One summer while home from college I waited tables at an Italian restaurant in Laguna Beach run by some racist Milanese who’d recently emigrated from apartheid South Africa. How they ended up in Laguna I’m not sure, but their attitudes about people struck me as not only offensive but ironic considering that the kitchen and busing and cleaning staff were entirely Mexican. One of the other waiters was Reynaldo, a guy I liked, from Brazil. I’d been listening to a Brazilian musician (Nana Vasconcelos) whose latest album was titled “Saudades,” and I asked Reynaldo what it meant. Reynaldo, by the way, spoke English better than I did.

Reynaldo’s answer was my first lesson in the poverty of my native tongue. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember pretty clearly his frustration at trying to translate into English that single Portuguese word. Google’s definition (above) comes close to his translation but maybe because the concept the word conveys resides in the darker emotional spectrum Reynaldo’s exasperation still resonates with me: it can’t fully be said. It must be felt. I envy language like that.

So, with about a week left in the chukar season, I’ve been feeling very saudade. This season is the first time in more than 20 years I haven’t sighted a chukar behind one of my dogs. If you’ve read this blog, you know I’m prone to self-pity, and it’s peaking right about now. I admit it, but am determined to do something about it. I’m not sure what, but it’s worse than I expected: missing the season was one thing, but missing it with an increasingly remarkable Brittany puppy and another beloved and accomplished chukar dog in the prime of his short life, both of whom have had to make do this fall with one bitterly cold, snowy quail hunt and the occasional spectral ruffed grouse, is something I hadn’t anticipated.

We’ll get ’em next year.

Breakfast in the hotel the morning of our last hunt of the season: snowing sideways, 12 degrees.
Leslie moving ahead of pointing Bloom and backing Peat
Bloom pointing quail
Peat backs Bloom
Bloom’s first retrieve of a game bird: a huge relief (considering Peat ate the first 6 birds I shot over him)

10 Replies to “Saudades”

  1. Glad to see you have survived the wet winter so far. We are wet, drizzle, and cold, 46 degrees, in South Texas. Susie gets to practice her poiting on doves in the local park on a daily basis. Lots of boot scotting boogie going on at the local dive bars. Stay safe and happy.

  2. Great post, as always. I was “mostly” skunked bird hunting this year, too. My oldest &I had a good start with dove season here in Ohio, during several hunts in September. Then, I decided to teach myself to Duck Hunt this past season which ended in a mud-filled shotgun, and one missed shot at a Canada goose (the seasons run concurrent in Ohio & no ducks seen! (Lots of cormorants, though). The one time we went out for the local public pheasant release day, I got one shot and missed. Learn something every time.

    Here’s to next season!

  3. Bob,
    It must be ironic for you to experience drought in the midst of so much drenching moisture. May this winter’s drought-breaking snows and rains in the upper Great Basin of Washington, Oregon and Idaho improve the chukar hatch this spring. This hunting season my Britts’ points of chukar this fall have been sparse, the sage brittle, the springs dry.

    Speaking of drought, Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite writers. He describes in English something of saudades when he describes the longing for home.
    Lift one up for the future.
    All the best,

    “What the word home brings to mind before anything else, I believe, is a place, and in its fullest sense not just the place where you happen to be living at the time, but a very special place with very special attributes that make it clearly distinguishable from all other places. The word home summons up a place that you have rich and complex feelings about, a place where you feel, or did feel once, uniquely at home, which is to say a place where you feel you belong and that in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is somehow ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.
    The Longing for Home — Frederick Buechner

  4. Bob , as I was returning from a recent chukar hunt in the snake river basin , with my faithful and trusty choc lab ,
    I was thinking I had not seen any essays from your blog site, thanks for reaching out ! Your ability to describe the connection of birds, dogs, terrain and the hunter are something to behold ! Brett thomas

  5. Bob,
    Think about you quite often. Hope all is well. Have 10 more student days before I hang up my chalk and eraser.

    Take care my friend.


  6. Gotta climb back on that horse thar threw you. I started co ing from hawaii tonthe NW when our chukar numbers fell off a cliff . This fall will be my 15 th yr. I usually do 4 months , but with current conditions 3 months is the likelihood this year. I know what it’s like to come from far to do what’s near to one’s heart.

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