Finally I drove to my sister’s house. To see if the workers have made progress. The land has years of overdue maintenance. Nobody likes that here. You risk getting a hefty fine from the council when somebody happens to drive by and notices that the undergrowth is so massive that it creates a fire hazard.
It’s not far from here, but the landscape does change. It’s only a seven minute drive from our fairly flat terrain to Patricia’s quinta, but the closer you get to the border of Spain the more mountainous it is. Those mountains are littered with huge boulders of granite that you can clearly see in winter.
Now it is spring and those boulders seem to be blooming with bunches of yellow flowers. It is the broom in bloom. I open the window and smell the intoxicating scent. I don’t remember seeing so much blooming broom before. And that’s right. According to the older inhabitants, this is unique. It hasn’t been like this in decades. The many rains of winter, also a rarity in recent years, will have something to do with it.
The farm workers have progressed, the sloping terrain is becoming increasingly transparent. I start to see the forest through the trees. A bunch of small cork oaks that have been saved from choking by overgrowth and now have enough room to grow big. It will be beautiful.
In the meantime, I open the house. All shutters and doors open, mosquito nets down. I grab a chair and put it on the veranda, out of the wind and in the shade. I think it’s too hot for the sun. I have a book with me, but cannot read. The view is mesmerizing. I can see two hundred kilometers far.
The sky is clear. The mountains on the horizon are shrouded in a light mist. The sky is blue and the amount of shades of green overwhelms me. Olive trees, cork oaks, a few pines, velvet oaks, holm oaks. Every leaf is different. Below me is the small road that connects Ponte Velha with Galegos. A car is passing. Ten minutes later a tractor. The birds fly by. I see two eagles high in the sky.
As I sit with my book on my lap and my legs on the stone bench, I realise I don’t know what’s going on behind the mountains. They say there is a pandemic. I have no idea. I cannot see it. That is my reality. Now.
Of course Portugal, like all other countries, has been badly hit. Here too everything has been closed for months. The cities in particular have had to endure it. The entrepreneurs, students and schoolchildren. Here in the countryside, life goes on as always. Only that mask in the village and city and in that one shop that is open.
The good thing about life here in Portugal are the Portuguese who remain friendly and helpful and continue to radiate their humor, cheerfulness and savoir vivre.