The wind chimes sang of saudade today.
(Tell me, class, in context what this word means?)
I sat crisscross-applesauce in the gold-leaf-strewn yard, my day free from teaching but in that lazy in-between world of my own homework and their ungraded papers. Our sleepy labradoodle lay in my lap, her head heavy on my knees, and my posture took me to the days in kindergarten when we colored leaves the size of our little faces. Autumn returns me to Mrs. Brandenburg’s classroom because that’s when I first saw the fire in the leaves. I colored — colored — colored so hard, the finger-thick crayons snapped. It always made me tear up when I did that, my six-year-old self conscious of some measure of waste.
That’s when I heard them chatter in an autumn crossbreeze. The childish sadness bled over at the chime sounds skirting the wind. A dark leaf twisted down from the tree above us–me and Heidi–catching my eye, flipping open like the first page in a sad book in my mind. Such a book, I prefer to contain in the Unhappy Brain Library, a library only open on Mondays, mornings, and mourning periods. But today, the dark cedar wind chimes hanging on the edge of the porch pried it open.
They are not decorated with squirrels gnawing plastic acorns, but I always think they are. That was the chime set that my old neighbor gave us years back. I don’t recall now why Mr. Annabelle gave Mom the chimes–or even if he did? It’s one of those strange memories you can’t tell if you made up or recall so precisely because it is true. But regardless, the chimes transported me to his face, a disgruntled old man’s, one wrinkled with years of famous people and been-theres etched in. And I felt my throat choke on the same taste as those busted crayons: what a waste.
Can a life be a waste? Can you miss it so completely that children not your own regret your passing, wishing on stars–on as close to anything as you might have believed in–that you might have come to know truth? My relativistic peers in the English department don’t think so. You may debate me and win out philosophically, but I cannot shelve aside this deep conviction. A life can be wasted. A soul with only a star for a guide must be mourned.
“Saudade” is untranslatable Brazilian-Portuguese word bespeaking deep melancholy–of a kind seated in memory. Nostalgic longing, an absence without remedy. I find on such days that saudade visits me like a blue-faced muse, bringing with her Mr. Annabelle, something like my first love, and Jack Kerouac. Their weariness weighs upon me heavier than Heidi’s corporeal body, big as the pup may be getting, solid as she is; the transcendent weight of their waste strikes me and pins me to this earth. If only, I hear. If only.
It is strange to miss such people as these, the world-shakers, the wearied. The ones I never really knew–who I never understood until I dabbled in their arts.
Mr. Annabelle, I too have traveled. I also have chased the melancholy’s sedative, the road and its peoples–the other world-makers and the ones who know, the ones who have been there, the ones who have seen. How the world-worn once attracted me! The starry lamps to my moth-mind… I kept on rolling under the stars, rolling on until I felt the weakness creeping in my bones. That was when I looked at your stars, Jack Kerouac, those ones you died under. (They are beautiful. For this, I am sorry.) The stars aren’t enough.