometimes my friend and I walked to the Royal Standard of England for lunch—both dogs resting under the table. 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. Part of the Royal Standard is 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.
England has changed tremendously since I lived there. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge but convenient grocery store. Traffic is terrible! And I wonder, as I do in the US, where’s everybody going all the time!
Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.
Recently, I fled to England and my friend for a saudade top-up. We hiked the beaches and cliffs on the Cornish coast, ate in my favorite pub, and chattered for hours as best of friends do who are separated by thousands of miles. We’re not young anymore, but time has never made any difference in the friendship bond knotted tight forty-four years ago.
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. I just love England—a lot!