I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! Portugal is everything anybody ever wanted a country to be except, of course, a place where the average person can “make ends meet,” according to Leo, the castle guard in Leiria. That is an important exception, but the LIFE here vibrates with beauty, vitality, and gentle awareness. I left Sintra this morning with no regrets, felt I had been as charitable toward it as possible, and maybe more than it deserved. As I got off the subway, I saw a wall of posters with G.W. Bush´s face on them and the word TERRORIST at the top, and (in Portuguese) WANTED at the bottom. OK, you two Bush-lovers out there, I´m just reporting what I saw, OK. But it made me laugh, and I took a picture. Lisbon moves in a dancing motion.
I´m in a really cool hostel with alternative rock music in the common room, a free computer, a friendly kitchen, and a whole lot of international travelers (all except me young): male, female, maybe some inbetween, sprawled around drinking beer or reading or getting ready to go out again. I spent the morning at Sao Roque, where there is a chapel made entirely of precious stones with mosaics that look like paintings but are also precious stones. Had lunch with a view of rooftops and a castle. Spent the afternoon at the Tower of Belem and the Monastery of Jeronimo (St. Jerome), where Fernando Pessoa is buried, and where there is a perfect monument to him. There it is, amid all that wild baroque stonework (think Batalha and then some), a simple square marble column with quotations from two of Pessoa´s voices, including one of my favorite passages which is actually anti-church, so I´m amazed it´s there, in the middle of all that CHURCH. I took pictures from every angle. I´m so joyful I could just about levitate. The weather is warm but not Texas-hot. There is haze, but I don´t think it´s smoke. Unless it´s cigarette smoke. People smoke everywhere. My cold has escalated into an infection, but I was able to get some Amoxicillan from a Farmacia for just six Euros. I am just keeping that image of São Sebastião in my head: the wonderful figure of the man with his body full of holes, smiling and serene. I may have the upper respiratory infection from hell (that´s going to be fun on the airplane), but nothing disturbs the grin on my face that comes from having just spent a month in what I now consider to be the most lively, most loving, most emotional, most beautiful, most peaceful, most crime-free, most various country on earth.
I just heard the news that Scotland Yard says it has foiled a plot to destroy a number of US planes on the way back to the US from the UK. That may or may not be true (both the plot and the foiling of it), but it certainly hit close to home, as I´m leaving here in two days on US Airways, assuming there are no changes beyond my control. As far as I know, no terrorist group has any particular gripe against Portugal, but US Airways is US Airways. So look: in the unlikely case that I end up being blown up on the way home, everybody should know I went happier than I´ve ever been in my life. This would be as good a time as any to go: full of beautiful images, good food, joy, peace, and more self-understanding than I think I´ve ever had. Manko has gained the confidence of knowing she can live alone for a month. If I have the chance to keep on living, I will certainly do so with gusto, but whatever comes next, I have had the vacation, the pilgrimage, the trip, and the joy of a lifetime. While of course I wish peace for the whole world and no more violence to anybody, as far as my personal future is concerned, whatever comes next is OK with me. I can hear the strains of “Don´t Cry for Me, Argentina” playing in the background of my head, and I laugh at that, too.
Tags: Lisbon, Portugal, Terrorism