special delivery

The past 48 hours are summed up by 8 tons if wood.

Weeks late, but right on time, it arrived early morning via "The Man Truck". With one woman (hi!), much finagling and logistical reconsidering we managed to get it all here, no small feat considering the condition of these roads, the size of some of the beams, and space issues of the preexisting property. Hours later, it all sat safely in the front yard, our only issue then was how to get out the front door. More moving was required, we literally broke for meals and continued on until the very last light of day remained. But we did it, and it's here.

The future destiny for this wood is what David has been referring to, since I got here, as "the saloon". I had a vague understanding of the larger plans of this place but it wasn't until somewhere within the endless back and forth of taking ceiling planks from Point A to Point B I clarified that in Portuguese the homonym basically means large, glorious space; not a bar from a Western era. This will be more like a terrace, a workshop space, an event hall. Another glorious jewel in the property celebrating the expansive views... while also solving the drainage issues of the first floor, nestled into the earth such that the ceilings were molding. As always, where there's a will there's a way.

But what will we call it?


happy holidays

I took a momentary break from ditch digging (up to one a day as of late!) and Clara and I took ourselves back to the beach. It was a humble scene wherein we both kept most of our clothing on and did our best to warm up on the rocks as admittedly cold, sandy winds blew away all the visions one might have of us frolicking in the waves under the hot summer sun. I was told recently that the interior climate here rivals Southern California while the coast mirrors Northern. This notion was prattled off to me quickly, with the sense that there is apparently science to back this claim, I couldn't replicate the details if I tried....but, guess what, it actually seems true. In any case, it's beautiful and, as always, just being near the ocean and the sound of the waves is (almost) enough for me.

On this particular trip, we decided to take a leisurely journey to the top of the cliffs to see the town and there we enjoyed the view you see above, a plate of olives, and delicous Portuguese beer. This, by the way, cost me less than one euro, which basically means that I love Portugal.

In any case, this Memorial Day seems to be one of a very small handful of occasions celebrated back in New York that I can actually feel nostalgic for. The internet is making it all the easier to see the sunny fun going on without me; memories of Quogue, and friendship, and cold rosé on the porch are swirling. I can't exactly be jealous in the midst of my own current dream life, note, but it's a little sentimental to be sure.

Back at the homestead, it was business as usual. The top of the window frame that I neglected to white wash this morning, another dozen boxes of old tiles to move up to the storage garage. Joao is making quick progress building the greenhouse, Nubia's School inches along. The kickoff to the busy summer here happened long ago, this was just another Monday sans fanfare, but, as always, filled with its own kind of festive good vibes that I am forever grateful for.

Cheers to the summer, wherever we all are.



self help.

So much of this lifestyle is about fixing things yourself. The rain washes away the path to the pool? Use rocks and the leftover posts from the adobe house and build steps. Internet doesn't reach here? Maneuver a telecom box up a cork tree closest to the place you last got cell reception. Want organic produce in a country that doesn't seem to care about it at all? Build a glorious mandala garden on permaculture principles and eventually a greenhouse using over abundant eucalyptus trees and clay roof tiles. You break it, you glue it. You paint it, you saw it, you sand it, you size it. When you need help, you call a nearby friend, but usually it's completely self-help, ultimate DIY.

When I decided to leave my good job and my good life and make this first stop to Portugal, the question was always why and sometimes what. Why now. Why Portugal. What will you do. What are you thinking.

I didn't have good answers, I still don't. I knew I needed time, I knew I needed space. I knew I wanted to get my hands back in the dirt, that I needed nature to be the given in the equation, not the weekend exception to the rule. But once in awhile I'm able to articulate that I really just needed space. Physical space and mental space. To think a thought through to completion. To untangle my head and turn the volume down for a little while. Regroup to the core of whatever or whoever I am or want to be or am capable of. Remember what it's like to feel actually creative or to think critically about something bigger than yourself. To be yourself.

Self help.

Almost a month in to this chapter, I am already feeling so much closer, but I'm still not sure I could be an advocate for such a drastic change. I say this because am still in the midst of high-risk behavior. There's no safety net, no security here. There's really no set course. This is not reality (or is it?). But these thoughts? They are so much more often complete. They can wander as they see fit, but they can, when I want them to, proceed uninterrupted. I wake up peacefully in the morning and am able to lay awake and think about the dreams I have had rather than begrudgingly rushing for the snooze button, as I so often did. My daily tasks can often feel repetitive but they never lack purpose. My brain is starting to come alive again, in spite of all stimuli being minimized.

I stumbled upon a pretty cheesey but potentially accurate metaphor yesterday while building the aforementioned pool steps with David. I told him that in many ways I feel like the rock that was flung across the canal in order to get to the other side - arguably the rock that came loose from the cable only to narrowly miss breaking windows and assorted planters. But it's like I have thrown myself as far as possible, hoping to stay attached, hoping that the slow tow back to center will come with basic, simple rewards and clear reception.

In the meantime: peace and purpose. Quiet. Conversations. Healthy food, sunshine, clear thoughts. What I needed more than anything.

Ultimate self help.



Today became a day of extras.

Extra hours spent at breakfast, extra time tacked onto yoga, an extra coat of varnish, extra snacking, extra drinking, extra dust and fumes in my lungs.

The sun returned, and we felt grateful, though it didn't make itself known until midday by which point the pace was set.

These still feel like stolen days somehow. By which I mean we stay busy but it's currently quiet and uncrowded here, we have the luxury to indulge the extras just because. Suddenly our table is six and not thirteen. I'm waking to the chickens and not the carpenter. In the middle of work this afternoon, following an already extended lunch, David and I decided to take a brief sidetrack on the way back from hauling another load of debris to the garbage bins in town in order to see more of the area, or maybe just for a change of scenery. Driving through the the hills dotted with cork trees and jungle like back roads, forever discussing this and that, all while sharing a bag of salty, delicious potato chips for whatever reason, just because. Upon returning we spent extra time in the kitchen with Clara, the olives were brought back out, the salty goat cheese just because we'd been talking about it, another small glass of wine from the carafe. Afterwards we swept and scraped and piled more down at Nubia's, I think the topic was drug law or immigration or...who knows. I tacked on another coat of the ridiculously odorous varnish needed for a few of the new doors and cabinet fronts, all while listening to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk as though it was the first time (it's not). Dinner, a split beer in the extra warm evening with Clara, another documentary.

And another extra lovely day passes here in Portugal.



torrential toil

And in the morning, the rain continued....

Storms with breaks of surreal sunshine followed by more storms and supposedly even hail. I stood repeatedly in the doorway of what we call the canteen and watched rain that seemed to be falling in two heavy directions simiultaneously. Buckets and flowerpots full to the brim, soil and rock washed away within minute, projects left mid task fully compromised. I ask you how can one of the driest places I have ever come to know could be capable of this level of precipitation? And for it to be so cold outside! The Dutch man staying here for the week informed me that, for the record, Portugal is known to be "cold land, hot sun". Short and sweet but, trust me, totally accurate.

Sun would in fact intermittantly greet us only to run away again and, for the second day in a row, fool me into thinking productivity could be mine for an extended length of time.

David and I ventured out after lunch for yet another chapter of the now-endless saga of Getting Electricity to Nubia's School. I can't and won't even begin to describe the specifics and endless meters of heavy cable involved in this task, nor do I feel I fully understand the McGuyver-like shenanigans entailed, but suffice to say I have touched and grappled and hauled every inch of it, through rock, flora, canal, and stream. Literally in circles and tangles and everything else, only to (literally) do it again the next day. But we finally got all of it to our side of the canal. And I will acknowledge that I also benefitted from another hilarious installment of a lasso technique being implemented in order to do so with, once again, predictable laughter to the point of tears.

Even with the sun out, the wind blew and reddened my cheeks and the rain would come and go and spit and spat and let us know it still ruled the day. We postponed tomorrow's wood delivery, we ate two bowls of soup instead of one. Rain. It's so real here. An apparently this is just a (literally) cold, hard glimpse as to what winter would be like, really just a hint of, because in winter it never stops.

But, easy does it, it was admittedly cozy going to sleep in the new chill, sort of nice to take it easier in the morning with perfect excuse. We ended up getting the cable over the canal, I like to think my arm strength is almost bordering (relative) remarkability. We got plenty done in spite of the elements, we had enough energy for another documentary and then some. Eventually we know the sun will return to its dehydrating, plant scorching, sometimes flesh burning glory. We might even miss these gloomy days. Just like we might, one of these days, actually get the lights on at Nubia's School.




rainy daze

Turns out it can get gloomy as hell here.

Sunny Portugal finally turned its back on me today and apparently we are splitsville for days to come.


I went to sleep early but woke up in a gloom rivaling the skies outside my windows. Plagued by strange dreams involving rats on my bedspread (or was it really a ghost?!), I slept terribly and I'll blame it in two parts on the weather and the culinary entitlement I felt following the beach.

And now.... rain.

Try as I might, I never rallied today. Everyone was in slow motion it seemed, two of us actually sick. Breakfast was late, then lunch, then dinner. I existed in a brain fog throughout, seeking shelter repeatedly to my room when the rains would pour their hardest, twice caught in a freezing cold deluge when I made feeble attempts to be productive.

Adrien and I did manage to accomplish yet one more step towards getting the electricity on in Nubia's School. This involved riding backseat on an ATV (something we all know I legitimately love!), redirecting endless cable down a rocky brambly hill, eventually lassoing a rope and a rock across the canal so as to be able to shimmy the box across without it getting wet. I cried with laughter throughout most of this ridiculous joint task, soon thwarted however by the wire's very essential "submarine" (chemically bound bond between two joined cables) not fitting through the pipe we had planned for it running under the road. Nevertheless it was a momentary bright spot in the day.

Other than uprighting a young palm tree and attempting to launder some towels that now hang soaking in the rain, I can only recall that I stood or laid around listless.

Can't win em all. Or, as will be my plan, if you can't beat em, join em. I'll go to sleep expecting the worst (including the rat/ghost!) and if rest, a few minutes of sunshine, or some sort of indoor productivity can greet me tomorrow instead I'll be thankful.



beach bonus

...and then this happened!

At some point in the day, Adrien disappeared, knife in hand. He returned with a backpack full of percebes (aka goose barnacles), an expensive delicacy here and in Adrien's native Galicia, Spain. In three words: Oh my god.

When we got home we simply rinsed and boiled them with only just a touch of salt for a few minutes. Leave them in their hot pot to steam just a bit further so as to be consumed piping hot or plate with a hot towel as covering. You grab your share, pull away their asparagus-like tips, and you're left with a delicious morsel of meat rivaling any lobster claw. Salty and irresistible and otherwise $100-$200 a pound (!), we ate like forager kings tonight.



beach baby

And finally: the beach.

I'd been assured for days and weeks now that we are but ten short minutes from the ocean via car but goddammit if fate didn't intervene to prevent me from seeing it with my own two eyes.

Until now.

After seven incredibly productive days in a row of physical work and toil, I was finally taken seaside.

The result was hours and hours of pure bliss, never minding the less than warm water, occasional cloud cover, and now burnt butt cheek.




after lunch

Use the old wooden ladder, climb the cork tree, swing the electricity box to me, you drive down the hill, I'll run along side lifting and untwisting cable from the bramble, we'll both be scraped up sticky from the branches and sap, we'll get electricity to the new adobe house.

(originally posted on instagram)


up in flames

The debris pile is shrinking, day by day, slow but surely.

This is almost reminding me of the wood pile of yesteryear, but this has already had a much more cathartic result.

Somewhere within the hot afternoon we started talking about making a massive fire to take care of the growing pile within the pile now designated as "old wood". Nary a word spoken, only a match lit, a half hour after dinner I smelled the tell tale scent of burning and soon discovered David dwarfed by possibly the biggest manmade flames I have ever seen. Without s'more or stickbread, the hypnotizing trance of the fire held us captivated for hours.


There's another David around here, he'd just returned from being away for a few days. He will be yet another person I meet here who, like me, left a former life for one reason or another only to end up here, however temporarily, and happier. He was a director, well paid, "successful". In his case, life and his health interceded a year ago, taking him to where he is now, just a few minutes down the road. We got to know each other a bit when the shaman was in town but this huge fire gave us several more hours while we volunteered to monitor things, i.e. to make sure the entirety of the property was not engulfed in this (possibly illegal) blaze. We have a lot of immediate similarities, he's a bit older but the common threads are there. We both questioned leaving at the time, feared failure, homelessness, and worse. But weren't we crazy to think that? We are capable, smart, kind people. We are fine and we are going to be fine. As he put it at one point, he could be sitting on a couch in Lisbon watching whatever television program happened to be on, safe and content in the career he built. Or he could be sitting around a huge fire talking to another person and both learning and reaffirming a better approach to living life, however much security it may lack from the outside.

I agreed at the time and today it still feels so true.

So now the question for me is how to maintain having huge bonfires and late night conversations like these, however literal or figurative, for the rest of my life.



Since I arrived here, my bedtime had been shamelessly on the early side, easily clocking out in the nine or ten o'clock hour, still wanting more sleep as the sounds of the farm stirred me come morning. No sleep was enough sleep, not totally atypical for me, perpetual sleepyhead.

And then a funny thing happened, for various reasons, some if which I was not initially happy about, I recently moved myself from my tiny attic dwelling to a room downstairs full of bunk beds. I rearranged, I readjusted. That night, I slept the most efficient and justified sleep imaginable and woke up so easily in a room full of morning light.

Last night David and I watched a documentary as we so often do. That led to post discussions which took the predictable late night turns for the tangential such that it was nearly 1am by the time I crawled into my tiny bed. As is most often the case here, I set no alarm and hoped for the best. To my surprise, I woke as early as ever, ready to greet the day, once again roused by light and sounds of morning, admittedly so happy to be in this new space. Feng shui? Shaman vibes? Plain ol' sunshine? Don't ask me. But it's a perceptible shift for me and one that I deeply appreciate.

This morning, the day's chores were less clear. Technically we had arrived at a weekend but is there really such a thing? This and that, cleaning here, moving there. The hours passing quickly like they do.

Clara and I had been wanting to move the chicken pen, a task we finally set out to do mid-morning.

In my experience every farm deals with both their chickens and their compost differently. Sometimes, as is the case here, the two elements are combined into one. We save all of our organic waste in a blue bowl next to the sink: fruit peels, food scraps, leftovers. This becomes the chicken's food. When the bowl is full, we take it to the chickens and let them go to town. Some things they don't eat, avocado pits and lemon peels for example, but it doesn't really matter because the real purpose of these chicken beds are to make the most fertile soil imaginable (not to mention the yellowest egg yolks).

Today we decided it was time for a change of scene and for a new planting bed. Easy does it, lifting just a few centimeters off the ground, carry them slowly to a new spot across the other side of the mandala garden. They won't be happy in the interim, but their reward will be another bowl full of our glorious scraps.

Somehow in the short distance between new and old plots, two of them managed to escape. They immediately went crazy on a unsuspecting snail, for the moment ignoring the bounty of strawberries ripening in the mandala. One of the newer helpers here immediately went to chase and capture them, a completely futile effort. We instead decided to continue to carry the pen to its new resting place, crossing our fingers the stray ladies would not venture far. Clara retrieved the blue bowl, took it towards the pen tapping it as she's brilliantly been doing now for weeks, and what do you know, these otherwise seemingly brainless fowl beelined their way back to their enclosure. From there, we set up their new habitat, encircling it with new rocks, giving them fresh water, fresh everything.

Already on a roll, I went ahead and loaded up three wheel barrels full of soil and covered up the remains of the old pen. There the sproutings of three pumpkins, six peppers, and three beet roots found their new home today too.

So maybe the life lesson is obvious here. Creatures of habit that we all are, however flexible we perceive ourselves to be, change can be hard. Uprooting your life, your location, the place where you sleep all create stress. You want avoid it, to run away, to be annoyed at the people who moved you, or maybe worse yet...you just stay put. But maybe if you let it happen, let yourself be carried once in awhile, you'll wake up easily to a room flooded with sunshine, a new and nourishing place to grow and spread new roots ...or a bowl full of scraps, as the case may be.



We made a task list, put pencil to paper. We suddenly have an abundance of workers and a lot of things going on simultaneously, it was time to get organized. There are projects to tackle, plants to water, filtration systems to monitor. One of many items on the list: a huge pile. Part debris, part building supplies to be salvaged, we marked this item "ALL" thinking we could make short work of it with all hands contributing. Later that afternoon, and I'm still not sure why, this was taken on by just David and I. We made good progress just the two of us, he is certainly able bodied, and I am slowly getting there. We sorted, we stacked, we hauled, we unloaded. All the while talking, for the most part uninterrupted. He learned a lot about me and I about him... and about this magical place.

There is still so much history surrounding this homestead that I have yet to uncover. I am only just beginning to understand its story and significance, both personally for the current owners, but also in the context of the nearby villages and to Portugal. One thing is certain, this place has always been holy. There has been a temple for Nossa Senhora da Orada in existence for hundreds of years; one of the conditions for purchasing this property was actually to keep temple in case someone from the town came to seek it out. Pre-dating Christianity, they believe it had pagan significance as well. This makes sense to me. The general energy here, the secluded and almost hidden nature of it within the landscape. David talked about how the moon will sit symmetrically over the property, shining down in such a way that it's all very easy to imagine.

It so happened that last night was this month's full moon. I watched it rise over the course of a few hours, peaking directly in the center of the hill. The shaman that was here recently apparently commented on our valley's particular "vibrations". I have to say that last night I really felt I could feel them too. The air here is so clear and crisp here, it felt like the brightest moon I had ever seen, so bright it actually created shadows.

Tonight, as it wanes, we are still illuminated such that one could easily take a walk without aid of a flashlight. But as it stands I am once again exhausted from a long day of good hard work and only looking forward to another deep and bright sleep.




Things calmed down a bit after the ceremony. There is, as always, still plenty to do, but it's feeling like it can happen at our own pace. I have resumed my new found love of white washing, these past days for a small adobe construction we call Nubia's School, after the eldest child here. Inside will be a miniature house setup - sink, bed, chalkboard. It's a cozy, tiny place I could actually imagine living in were the countertops and such resembling adult heights.

Clara and I have also resumed our leisurely wellness practices. Yoga in the mornings, swimming in the afternoons. We are all eating well, effortlessly vegan and gluten free. The peace I so often speak of wrapping around us like sunshine.

Today two more workers arrive. We have some projects coming up in the next days that will require as much manpower as possible. I'm feeling less solitary since the shaman but I still wonder if it might feel strange to have additions to the family I already feel like is my own after one short week and some days.

For now, up and down, back and forth, careful and carefree, my hands white, my boots speckled. Jiva at my side in the shade. The birds forever chirping, the frogs wanting to say hello. Happy in the breeze.


other wonders

A new day, a new week.

This morning I woke up on the other side of a dream and a different sort of journey and thought to myself: life really is beautiful.

The shaman is gone, the people who came to see him are gone. The fire has long since burnt out, the inipi's blankets removed. We're cleaning, we're clearing. I swept the floors today, all surfaces scrubbed. A new beginning, just like we all needed.

How did I get here? How many times will I ask this question?

Today before dinner I swam in the so-called biopool, really a man made but naturally sustaining pond of rectangular shape. The frogs swam underneath and around me, the evening shift of birds singing to eachother was starting to commence. The water temperature felt perfect in contrast to another sunny day. I thought about how at peace I can feel here and how I can't even begin to understand how that came to be. The past is really starting to feel like the past. The future blissfully unwritten. As cliche as it all sounds, and I know it has been sounding this way for days, it's exactly where I am at right now. In the beginning and in the middle of something all at the same time.



other realms

His name is Ramón.

He's been a shaman for twenty four years.

His most recent vision came to him in February while in Colombia.

What he saw was a canoe coming out if a pregnant woman's belly.

This was the message.

We are all in the canoe and in the canoe are the most important plant medicines of the forest.

A journey.

He calls this canoe Anaconda.

He has traveled from north to south sharing this vision with those who want to learn and to partake.

On Friday, he arrived to this place.

The rest is crazy, magical history.



seeing shifts

I have been a little in the clouds the last days, moreso than usual. Lost in my thoughts and in my own head. Floating.

Today we make an inipi, a particular kind of sweat lodge. I am decidedly going offline for a few days for this .....and other magical things.

See you on the other side?


constant guard

We knew it was just a matter of time before I began to introduce you to my animal friends. Here lies Jiva, the night watchman. When I arrived here he had not been seen in weeks. It was presumed he'd either found a lady friend far away or maybe encountered some sort of peril or worse. Two mornings ago he was just... back. By night, vigilant guard is kept over the perimeter. By day... take to the shade and look to be on death's door. He's taken admittedly instant like to me. It didn't take much, an ear scratch literally. The other night I was walking along the aqueduct nearby and heard his deep, guttural bark. I made some noise that stopped him momentarily, but as soon as I rounded the bend he started up again. When I finally returned, he was passed out in the driveway. I worried for a moment he might be mistaking me for an intruder and playing possum, we'd only just met the day before. But a few steps passed him, I got a tender head but on my side, looking for the aforementioned scratch service. The owners of this place told me that one day he just showed up here, took to liking it, and now protects it. What a man.


my blue heaven

The past days have been filled with physical work such that my brain has a hard time functioning once the evening comes. It's good, meditative, rewarding work. But also boring to discuss. Shoveling, hauling, lifting, re-doing, endless. The list of to do's ended yesterday with the window trim. Make the whitewash, add an intuitive amount of blue pigment, do not be deceived by its vibrancy, paint carefully with long strokes, restore things to their brightest most glorious state. In the end, incredibly satisfying. Solitary and with precision but not thought, not to mention my favorite color.


hands on

This familiar sight of my city to country transition has returned to me after just two days in the beautiful soils of Portugal.

It's official, I'm in heaven.

The sun is so strong here at midday that I literally have to go inside or in the shade for legitimate fear of sunstroke. I now know what it feels like to get burnt on my lower back just from my shirt blowing up with the breeze once in awhile. I'm drinking liters and liters of water and feel forever thirsty. My hands look like this (and that's after washing them). And I'm still, all over again, the new kid in town.

But today, completely filthy, having already invested hours clearing the rampant chocolate mint (among other things) from the mandala garden with a hand tool, I thought to myself: this is it, this is happiness to me.

Trust me when I tell you that it really is.




awake to a dream

I have arrived. Or...have I? It's hard to distinguish real life from fiction here. This morning I blinked my eyes open to a tiny window leading out to the garden and rolling hills that I saw nothing of in the darkness of the last leg of my journey. The birds, the water, the trees, the sun, the kind hearts that greeted me the night before. Something about this place already feels really really....right.


arrival of the fittest

The time had come for Teresa and I to say goodbye. What an incredible kindred spirit and friend I found in this woman. She surprised me my last morning by buying me a pastel de nata (Portugal's magnificent, signature egg tart, originally created by the monks at Monasteiro Jerónimos) for breakfast just before she ran out to test drive a motorcycle. While she as gone, I re-packed my things, attempted to organize myself, and tie up loose ends in advance of heading out once more towards the wild unknown. When she got back we took a short walk, toured marvelous Gare do Oriente, and had some crazy but incredible pizza with crust stuffed with cream cheese. And then I really had to go. We said goodbye, both said we are happy to know eachother. She waved at me from her balcony as I ran to catch my bus.

I had to get from Lisbon to a tiny town called São Teotónio. There I would be picked up by David and taken to the farm where I will, if all goes according to loose plan, stay for a month. The three hour or so journey was spent in the company of a German woman who, like Teresa, I'll probably go on to carry somewhere in my mind and memory for the rest of my life. She is what one would call a citizen of the world. She's been traveling most if her life, as she describes it, forever moving around like points of a star, deciding when and where to go the moment the feeling strikes her. She grew up in Berlin and for awhile kept an absurdly cheap flat there while she wandered the world, until, about ten years ago she decided that she didn't require a "base camp" any longer either, and at present, she is truly free. We talked about all sorts of things but never exchanged names. Some years back she almost died in the Amazon. It was a crazy story that she can only tell in bits. She knows she was gone over four months because her visa ran out, she had, among other ailments, a plant sickness that plagued her body and digestive system for two years until it just, one day, didn't. She described the aftermath of that experience as being the moment loneliness had first occurred to her. Not loneliness from not having people around all the time, but what she thinks of as real, actual loneliness. The impossibility of ever being able to share your life experience properly with anyone, to never really be understood. She says that otherwise she never feels it. She prefers to be by herself. Her choices are hers and she knows why she makes them. She said that sometimes you lose touch with a friend for some time and sometimes friends pass away while you're gone, unable to be reached. She knows that sometimes she hurts people who love her because she always wants to leave, wants always to be alone. She knows this, but she does what she does because she truly knows, deep inside, it's what she wants to do. At the moment I met her she was headed to Aljezur to camp in a tent, probably in a valley, but exactly where she have to see. She'd recently had some serious back problems and wants "a place to lie down for awhile". When we parted ways she wished me the best of luck in my life. We both agreed it was a pleasure. She told me to only think about the positive and the negative would go away. To let it and to always remember that. She said if I do, I will always be fine.

I walked off the bus to the tiniest of towns. No proper bus station to speak of, just a small stop, and.... not a soul around, neither future farm host nor citizen. I gave it a few minutes, maybe ten, before I began the process of finding the number I had copied down from the emails we had exchanged. My mobile service provider was having none of it, the text was invalid, the number not working. Eventually I tried to call the number, it would go through but ring once or twice and then drop or give only a busy tone. This went on for about an hour. During that time I wondered what I would do. How long I should wait before trying to walk to the centro noted on the minimal signage. How stupid I must be to schedule this trip so late, to not triple confirm with David, to be so naive as to just expect travel plans in the middle of nowhere to work out when I don't even know where I am, where I'm going, how to drive. I'm not even sure my credit cards work here. I thought about my German friend and how she said that she can't allow herself to feel fear in the moment. After, yes, but never during. To feel that would be death. In her case, at least in the Amazon, she meant that literally. In my case, David finally picked up. He'd completely forgotten, but he'd be to the bus stop in minutes, his phone had just been in the gray area of shoddy rural mobile reception.

There was, I admit, the threat of tears as soon as I hung up the phone. Suddenly my heart raced, my cheeks finally felt their anxious flush. Not during, but after.

And in the end I was fine. It would be fine, would have been fine. I need to trust myself that I will always be fine. And be grateful for the ride coming for you and the strangers you meet on the way.



sentiment of sintra


Today finally marked my pilgrimage to Sintra.

About an hour by train outside of Lisbon, it's the stuff of dreams and, arguably, part if my initial inspiration for coming to this area in the first place. As it turns out, I could have spent awhile - days! - in this city and stayed fully occupied. If you know me at all, you know I love an old town and a monumento. Trust me when I tell you that after hours upon hours walking I had barely just begun in strange and wonderful Sintra, in spite legwork devoted to the cause. With that said: what a day.

Palacio de Pena and Quinta de Regaleira got most of my attention and, in a word: wow. How about you rustle up some renaissance architecture, throw in some mysticism, add some water features, and give yours truly a call? Perfection.

Let's start with the Palacio de Pena - except where do I begin? If you, like me, take issue with paying good money for transportation when you could just as easily walk, take note: ready yourself. Where in any documentation is it shared that we are talking an uphill battle in excess of hours? Not that I'm complaining, I'm really not. This cobbled road stroll immersed me fully in the wild world of Sintra. Once a getaway for the rich and famous, the voyeur in me was able ogle the luxurious quintas while soaking up the vibrations of the massive scale arboretum courtesy of King Ferdinand II's genius. I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this: thousands upon hectares of plant species not natively known to Portugal not to mention not known to cohabitate. It was as beautiful as it was mind blowing.

The Palacio itself is a drop in the bucket of the larger land mass encompassing the Parque. I entered this building with trepidation; the crowds of tourists were, as predicted, no joke. Everyone was corralled here and there through atelier and toilet, illuminating to me, among other things, tourism in the dawn of iPad as camera. Typically tolerant, I found myself claustrophobic more than once. It was hot, it was contained, people were loud, but, guess what: it was beautiful. To imagine oneself as royalty existing ing within these walls is the stuff of dreams. The tile work, the trompe l'oeil walls, the carvings, the view! Minimalist that I can be, I was sold.

Back outside, I wandered to and fro through non-natives, pathways, and lagos, finally extracting myself, ready to head downhill. I will spare you the details but the roadside short cut I created for myself was questionable at best. But no matter, I made it back into Sintra Historico in a fraction of the time, ready to tackle the next item of touristic business: Quinta de Regaleira.

Were there a blog presence in either the world or for me personally when, years ago, I explored Las Pozas in Xilitla, Mexico you can be sure I would link to it. The fact is, there wasn't. I bring it up to stress the first time my mind was completely blown by architecture with seemingly limitless financial backing resulting it what could be described as a surrealist's fairy tale slash wet dream. I am here to tell you, I have stumbled upon such a thing for the second time.

Again, as I understand it, Sintra at some point became an upstate getaway of sorts. Enter Carvalho Monteira. He lived the dream, he hired an architect, the result if which is wonderful, mysterious Quinta de Regaleira.

You've got your palace, your chapel, your, fountain, your tennis court. But what may come as a surprise to the casual visitor is the network of secret trails and underground secret tunnels you also built, all eventually linking to, among other things, an "Initiation Well", a 27 meters deep subterranean tower with its "esoteric and alchemical associations" is meant to make you intensely feel the relation of heaven and earth. And then there's the series of sometimes elaborate grottoes, all with particular themes, that you decided, seemingly with a sense of whimsy, to sprinkle about the perimeter. I could go on.

Let's face it: I was DAZZLED. I'd been walking for (literally) seven hours at this point and it was all I could do not to take that secret staircase to god knows where and end up on the other side. Twice I felt real fear: first while descending into the depths at the afore mentioned well and second within the otherwise unassuming but truly terrifying - and true to its name - Labrynthic Grotto. Here is where I stop once again to marvel at all other countries besides the US and their sense of social responsibility. You wanna venture up a set of stairs that lead to a tunnel without illumination and god only knows what creep or undead lurking within its chasms? Hey, go for it. Same if you're elderly but just emerged from said tunnel only to discover a lily pad-like set of stones to skip over in order to return to land, lest you fall into the murky lagoon. Enjoy!

Anyway, I love this sort of thing and I tip my hat to the creative genius who conceived of it (here's looking at you, Luigi Manini).

Back in the relative safety of the center of Sintra, I devoted still more time to its winding streets. Finally these legs could take no more and I made my way to the train. As is now typical, I dozed off completely, eventually landing in the Rossio again, within this wonderful familiar city I am almost boastfully becoming familiar with.

And then I couldn't help it. I'd gone to that terrace for two nights in a row, let's make it a third. Beer in hand, bowl of olives, perfect pink sunset. Cheers Lima. It's really been something.







Today felt a lot like a cold beer at the end of a long day overlooking a terrace and rooftops and the Rio Tejo. Or wait, that part actually happened?

Things remained slow this morning, however productive, with a series of administrative tasks left to tend to: bus tickets, correspondence, questionable tweaking of this very blog. I took my time while slowly drinking coffee along side bread, butter, and Teresa's homemade pumpkin jam. The breeze all the while blew through the balcony door, until finally I could linger no more. The sunshine was calling and the day was already passing like only those with loose schedules do.

I readied myself and soon made my way to a train, another train, a bus ticket, one more train and one sizable stroll, and finally arrived at the Monesteiro dos Jerónimos. Teresa told me she feels a deep connection to this UNESCO heritage site, and it's no wonder. It's a hugely (literally) awesome place. The kind of building so rich in history you could spend hours and barely scratch the surface of its lore. Largely funded by the spices from Vasca de Gama's inaugural voyage to India, it's an epic limestone structure of mind blowing scale filled with intricate stone-carved animals, greenery, and maritime references. According to historians its construction mirrors or tells the story of Portugal itself.

From there, more errands. Back to the Baixo to replace a few things left behind in haste. Commerce completed I wandered once more to the Castelo, a half hearted hustle given the time of day. With a few twisting streets left to climb, I settled instead at a "self-service" terrace I'd seen the day before. There I sat, overlooking the Alfama and the Rio as the sun slowly set, ice cold Super Bock in hand. Ah, relief.

I'm feeling like I'm here, but still in a state, the likes of which I can't yet define. I'm thinking back often today to who I was or how I felt in the beginning of my last long adventure. My naïveté, my absurdity. But here I am. I'm moving forward, I'm moving on. Certain I'll feel similarly looking back, in a few months, no matter where this takes me.




olá lisboa

A start on the slower side for Lisboa and I. 
My early morning arrival following a few relentlessly busy days has left me, in a word: destroyed. But the sun is shining, it's a city-wide holiday, and I am officially free of all of the things I had been previously bound to. I can, in theory, just... enjoy?

After finding my lodging for the weekend, I showered, I napped, and eventually forced myself out into the sunshine strewed cobble stone streets. A courtyard cappuccino did its trick for at least a short while, lending my wits the wherewithal to guide me at least as far as Alfama, an area that comprised one of the most preserved parts of the hilly and meandering Old City. Atop the hill is the Castelo de São Jorge, just below it the Sé de Lisboa cathedral. I've already planned a return visit to both, in spite of my summoning the energy, the Castelo gates had closed early for the holiday.

From there, I ended up taking the lazy way of following tour groups and foreigners downward until I stumbled upon a tiled vista overlooking the water. There I dozed off, unashamed.

Many mental notes of tiny cafes and restaurants along the way have been made for when I'm alert enough to handle it. Nary a recognizable name no anything resembling to-go for me to cowardly patronize. I will eventually have to muster the courage for seated dining, solo blonde tourist style. The authentic nature and charm of this city is already having its way with me.

Back home, my kind host Teresa offered me a slice of homemade pizza and a glass of wine as we attempted to discuss worldly things (politics, economics, astrology) while utilizing our respective language barriers and the obligatory charades and word association games required. 

There are already things here that feel really good. 

But more than once today I have jolted to the realization I am in Portugal and that, at this moment, I have no idea why. The jet lagged delirium, the still-swirling list of things to do in my head, the comforts of the life I have suddenly stripped myself of. All of this is playing into this current state. But I know this is all for good reason, all part of it. I know that once I sink into things, it will become clearer, and that reliable feeling of gratitude to be out in the world will overtake me once more.  

Sleep and readjustment are what I need in the meantime. For now I'm off to bed in an attempt to find both.