Nameless

Excerpt from my journal entry on September 11, 2017

My first tears in Brazil came as I sat outside my home stay with my host grandmother.

DSC_1744.jpg

I saw my first hummingbird – “Beija Flor”, my grandmother told me in Portuguese. I watched as it gracefully drew nectar from a yellow flowering plant I had never seen before. As quick as it came, it was gone, flitting to a neighboring yard.

A small yellow bird flew in to take its place on the plant. With slower wings and a shorter beak, it struggled to reach the nectar, but tried nevertheless. I realized I hadn’t meditated in a while, so I cleared my mind of all thoughts and focused on the small nameless yellow bird perched on the nameless yellow plant.

And I cried. I don’t know why, but tears just came and wouldn’t stop flowing. I wiped my face on my shirt sleeve and hoped my grandmother didn’t notice. What would I say if she did?

We had been sitting in silence for the past hour because I barely knew a word of Portuguese – it was only my 3rd day at my home stay, and that morning I had only had my 3rd Portuguese class.

I knew one thing though; the words “eu sinto saudade” popped into my mind. Saudade is a feeling that I’ve been told has no direct translation, but it is often translated to “missing”, “longing”, or “nostalgia”. So eu sinto saudade is “I miss”. The sentence is incomplete. I need to say “eu sinto saudade de ___” , “I miss ___” . Something.

But I couldn’t come up with anything. I don’t feel homesick, nor do I feel alone. I usually appreciate the moments of complete silence, in words and thoughts alike. When I meditate and clear my mind to focus on my body and feelings, I typically find myself at peace and conscious of my inner workings.

This time, I was completely lost. Something about little yellow birds on yellow plants really got to me. I still don’t know what I felt, or how to describe it, just like I don’t know how to describe the bird and plant apart from “yellow”.

Sometimes feelings can’t be translated to words, or accurately described. They are only meant to be felt.

I sat into that thought, that nameless feeling, and let it continue to pass through me. I let the tears flow freely.

Eu sinto saudade


Reflections on February 11, 2018.

Que engraçado. How funny. The roles have reversed.

I sat outside my home stay with my grandmother. Her arms were crossed, she was staring out at the street, very much as she did 5 months prior. I sipped my warm herbal tea and sniffed, hoping I hadn’t caught a cold. As I dipped my biscuit into my tea, I heard a sniff that wasn’t mine.

I looked up, and glanced at my grandmother’s face. My glasses laid broken on the table in between us —I have to tape them together every morning— so through blurry vision I tried to decipher her expression.

I couldn’t make out tears, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were there. Her eyes were more red, the ends of her mouth pinched down more than how she usually purses her lips. Her brows were knit in a sad confusion.

Another nameless feeling passed through me. I wanted to reach out to her, but I just sipped my tea, not knowing what to do or say. I stared into my mug and swirled around my tea bag. I heard another sniff, an arm move, and what I assume were tears wiped away with hopes of no one noticing.

DSC_1743.jpgAnd I wondered if she felt the same way I did 5 months ago. I looked for the hummingbird, the beija flor, the “kiss flower” bird. I looked for the still nameless little yellow bird. I looked for the nameless yellow plant, but none of them were there.

Somehow, that would make things too perfect, as if the world was tied up too nicely in a little bow knot. But I noticed the wind blew softly as it did that day and I meditated on the little things that had changed since then.

The chairs were painted a different color than last time; rather than yellow, red, blue, and green, the 4 chairs were now the same gray. The neighbors were new. The seasons had changed from winter to summer. We had both gotten older and wiser. And although now I can speak Portuguese and have a wide vocabulary, I couldn’t think of any words to say.

My grandmother tapped her fingers on the table anxiously, sniffing occasionally as she stared out at the street. I remembered bouncing my leg anxiously, letting silent tears stream down, sniffing occasionally as I stared at the nameless yellow bird.

I hadn’t wanted to be obvious. Neither did she. But then she finally turned around and told me she wanted to leave, to go back to her real home. We talked in between sniffs, and I let my own tears come. From where, I still don’t know.

We sat and felt what I thought were nameless feelings for what seemed like another hour, until my grandmother spoke and broke our trance.

Eu sinto saudades do meu lar”. 

Even though I had not wanted to admit it, not then, and not 5 months ago, I told her I missed my home, too.

Love and Peace,

Elise

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