A trip to Mentor Headlands last Wednesday afternoon yielded an unexpected gift of the landscape. The beach east of the Headlands has transformed since my last visit over twenty-five years ago. Low dunes have developed as a root system of switch grass has created a carpet for sand to collect.
Rolling, richly textured fields of switch grass bend in the wind, catching light and emotion. It reminded me of the Portuguese word “saudade”, one about which I’ve written previously and one which many Americans may not recognize. It really has no simple direct English translation. Briefly (and incompletely), saudade is a deep melancholic, emotional state of yearning for a loved one, a lost relationship, a place or even a time. What distinguishes saudade from singular emotions is its ambivalence, the dimension of melancholy and happiness at once. I think it may be the perfect word for the emotions that sweep this nation. We, many of us, long for the recent past, one that now seems distant and possibly never the same, never attainable. The lighthouse (Fairport Harbor) just over the horizon is leading us metaphorically, paradoxically, back to the light.