BootsnAll Travel Network

Lisboa: Last day, summing up

OK, this is it. I spent four hours this morning riding trams, taking in the life, the azulejos (tiles), the monuments, the apartments with and without metal shades on the outsides, the flowers, the safety–have I talked about this before? I have never felt so safe. There just doesn´t seem to be any crime. That´s puzzling, considering that there is so much financial need. But everywhere I go, I see people leaving their backpacks, their digital cameras, even their laptop computers, lying around: on picnic tables, in the hostels, in city parks. And nobody bothers them. Last night I had a dinner of clams cooked in garlic and coriander, which I shared with a German woman married to a French man. I had seen them at the monastery earlier in the day, and we recognized each other when I entered the restaurant, and they insisted I come sit with them. We gabbled in several languages, laughing and comparing notes on Portugal, politics, and the difficulty, for them, of negotiating their lives between France and Germany. We didn´t finish dinner till after 11 p.m., and then I had a long walk home, alone, as they were staying in the opposite direction. I felt absolutely fine. The streets were full of people hanging out, listening to the music that filtered through windows, drinking at sidewalk bars and cafés. At one point I approached a group of young men with beers in their hands on an otherwise deserted street. If I´d been in the USA, I´d have crossed to the other side of the street. I felt that impulse. But just to see what it would feel like, I kept walking. They stepped aside on the sidewalk but otherwise completely ignored me. It was wonderful.

My body is really dragging, though it doesn´t influence my mood, which is still airborne with joy. I´m taking amoxicillan, hoping it will clear my head of infection enough that the air travel won´t give me earaches from hell. I´ve also been checking the web sites of the airlines. Apparently people traveling from Portugal can take carryon luggage with them, but they can´t take anything even vaguely liquid. So the perfume I was going to pick up for Manko in the Duty Free shop isn´t happening, and I´ll have yet another opportunity to throw stuff away. This is something I´m great at. I´m feeling my good fortune at being a fair-skinned old woman. This would be a tough time to be a young Islamic man trying to get from one airport to another, and I feel for those who are.

After riding the trams and seeing all of Lisbon that I could see from the trams (which is quite a lot), I was so worn out I had to come back to the hostel and lie down. Right now I´m the only person in the whole place, and I´m loaded with feeling. I wonder if I´ll ever come back to Portugal. I wonder if I can hold onto the love, the gentleness, and the wonder I seem to have absorbed from being in this place where people allow their emotions full range and movement. I wonder if I´ll be able to be more expressive of my love for my own and other people´s children. I wonder if I will dance more (I bought one CD of Portuguese traditional music, but I haven´t heard it–I hope it sounds something like the music I heard that night in Braga). I wonder if I will take time just to LOOK, to sit, to do nothing but be present. That´s one of the great passtimes here, and I love it. Why have I been DOING all my life? Will I be able to break that habit?

I am more grateful than I have ever been in my whole life before, and gratitude is one of my main modes, so that really is saying something. I close my eyes and my mind embraces a flood of images: the miradouro in Melgaço, the sun going down at Finisterre, the touch of Santa Salomé´s foot in the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the kind smiles and wonderful hair of so many Portuguese people, the laughter in their talk with each other and with me, the view from San Guillermo´s bed, the lights of Guimarães, the fountains of Braga, the view from the dome of St. Luzia in Viana do Castelo, the oyster-fresh smell of the ocean at Saõ Pedro do Moel, near Leiria. The conversations I´ve had with so many people full of fresh ideas and cultural perspectives that are rare, in my experience. The churches. The quiet. The stonework. The flowers. The woman playing and singing Ave Maria at Alcobaça. The fish vendors calling their wares in the market at Ponte de Lima. And on and on.

I am saying goodbye to Portugal, and I am taking Portugal (and a wonderful swig of Galicia) with me back to my good-enough life. I don´t feel sad. I feel full. I want to see how this garment of gratitude and fullness fits when I resume my life. It´s time to put it to the test, see how it plays, back in Sugar Land. I no longer feel I need to retire the minute I am sixty-two, though I may still choose to do that. I don´t have a definitive answer to the question of the pilgrimage. I am not certain what I will do with what is left of my one wild and precious life. But I do have a better, slower, more spirited way to do whatever it is that I do. I hope I can hold onto it, take it with me, allow it to be as transformative for me in September, January, and next May as it has been this year, in July and August. Will I? That´s the next question.

If you have traveled with me in this blog, I bow to you with appreciation for keeping me such good company. I never felt lonely, because of you. It was delicious to be alone and at the same time to have such wonderful company. I have certainly resolved my feeling about the ethics of blogging. I´m for it. Goodbye to Portugal, goodbye to this blog, goodbye to those of you who have been reading it. I have always been a Peace Pilgrim in my own way. Peace is my only politics, always has been. The world seems less at peace than ever, and that is troubling, and there is more peace to make in any way I can. But I feel a marrow-deep sense of peace inside myself now, more than ever before. I´m curious about the Human Kindness Foundation, and whether living there could be a fit for me. I think I´ll go there next summer and see. I know now that I don´t want to spend the rest of my life wandering with a backpack on my back. It seemed like a good idea a month ago, but not now. I see now how much I love connections with human beings, opportunities to hear their stories, opportunities to be present with other people for what is happening to them, and for what is happening to me. I´m a social being, not a hermit, much though I love solitude. I see that most people, even the homeless, have some kind of niche they call home and return to, endow with familiarity. Much though I am enriched by travel, I have the desire for a niche of my own. Right now my niche is in Sugar Land, Texas, and I share it with Manko, Pookie, and Basho. I am eager to see them, hug them, and see and hug my friends again. Hello to the new life I will make with what I´m able to take with me. Hello to the new possibilities that may emerge at any moment. I love being alive and not ever knowing what´s going to come next, standing strong and smiling, unbothered by the holes. I sit here sodden with infection in my head, happier than I have ever been.


One response to “Lisboa: Last day, summing up”

  1. Lisa says:

    Travel home well, Kendall. I have enjoyed traveling with you through Portugal every morning of every day since you have been there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *