port

O Pescador (The Fisherman)

The voices in the restaurant almost drown out the strains of music. Only three tables are occupied, yet the room seems full– perhaps, it’s the kerosene lamps hanging from the ceiling, the low wooden beams, the black and white paintings, the wall of celebrity photographs. The decor creates warmth. The restaurant, O Pescador (trans. in English as The Fisherman), in Cascais, is a tranquil haven two minutes from the sea.

There’s a faux porthole on the wall that opens onto seascapes. We’re seaside, but there’s no actual window. When I left the house today, it was with no destination in mind and now I sit beside two seas– one real, the other painted.

This morning, I walked past old ladies leaning out of their windows, past gangs of boys whistling, past stray dogs; walked past Arroios, Anjos, Intendente, Martim Moniz, Rossio; danced past nuns, fountains, pigeons. The rain accompanied me; the sun joined us for a moment, but grew bored and left.

Strangers stopped me. “Ha, I’m not from Angola; not from Brazil; not single; not a runner; not an athlete of any kind; not in a hurry. Yes, I can walk with you; help you cross the street; chat awhile.” Let’s speak in Portuguese,”Eu tenho muito tempo,” then I’ll move on to my destination of nowhere. Let me get busy being in love with the streets of Lisbon.

My feet knew where my heart wanted to go, and here I am at O Pescador in Cascais. The waiter, Philip, whom I’d just met, knew what I wanted before I did.

“Do you want to come in?” Yes, it’s cool today. He knew: yes to olive oil drizzled on the grilled squid; yes to fluffy pillows of bread served in a basket, yes to water and a glass of white wine; yes to trying a new dessert.

“May I?”
“Of course.”
“This is for you.”
“What is it?”
“Molotov, a soft dessert made from egg whites and sugar.”
“Thanks much!”

It’s raining hard now. Water inside and outside– enough to set thoughts adrift. A seasoned Irish couple enter, “It’s not summer today; I’m sure it’s not,” the woman says.

What is summer if not a day like today? Philip, in his black vest preliminarily swirls the wine; the rain is decisive, yet calm; Os Tribalistas sing about an old childhood; the ocean fights for position in our mouths; we’ve settled into our seats and ourselves; everything we need is graspable. It feels like summer.

O Pescador, Cascais
O Pescador, Cascais

wall

grilled squid with roasted potatoes
grilled squid with roasted potatoes

philipmolotov01ebeeeb2bb4fdc056941d38d32a52e4bd2da52141

The Body Pays — To Antonio Variaçãoes (obrigada Duarte)

Night reveals us. We have traveled the world three times between us– the journey ends here.

Olha! The young are dancing; grandmothers are curling their hips; the lovers, busy loving; the boy, rolling his cigarette; the girl sighing, “Ohh la la.” We play everyday.

We drink 1.50 euro wine in water bottles from Senhor Costa. At first sip, vinegar blazed its way down our timeline, but now we see tomorrow. In Portuguese, your poems makes sense– we are realized– a melody to sing along to, the last verse, incense permeating the night, the unconscious drawn to the fore.

You’re an artist, I’m marble. I’m an artist, you’re clay. We are malleable; let’s chisel, mold, break each other down– again. Let’s chisel, mold, break each other down. We can’t help but discover new things every day.

Am I your succubus in waking life? Let’s bathe in stars, dripping pearl droplets on the floor. Let’s wear eternity around our necks. Let dust coat our ears after the bath.The words will drip like molasses off your tongue and coat my limbs– let’s make a path and create visions.

You said, “The body pays.” Oh new one– these ideas are for tomorrow. “When the head is convinced, the body suffers. Let it suffer. Let it suffer, if you’re liking it.” We imagined this moment before birth, but let’s talk about this tomorrow.

street

The First Date at Princesa do Castelo (It Happened Like This…)

The streets layer themselves; they collide; they diverge; they wrap around and meet; they hover over each other. They are multi-textured and multi-colored: slate, white, marble, cobbled, asphalt, rose. They know the beginning of tales: Senhora Fernanda is reading a book; Senhor Joao is smoking a cigar; Joana is cuddling her cat; Pedro is smoking a joint with his girlfriend; Mateus is drinking coffee at a round table; Carla and her lover are caressing. The street conceals and binds.

There’s a vegetarian café on the street, Princesa do Castelo, inviting pedestrians to enter. The walls are alternately orange and yellow; the tables and benches, wood; a giant red and white mushroom protrudes from a wall; Bob Marley issues from the speakers, “If you know what life is worth, you’ll look for yours on earth.” The menu: salads, soup of the day, nachos, hummus, noodles, quiche, desserts, fresh juices, alcohol.

From the heaving street, a couple enter, order two pots of tea, and settle into the banquette. They are new to each other.

“Where are you from?”

“XYZ. You?

“ABC. Have you been there?

The same small talk being practiced in cafés worldwide: ‘What’s your…do you like…where do you…when did you…?” The questions and responses fall and connect like stones in a wide river. There are some that will be needed to get to the other side. Some will pile into boulders– insurmountable and difficult to process; some will be held onto for safety.

He orders more tea; the laughter grows; the volume of the whispers increases; the energy of new attraction/lust/flirtation palpitates.

“That was good.”

“Yes, it really was.”

They rise– together– and step onto the wreathlike street. With them: white petals racing, a dog running (with its owner trailing), four men playing dominoes, all connecting.

If you know what life is worth, you’ll look for yours on earth.

princafprince

IMG_1428

From The Snapshots in Your Mind (You Need to Remember)

You need that summer, that early summer, of which you’ll recall you lived your life as a dream. You found that “impossible” was a myth– a foolish construct you made.

On a cool day, when the seagulls swoop in easily, and pedestrians pull their cardigans closer, you’ll think of the moment when it struck you that you were smack dab between youth and old age. The young will seem more precious. The old will seem more precious.

The substance of years will captivate you. Your empty hand will remember the grasp of an old woman who held onto it all the way up a hill. She taught you seasons– she was winter. Her laugh will echo in your mind; how heartily she bellowed when she called herself a “mentirosa (liar).” She lied to you about having six husbands, but she had only had one, a “very impatient one.”

Maria Idalina. If said slowly, her name evokes a darkening sea, music created with strings, a flock of silver in flight. Her size and stature belies her strength. Walking sticks attached to her hands, she stops, and teaches you how to say, “I have plans today, I’ll meet you tomorrow,” in Portuguese. What phrase could be more handy?

You must remember that summer where red blossoms fell off trees like bees fleeing hives. Rapid and straight. Remember: the air was clear; the gold orb, hiding; that flirtatious look you received; passersby gliding; how quick you were to say, “Teach me.”

You need to remember how lifting your foot in step sometimes felt like ballet; how you skipped, unable to contain yourself; how smooth, condensed milk, rice and cinammon slid down your throat; how you thought a coin could bring you luck. Remember: the uneven pavement, the clock striking, the shaking umbrella, the light rain. Remember how each departure brought new beginnings.

Remember the one who said, “You’ve traveled a lot, met many more people than me, so you must know that sometimes when people say, “I was just joking,” it’s only because you didn’t laugh.” How much younger and wiser he was.

Once upon a future in your life, years from now, you will remember that summer. When the clock strikes then, you’ll need, need, need to draw the marrow of that summer from your bones.

mi
Maria Idalina

mi2

IMG_1513

cas

Cascais, Cascais, Cascais!

Dear Friends,

Forty minutes, and ninenteen miles from the center of Lisbon, awaits an idyllic town– Cascais. The coastal town Cascais has streets lined with palm trees, designer stores, restaurants, smaller boutiques and pocket-friendly shops, gelaterias, bookshops, a yoga studio, bicycle shops, rows of pink, white and eggshell houses, bars, pubs and tea houses. A few days after my arrival in Lisbon, I attempted to visit Cascais, but the train strike made it impossible. Thus, after two failed attempts, today was the day.

Upon exiting the train, I was thrown into a delicious state of confusion: Should I walk down the cobbled streets of the town? Should I get a hazelnut ice-cream cone and lick it slowly like those savoring their cones and basking in the sunlight at the sidewalk gelateria? Should I make my way directly to the beach without looking back? Gelato, shops, and cobbled streets are in Lisbon, so I decided to go straight, without stopping, to the beach. Less than five minutes later, an orchestra of waves washed over me.

To the left, and the right: paddle boarders, cyclists, topless sunbathers, sailboats, fishing boats, children skirting the waves, crests of white, a sandcastle being built, guys playing frisbee with their dogs, runners, and young and old stradding the wall that separates the square from the beach. English, Portuguese, Spanish and French rising and falling.

I want to be where the sun warms the sky
When it’s time for siesta you can watch them go by
Beautiful faces, no cares in this world
Where a girl loves a boy, and a boy loves a girl (La Isla BonitaMadonna)

Many years ago, Belinda Carlisle sang “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” and though it was never a favorite of mine, the song kept playing in my mind while observing the surroundings. The town is perfect— the comforts and conveniences of city living, the tranquility of the country, the closeness to the city of the suburbs, and the sea! Oh, Portugal. You were exactly what I was looking for– I adore you.

All we really want is some fun… Some guys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. I want to be the one to walk in the sun….(Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper)

cas1cas3cas6cas9cas11cas14cas8cas4cas5casd

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A)

Love,

Val

IMG_1444

The Load Grows Lighter: A Day at Gulbenkian

On a Sunday afternoon, when the sun is streaming through raised shutters, and nature is beckoning, “Come to me,” get up, and go. Give yourself to trees, to art, to birds, to lakes, to wind, to the sound of twigs snapping beneath your feet. Go to Gulbenkian park in the middle of Lisbon.

Take the Red Line to São Sebastião and within the concrete walls, you will find an oasis. Vamos passear! Walk around the lake; throw a volcanic rock in a pool; see the ducks spreading their wings; notice people sitting under the open sky eating juicy plums, reading, plucking their guitars, practicing their love. Practice your love.

Peer at hearts carved into ancient trees; wonder at the impermanence of romantic love; wonder if the Marie that wrote, “Marie loves Rik 2006,” still loves him in 2015? Observe the peace. Listen to the story of another:

In the past, I had one heart. I gave it to my lover– the whole heart. “Here, take it,” I said. I didn’t learn from a previous heartbreak. When she left, the heart was gone. I suffered. All that was left was air, but I couldn’t lift my head to get some. It’s not the way to do things.

A day in Gulbenkian isn’t enough. There are museums, gardens, terraces, an ampitheater, films being shown, photography exhibitions, musical performances, an art library, a cafeteria. There are tapestries handwoven in wool, silk, gold and silver threads to gaze at; intricate ivory carvings to wonder at; and all of nature giving itself to you on a warm, spring day.

I had one heart, and then it was gone. I trudged up and down the hill to my house with a heavy load on my back. I thought, “Why is this my life? It’s so hard.” Then, one day, the load became lighter. I was becoming free. I don’t have one heart, but many. I have no lover, but I have love– strangers, friends, family. 

Nature gives; nature heals; nature teaches– Gulbenkian is a large classroom– the grace, the birdsongs, the fresh air, the new buds, the towering trees, the silence. Everything rests– even the quivering, ungraspable ripples in the pool.

An elderly couple exits the park dressed in their Sunday best. When she opened her eyes this morning to face another day, she possibly said, “How marvelous! Here we are again. What shall we do?”  “Let’s stroll around the gardens of Gulbenkian,” he responded. “Let’s stand for a moment near the lake, close our eyes and feel the breeze that will kiss our lids. Let’s practice our love.”

gul1gul2gul3gul5gul4gul7

Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt inder The Willows - Sargent, John Singer
Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt under The Willows
– Sargent, John Singer
IMG_1487
Flora –Carpeaux, Jean-Baptiste
The Dance, (*Tapestry from the set "Children Playing)
The Dance, (*Tapestry from the set “Children Playing)

IMG_1477

IMG_1293

Sleepwalking Down Rua Da Graça

If one were to stand in the middle of the side of the sidewalk, while listening to music seeping through the walls of a high school, that would make no sense to observers. Yet, if one were to smoke a cigarette, while idling and listening, that would make sense.

If one were to look at the clothes of others, while they drifted in the breeze on a clothesline, that would make no sense to some. The clothes are colorful, varied, intimate and hint at the life inside: within lives a man and woman; there’s no child; they wash clothes often or they have few clothes, because so few pieces are on the line; the woman is petite; the man has a simple job that requires brown pants. A simple line, a simple life.

If one were to ponder the fairness of things, that would make no sense. Why was Walter Scott shot in the back eight times? Why would there be a campaign to raise money for the man who shot him? Who was wronged? Why do people starve to death everyday in a world of plenty? Why do we voraciously read horrific news everyday and dismiss goodness?

Some say, “The world’s a terrible place.”  That makes no sense. Wonderful people do small and grandiose acts of kindness everyday with no recognition. Videos of us helping and loving each other rarely go viral.

If one were to criticize you everyday, and the loudest in the pack were you, that would make no sense. “You’re old, you’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re too dark, you’re too pale, your hair’s too coarse, your hair’s too fine, you’re weak, you’re too short, you’re too tall. ” Stop the nonsense. You’re nothing but beautiful. (Ask yourself, “How could I have failed to recognize the wonder of me?”)

If one were to fail to recognize the excellence of this day, that would make no sense. A breath ago, someone lost this: the smell of orange and jasmine, the pulsating sun, the falling of the last cherry blossom for this season, the tenderness of a hand on a shoulder, the satisfaction of a meal, the smile of a stranger, the sounds of glee from the depths of a child, a song bleeding in the air. All happening without rhyme or “sense.” It makes no sense that sensitivity makes no sense to so many.

With the realization that the “me” that was the time considering itself a separate entity is only a dreamed character, a manifestation of Consciousness, the mind turns away from objects and gets focused on the “I AM.” That is the true vision of Reality.Sri Ramana Maharshi

imageimageimageimage

Roberto and Fernando
Roberto and Fernando
at Rendezvous Vintage
at RendezVous Vintage– Rua Sao de Vicente, no.16