Plaza Mayor



One Fine Morning In Lisbon

Students at Lisbon's "Discoveries" Monument posed for this and caught my attention
Students at Lisbon’s “Discoveries” Monument posed for this and caught my attention

We visited Lisbon (Lisboa) in 2011 as part of our tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Our local guide took us to this port area on the western outskirts of the capital at the mouth of the Tagus River. Later we bused further along the coast to Cascais and then inland to Sintra. The area around the Monument to the Discoveries is very historic. This monument was built in 1960, 500 years after the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. to honour the Prince and Portugal’s history as a colonial power and its significant contributions to navigation, a profitable skill that came, perhaps a little belatedly, to Europeans. I say belatedly because the folks who populated Polynesia put the Europeans to shame in their ability to navigate their relatively small,  fragile craft nimbly and repeatedly around and throughout the vast Pacific. The Polynesians were the most amazing discoverers on the planet.

Near the new monument is the Belém Tower, an iconic fortification built between 1516 and 1519 to assist with the defense of the mouth of the Tagus River on a basaltic outcrop that was barely connected to shore. It has a small museum inside, which we opted not to enter. Time was limited.

The large, concrete Monument to the Discoveries points toward the water and is best viewed from a boat. If one is, as we were, landlocked in the monument area its prow can only be seen from the side. At the prow, in a big, ribboned hat, is Prince Henry himself. The folks down the sides, behind Henry,  are various heroes of the colonial era, including some explorers, navigators, cartographers, artists, scientists, monarchs and, of course, missionaries – whose diligent work of pagan soul-saving “justified” the ventures. If one were to climb the Monument to the top, she/he would get a great view of its beautiful, circular Wind Rose – a 165′ diameter, stylized map that shows and names all of Portugal’s conquests. We did not have time to go up, but I got some interesting close-ups of the detail.

Across Avenida Brasilia is the beautiful, sprawling Jerónimos Monastery, which we did not enter but photographed close up.

Jerónimos Monastery, now the Archaeology Museum
Jerónimos Monastery, now the Archaeology Museum

I found the afternoon visits to the towns of Cascais and Sintra wonderful. Maybe a post soon on those places… An experienced local guide spent this fascinating day with us – without our tour director. It was pleasant to be without him for the day. I, at least, didn’t mind a bit.


This kept calling until I surrendered
These kept calling until I shared my morning coffee with them.

 Morning through bedroom window

Tree and sun say, “Come.

Be present in reflection.”

I enjoy my back yard often looking at the migrating birds, but only occasionally do I go out and be present to it. Mowing the lawn or pulling weeds out from between patio stones represent the lion’s share of my back yard activity. I promised myself to get out there and enjoy.

The above sugar maple tree is now the best tree in the yard. It seems to be recovering nicely from the ice storm damage and happy to be out from under the ash.

After an early treadmill and tai chi session I made coffee and a usual light breakfast. I forgot about the back yard, but the autumn-coloured maple and spectacular sky stubbornly appeared again reflected in our glass-topped breakfast nook table as I sat reading and sipping. I couldn’t resist this second beckoning.

Barefoot, I went down the deck stairs and set out a very old redwood chair on the cool, dewy lawn. We slowly lost a 40 foot white ash tree to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. Sadly, we had the ash removed last fall. I sat on the space where the ash once stood, enjoying the lovely, eclectic gardens that Anita has created and nurtured since we moved here in 1985.

I finished Helen Oyeyemi’s wonderful book, The Opposite House, in that chair. This book has contributed much to my sense of interconnectedness. Having appreciated interconnectedness for a long time, this morning I felt it with profound emotion. I could even smell the remains of the tree beneath me – or at least the fungus that was gently consuming its roots. It said “I am not all gone, just changed, and you are not alone.”

A bee checked out my coffee mug on the arm of the chair. I relaxed, grateful, in its company. I swatted no mosquitoes and, surprisingly, they did not take advantage.

Respecting Serendipity

Muskoka Loon – 2008
It is so easy to diminish a blessing by hoping too hard that it will happen again. Instead, we should respect and appreciate fully how lucky we were to have experienced that blessed event. To expect it to happen again is to diminish the specialness of the first experience. It can also decrease the potential for ongoing joy that remembering the unique encounter can give us, and replace this joy with disappointment.
This can happen in something we consider to be terribly important, such as romantic love. More often, however, it is with everyday things. Continue reading “Respecting Serendipity”