Migrating Swallows and Saudades
As my Portuguese adventure draws to a close for another year, I have mixed emotions about my return to Australia. There have been amazing experiences, special family moments and cultural awakenings that have restored my energy and passion for all things from this special place I call ‘home’.
I am also constantly amazed and enchanted by the love, energy, and talent of artisans here in Portugal who are forever pushing boundaries in history, culture and identity. Every trip back to Portugal re-affirms my deep and soulful connection with my Portuguese ancestry.
Every trip is different, new experiences always invoke old memories, rich and at times challenging, but I always feel a connection that is truly special. After years of wandering, travelling and looking for adventures, experiences, and answers, I am home. It’s a reassuring feeling that always brings comfort and contentment.
My suitcases are positively bulging, packed with exciting discoveries, none more than my sudden fascination for the Portuguese swallow. For years, I have seen these curious birds, ceramic hand painted offerings and wondered about their significance. A few years back, I visited an interesting place in the Dandenong ranges. It was a garden sculpted by a local artist, full of totem references. It was a peaceful sanctuary and while I didn’t understand the spiritual value of totems at the time, I can still recall the calming energy that filled the garden with wooden totem carvings that greeted us at every leafy turn.
Back in the present and my sudden fascination with ceramic swallows. Last week, I walked into an artisan shop, on one of my usual trips sourcing new products for the Iberica store, I re-discovered the ceramic swallows which I had seen so many times in my youth, teens, and early 20’s and previously walked past. This time, they caught my attention and I stopped. I was curious and wondered about their cultural significance. I bought a couple and watched as they were lovingly wrapped in brown paper by the store lady, whilst still capturing my full attention. When I returned home, I searched for more information. And then I discovered something I had in common with this migratory swallow bird.
Forever loyal, the swallow migrates annually but always returns to his ‘home’ nest, sometimes even travelling up to 20,000km. The swallow is a family bird, faithful and dedicated, resourceful and adventurous. I immediately connected with this idea and found immediate comfort in this idea of a ceramic swallow representing so much more than I could ever have imagined. For me, this is the idea of a totem and it represents what the Portuguese call ‘saudades’. For anyone living away from home or from family, there is always a feeling of longing and regret. Homesickness can come close to describing the feeling but usually, it is deeper. ’Saudade’ is a cultural term that the Portuguese have rightfully created and developed after centuries of risk-taking, seafaring adventures, and spiritual pondering.
Saudade is a simple word with so much meaning that only those who really feel it can understand. No other words can some up so much with such eloquence or comfort.
And for me, while I enjoy my final week in this beautiful country and leave my family until the next encounter, I find comfort in my ceramic birds that will accompany me back to my adopted home. These simple little birds carry so much poetic gesture & feeling. For me, like most souvenirs, they carry memories, references, and connections which always impart good feelings. And so I leave Portugal once again, reassured that my swallow keepsakes will guide me until my next visit ‘home’.